Monday, June 12, 2017

As you grow older ... grow younger

'No le busques tres picos al toro' 

I first encountered this saying maybe 15 years ago in a book titled The Millionaire Next Door that I'd borrowed early in grad school.  I read a lot of books - about every kind of thing - in grad school.  Problem: you're supposed to NOT do that in grad school; you're supposed to focus.  But how are you supposed to know (believe, accept) what to focus on before you know (for instance) what not to focus on?
I held on to that busques tres pico...del toro saying like crazy.  By the way it means: don't search for three horns on the bull.  (or roughly Don't look for three horns on a cow.)   I knew it was profound.  I knew that it applied to my situation.  I knew that I was stuck somehow, frustrated where other people seemed to be accepting, and needed to unravel this saying, but it remained an unsolved riddle.
It was only this weekend that I remembered these words and felt them to be resolved; felt like I could finally park the saying among the things that I understand.
In part I came to understand it because I had recently read something about unicorns and how they don't exist or why or something.  This gave me a new, pretty visual for a three-horned bull where before I had only some grotesque growth from Revelations to imagine. 
In part I came to understand just because I'm older.  I see now how unique my "overthinking" problem is.  Look, it's not normal to look for that much more - sometimes a life is just a life, sometimes the things people do are just because the other person did them and social psychologists say people are just copycats, sometimes because their parents did them and so "it is written; destiny", sometimes because they just happened, sometimes because they were paid, sometimes because they felt good, sometimes because they felt bad.  And no, for most people, there is no "why" beyond these self-evident and temporarily satisfying answers.  For many people, that's what old age is for, or the death bed - time to reflect finally, on priorities, on if/how things could have been different.
But of course you know that's not how I have lived.  I have kept asking "but why...?"  Why is the rich man rich?  Why is the poor country poor?  Why is the job so boring?  Why is the joy so fleeting?  Sometimes I need to just let the bull be a bull.  Bulls aren't bad.  They're real at least.
As you grow older, maybe you know when what's before you is a bull and two horns at most is what to expect.  The job may give a salary but not meaning.  The trip may give new food and weather but not warm friends.  The old friend may share polite company but not excitement or insight.  Keep your expectations at two horns and you won't be disappointed.
film: Linda and Ali
It's important to know that I wasn't feeling very well when I made these 'discoveries.'  I spent quite a bit of time this past week researching gastrointestinal inflammation, anemia, etc, symptoms from dehydration to dizziness, but today I feel much better in part because maybe my body is killing the stomach flu germs (yeah, I don't get the flu anymore it seems; my tummy is the new battlesite) and in part because I used the best tip I got yesterday from a person, not a website - drink lots of water, flush flush the bad stuff with lots of water.
I'll say it's relevant that I wasn't feeling very well at the time that I came to understand mental laziness, the possibility or the importance of accepting drab, relishing the just-ok, letting life be.  My brain was tired.  I feel differently now.  I feel stronger and more able to perform my little optimization routines.
It's also important that I say something concrete in this messy essay, for example, graduate school was not supposed to be a life, or a philosophy, or some sort of three-horned bull like I lived it; it could be seen simply as a career step or qualifying phase with some training and the attainment of a degree as its end.
And so, because such drab is not good enough, alongside growing older, one ought to grow younger
Yes, we should all say, to unicorns the colour of bubbles.  Yes to dreams and fairytale magic and impractical wishes.  Sometimes people are really Superman or Wonderwoman.  Sometimes the job is incredible fun.  Sometimes, something happens that has never happened before.  Sometimes there is luck.
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Sunday, June 04, 2017

What I wrote about Mr. Eazi, Cobhams Asuquo, and their new albums

 Because Creetiq asked
I thought why not have some fun and win some money
The top 10 have been announced, and I won't be winning any money
so here are my essays.  They were fun to write.

