A Challenge at Thanksgiving!

A Challenge at Thanksgiving!

 

It is Thanksgiving season – a time we all pause to give thanks for the blessings of the year gone by. But even as we celebrate we may be reminded of challenges we are personally wrestling with or those in the lives of friends and family members. As I write, the heart-wrenching fire disasters in California top the news. I am also reminded of my friend who lost his battle with kidney disease in the spring. He maintained optimism right to the end. 

Perhaps we have been connected to people for a reason. Perhaps part of your role right now is to walk alongside family, friends or acquaintances wrestling with some distress, be it cancer, Alzheimer’s or some other grief or loss. Sometimes, the best gift we can give is the gift of our presence or voice. No one is (or should be) an island. 

A phone call, card or personal visit may lighten someone’s season. Do it!! Listen to my song ‘Cancer’ in the ‘Light’ album. It was written out of my identification with some friends going through a rough patch.

Nathan       

Tribute

Memorial Day

Dear Friends,

It's Memorial Weekend in the USA. Memorial Day, Remembrance Day and Veterans’ Day are celebrated at different times in different countries, but all provide us the opportunity to pause to reflect about issues of war and peace and to remember and thank our men and women in uniform (and their families too) for their sacrifices .

I therefore thought it appropriate to share with you the song I wrote after listening to the story of a World War II veteran who, like many young men of his time, enlisted and fought at this critical time. This song is a tribute to such men and  women and indeed all those who bravely and sacrificially served or are serving when the call of duty beckons. It is called ‘Tribute’ found on the album ‘Light’ which was released last year.

Listen to it and share it with men and women in uniform that you may know and members of their families too!  I hope they will feel appreciated. 

 Nathan

Of Bucket Lists and Accents (Part One)

Here’s another background story to one of the tracks on the Light album – this time it’s Bloomsbury. This song was inspired by my brief stay in the Bloomsbury area of London in the summer of 2016. Over the years Bloomsbury has settled in my imagination and visiting there settled on my bucket list. The track is intended as a bit of comic relief in an album that explores weighty matters such as homelessness, addiction, and the ravages of war. Whether I succeeded in being more lighthearted and inspiring a smile, you can judge for yourself.

Now how did this place get on my bucket list? As a young student of Comparative Literature in English at university in Nigeria, I got my dose of works from around the world, but there was no escaping the British writers. (After all they owned the English language, right?)  We met William Wordsworth, William Blake, Samuel T. Coleridge, John Dryden, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf – the list goes on.  I once heard on a BBC documentary that most of these writers lived in this part of London called Bloomsbury, and there was even a group of writers called the “Bloomsbury Group.” What was the magnet that pulled them to that part of the city?  Were there some muses or fairies floating above that part of the city who dished out lavish inspiration? We tried to imagine what it must be like there, and Bloomsbury joined our bucket list (long before “bucket lists” were even a thing.)

So that summer day as I walked the streets of Bloomsbury, I was hoping that perhaps I would receive some 'inspiration' just as these authors whom we admired back then had done:)  The track   ‘Bloomsbury’ recounts some of the things I observed while there. Listen to the track and join me in your imagination.  If you have not already done so, the CD Baby link on this site will allow you to download your digital copy of the entire album or order the physical CD.

 I really have appreciated the feedback and comments from some of you as you listened to Light Volume 1.  I get excited as I look forward to recording Volume 2 soon.

 

Recollections of Christmases Past

 

In the Wukari of my childhood, you knew Christmas was around the corner when the music store at the corner of the market changed, from blaring the throbbing ‘Afro beats’ of Fela Kuti, the saxophone-accompanied mellifluous voice of Manu Dibango or the high-pitch crooning of Miriam Makeba, to playing operatic Christmas carols. Hmmm, these carols -- as kids we commented on what these singers were doing. Opera singing was foreign to us:) 

The Harmattan wind from across the Sahara filled the atmosphere with fine dry dust, casting the sky in grey; competing with the sun. The mornings and evenings were cool and our teeth chattered, trying to keep warm in our West African version of ‘winter’. But the anticipated joy and magic of Christmas far outweighed the ‘harsh’ climate we were experiencing! We looked forward to the end of school and to new clothes for the season. There were no department stores full of ready-made clothes, so as the day drew nearer we made sure to ‘remind’ the tailor at the market square not to delay – what a tragedy it would be if we didn’t have our new finery on Christmas morning.  

