Sometime in the eighties, my uncle gave the household (or to be honest, game my mum) this funky Aiwa stereo system. About time too, as we could barely hear the “Radio Nigeria 2, AM FM stereo” jingle on the crumbling Marantz system in the living room. Mama was always quick to remind me that the decrepit thing was older than me, and that if well looked after, might outlive me as well. Not if I get my way and clone many mini-mes, it won’t.
The new stereo could do everything, play records, tapes, and those new thingies – compact discs. The remote control would work even if you were in another room, and you could record everything to tape. But by far the best feature was the “toilet seat messenger” (as I like to call it). Basically, if you were doing a number two, and you suddenly realised that the toilet had run out of loo roll, the stereo would go to the pantry and could fetch a new bouncy soft one. It was that good, you can ask my mum. Or maybe I dreamt it.
My uncle was very thoughtful. Since he knew the Thomas the Tank Engine sing-a-long tapes didn’t really count as music, he also brought us some eighties soul records, and The Police: Greatest Hits. It was love at first listen. I’d sing Roxanne in the bathroom, bop my head to Walking on the Moon, dream of Message(s) in a Bottle(s) literally floating on the Lagos lagoons.
This was before the days of worldwide MTV, and Nigerian television didn’t show very much reggae-influenced rock. So imagine my surprise when I found out many years later that Sting was a white man! I could have bet six weeks of my pocket money that he was Jamaican. Even if he wasn’t Jamaican, he must have been black. Alas he wasn’t. The man was from Newcastle, Wallsend to be precise, not exactly heaving with curried goat and meat patty shops.
It was only surprising that Sting was white because I thought he made black music.
After I gone and got myself a edumacation, I realised that rock music was invented by the black man. Once again the white man he-devil done gone ‘n’ stole our culture. He ain’t just stole it, he packaged it and sold it like the black man never had nuthin to do with it. Did you know Elvis was a black man? He was a black man! Do you know who else is black? Eminem is a black man! Don’t let that no melanin ass fool y’all! Prince is a black man! Condoleeza Rice is a black woman! Do you hear what I’m saying, my bru-tha?
Excuse me while I exorcise some demons… Exorcised.
Right now, I’m listening to the Arctic Monkeys and the White Stripes. These are artists for the Kerrang and XFm demographic, not moi. I play with MTV Base and Vibe, Touch and Channel U. What am I doing with the Artic Monkeys on repeat? I have finally accepted and understood that yes, rock and roll could have been invented by black musicians. Some ethnomusicologist would probably say it’s the driving rhythms, the bass, melodies, the call and response. It’s all black.
You’ve got to understand that this is a huge turnaround for me. My musical tastes are as eclectic as they come – within the black music sphere. With the noted exception of house music, that’s just pushing it. Rock was always what my white roommates forced me to listen to, and only if they could nail my earlobes to the speakers. So imagine my guilty pleasure when I find myself listening to “white” music, and enjoying it.
Something I always find interesting is the fact that friends in Nigeria tend to have more all-encompassing tastes than I do. This is the fault of MTV Europe. Before MTV Base and Channel O, there was MTV Europe, spitting out Iggy Pop and Aerosmith. Music was music and they listened to everything, and they liked anything that was good. Moi, on the other hand, had my musical tastes stratified as soon I got off the boat. If you were black, you ran up you ran up your parents phone bill calling the Box and requesting Nuthing But a G Thang, and staying up late every night because you never knew which ungodly hour MTV had shunted Yo! MTV Raps to.
In England, you could choose not to listen to the “white” stuff, therefore not appreciate it. With MTV Europe blaring across Africa, there was no choice, so you couldn’t playa hate, you had to appreci-ate. Don’t cringe, you know you saw it coming.
Maybe all these theories are a load of jazz, and one of my white genes is just manifesting itself. My grandmother’s family name was Yoko, a fact which always gains me free access to exclusive sushi bars. Can claiming to be Japanese pass for white? The Artic Monkeys say it can.