As the day drew nearer, more excitement -- singing and drums could be heard in the evenings. Then the day finally came! Little sleep for anyone on Christmas Eve. Cooking began in the wee hours, so that gifts of cooked food were ready for us children to deliver to neighbours and extended family members in the morning.

And oh, that morning! After sharing food and donning our brand-new outfits, we filled the only church in town almost to bursting to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Members of the popular akishe traditional dance troupe came to join their Christian relatives to dance in a huge procession to the royal palace of the Aku Uka (Jukun King) to wish him ‘Merry Christmas!’  During my growing up years, Christmas celebrations were joined by everyone, regardless of their religious association, either dancing, drumming or watching as spectators. In this sense, the celebrations served the role of community-building. Memories, memories!  Those were the days…

Now as an adult, the child who once longed for new clothes and festive food has evolved. Each of my readers will have had a different experience of Christmas or maybe celebrating it was never even part of your childhood. Regardless, I however hope the core message of Christmas (and the hope, joy and good will it generates) can still inspire and may not be lost to you.

 This season offers us an opportunity to inspire hope or courage in someone who particularly needs it. Besides giving to whatever charity close to your heart, you might visit that widow or widower for whom this season heightens their sense of loss. It is interesting the plethora of songs the Christmas event has inspired down through each generation and in each cultural milieu. There are, for example,  songs that talk about the weather, love lost and and love found; of decking the halls, of bells jingling and snowflakes. 'Rudolf, the Red Nosed Reindeer’,  is one of my favourites. But there are also songs that seek to steer listeners toward the spiritual and core message of the Christmas event. One of these is  ‘Joy to the World’.  If you are interested and able, you can find an interesting rendition of this classic by 'Celtic Woman'  by doing a google search on Youtube.

Well, it has been an interesting year with you! Please watch out for ‘Light’ vol. 2 in 2018! In this volume, I experiment with the ethereal sound of the theramin, operatic voices, the heart-throbbing sound of the Jukun ganga (drum) and West African Djembe!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembrance / Veterans' Day Thoughts

Every November we pause to remember the sacrifice of those who were killed or injured in wars and to salute the courage of both veterans and current members of the armed forces. In my community I love to attend the annual Remembrance Day ceremony. A sea of heads of different hues, children slung on shoulders, a marching band, the formation fly-past, the one minute of silence followed by the haunting sound of ‘The Last Post.’ Each year there is a dwindling number of WWII veterans with medals strung across their chests. They each have their stories, some are told, and some tucked away, perhaps forever.

Remembrance Day celebrations, for me have never been about ‘glorifying militarism’ but rather a reminder of how precious peace is and the need for all, particularly our leaders, to seek it.  However, there come times in our our shared human existence when evil has to be confronted directly to stop the human propensity to inflict pain and death on fellow human beings. At such critical moments, acting to defend lives is not an issue for equivocation. At those difficult moments, some men and women, usually in the prime of their lives, willingly step forward to combat evil. In my song ‘Tribute,’ Jamie typifies such youth who enlist to serve. ‘Tribute’ salutes those who served in past conflicts (and not just in WWII) and those who still serve their countries and fellow human beings.

Every Remebrance Day we pause to remember these people and to  pray for peace in our world. You can find the lyrics to ‘Tribute’ by scrolling down to my post of September 23. Listen again to this track and share.

A Reflection about Peace

It was night time; electricity and television had not yet reached Wukari, but we huddled  around the family radio each evening and listened to the day's news from around the world. The Nigerian civil war had ended a few years earlier, the Vietnam war was raging on, and I remember the Seven Day (Yom Kippur) war between the Arabs and Israelis. I knew the words, 'Hanoi' and 'Saigon' before I knew the names of some Nigerian cities. 'Henry Kissinger' got mentioned a lot during those broadcasts and we wondered whether he was an angel or some super human being since he seemed to be everywhere at once:) Those were the days when as a kid I was trying to make sense of the world. Wars raged in worlds outside my shielded and tranquil life in Wukari.

During those serious times, as if to provide some kind of comic relief, the public radio would play some popular songs. The Beatles were a staple and 'Obladi Oblada' was one such song. 'What is this "Obladi Oblada" babbling by these "Bituls" all about?' They were telling a story and so we strained our ears with glee trying to decipher the meaning of this song- a daunting task for kids for whom English was a third language. Those were the days....

But as the saying goes, nothing ever remains the same. In recent years this once tranquil town had its share of disturbance. That house that held childhood memories for me was razed to the ground during one of the skirmishes. Familar streets and paths that were once full of activity were eerily deserted. There were no more processions for weddings, cultural or religious celebrations. Conflict that once seemed worlds away had now found its way to my hometown shattering the bonds of brotherhood that had once knitted together each of its communities and neighbourhoods. Generations of goodwill and cohesion amongst its inhabitants were simply smashed into smithereens. 'Desolation' is my reflection about conflicts that destroy the bonds of our shared humanity wherever they occur.

Here are the lyrics:

Desolation

1. The streets now dark and empty in a city that was once full.

It was a full moon-lit night when all mayhem was let loose.

Neighbour killing neigbour, with some even doing so in God's name.

Houses torn down and deserted and their owners nowhere to be found

Refrain

War, War,  war... everywhere I turn... fear and despair, ooooo.

2. Some philosophies and ideologies are the stuff with which wars are made.

'Live and let us live' if we would thrive and survive.

Because what you can't get through dialogue, the barrel of the gun might not give.

We must learn to live together or we risk perishing as fools**

Refrain

 

** Dr Martin Luther King, Jr once offered this advice as an antidote to violence.

 

Try listening to this track again and share it with friends and family! For those of you musically inclined and who play an instrument can you try covering this song and/or recommending it to a music group or band?  Let me know if you need any help.

Some thoughts About 'Tribute'

The Second World War was, in my mind, the most epochal event of the 20th century. So I not only read books and watch movies about it but also have had the priviledge of interviewing some active participants including Jamie, the subject of 'Tribute'. Interestingly many of my friends in the UK have had parents, uncles and grand parents who answered the call of duty and some never made it home alive. The song, 'Tribute' was written to honour the sacrifices of these men and women who risked their lives serving their country. It is also a tribute to men and women in uniform who currently serve altruistically and bravely. I thought I should share the lyrics of this song with you:

 1. Jamie came of age the year the war broke out,

and the cry rang out for fighters of freedom.

But he had a plan to marry in December,

so he went to his dad to get some of his wisdom.

2. 'Son you're now a man, so make your own decisions. 

But to keep intact our cherished basic freedoms,

If you do your part and every else too,

this war could be over just before Christmas'.

3. After many years, when the war had ended,

And in the very year of its big anniversary,

With great-grand children visiting with him in his cottage..

he tells them stories of his survival. 

4. So we all arise and salute all the people

 Who paid the price in defence of our freedoms.

And now to those who still serve,

we give to  your our greetings!!

 

You can listen afresh to this song and perhaps sing along:))   Send the clip to anyone you know with family members who served during this war and/or still currently serve in uniform. I hope they'll be encouraged!  

 

The Making of The Album

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Every track has a story; ‘Tribute’ celebrates the men and women in uniform. It was partly inspired by a meeting Nathan had with a WW II veteran in Lampeter in enchanting Wales. Nathan was at that time a doctoral student at the historic University of Wales Trinity Saint David.  ‘Cancer’ was inspired partly by hearing an emotional testimony by a cancer survivor in January 2017 and also by seeing the determination of a friend battle cancer bravely for four years. Every day men and women still live defiantly against this bully! ‘Bloomsbury’ was a journal reflection after a visit to a part of London where some of his literary heroes once lived. ‘Plea’ is a loved one's encouragement to one who is hurting. ‘Desolation’ is reflection over the ravages of war. In ‘Avyon’ the only song in his mother tongue, Jukun, he offers encouragement and advice. ‘Beauty from the East’ deals with the problem of addiction and homelessness and the associated problem of missing women. ‘Brand New Day’ is a declaration of hope and the possibilities of new beginnings.