Music Review by @tosinbird: For You by Cobhams Asuquo
As expected, Cobhams Asuquo’s album is divine.  Whereas you might have expected to visit heights of ecstasy, stirred by glorious musical arrangements and operatic vocals, this work surprises by being divine in a different, more Biblical, sense. 
Titled ‘For You,’ the album opens with ‘Make Our Hearts’, a simple hymn performed with sparse piano and vocals like something from an Anglican Sunday morning.  The piano is adequate and the voice is Cobhams’ that is to say, a very nice voice. 
Track 2 ‘Here It Is’ pops a bit more – there’s guitar and percussion and a tale of urban stress backgrounding this worship song.  It should be easy for this to be adopted by congregations worldwide, just as we Nigerians opened our hearts to American worship recordings back in the ‘90s.
Cobhams has stylistic maturity and so we can predict the arc of the rest of this album – even more style, more ‘ginger’ and assorted spices, and sometimes more ‘pop’-sounding but still sacred music.  Indeed, Track 3, ‘Highly Lifted’ features a foreign artiste Aaron Lindsey and sounds like something from the Maranatha! group on whose music many Nigerian Christians of Cobhams’ generation were reared.
Track 4 ‘No One’ features Nosa, a darling Nigerian artiste specializing in Gospel music, but the more salient guest artiste is the Caribbean feel on this tune.  There’s also a backing choir doing Yoruba praise lyrics.  Altogether, it’s subtle and very beautiful.  Altogether, this album is subtle, avoids showing off, and instead devotes itself to simply providing beautiful ‘praise and worship’ material to last through the ages.   
‘Oh How I Love You’ follows, and it features another American, Claire Hendershot.  The next track ‘Let Your Kingdom Come’ is firmly in Christian Rock territory with the acoustic-guitar tingling throughout, while the title track (07 – For You) is essentially a 21st-century psalm:  Like the river needs the stream, Like the grasses need the dew, Like the sailboat needs the wind, Oh Lord my soul thirsts FOR YOU…Like a desert needs the rain, etc.  Here the mystery of the album title is solved - this work is not a gift ‘for you’ greedy, grabbing child; it’s dedicated to capital Y-You, capital G-God. 
Track 08, a cover of the popular ‘More Of You’ is heartfelt and heart-stirring.  Then follows ‘Glorious Deliverer’ a straight-forward stripped-down worship tune, and another cover - ‘Here I Am’ To Worship…Halleluyah. 
Track 11, Ordinary People, was released as a single, with a video, two years ago.  The singing is slightly more dramatic on this track, still, trust me, Cobhams’ voice is a top-notch instrument and capable of far more.  I wish you could hear him when he’s not actively hiding the power, texture, and sheer nimbleness of his voice. 
Track 12, ‘Eyin Sa’ follows, a deep worship offering, a somewhat still and silent and appropriately reverent piece.  Then we have another cover, of a hymn you may remember from Catholic church: ‘Praise To The Lord’ The Almighty The King Of Cre-ayy-tion.  This features Hendershot again, and they share a fine male-female duet with enough tempo and heft to fit in a little non-black, neighbourhood church service in America, or pop-channel and shopping-mall music in a country like Nigeria that does not mind sacred music in public places. 
Track 14, ‘Angels All Around’ was recently released as a single, also with a video.  It shares its simple message and some whistling and la-la-ing - three minutes of that - and it’s the end suddenly, of the whole album. 
The world is moving so fast that one wonders how many people have time for this sort of simplicity.  As you know, the answer is – truly millions of people.  Do you love Jesus and/or enjoy worshipping God?  This album is like King David returned to add to the psalms. 
This is the first album of music performed by Cobhams, the maestro producer who over the past decade has touched so much Nigerian music performed by other artistes, turning every single piece to ear-fondling gold.  He deserves to have the intended audience find this work.  

 ~  *  ~ 

Music Review by @tosinbird: Life Is Eazi Vol. 1 - Accra To Lagos, by Mr. Eazi
Life is Eazi. 
What do you say to this philosophy? 
Just say: Zaga That!  Then you’re welcome to our club. 
On the other hand, many people would object strongly to you saying that life is easy, or (misspelled) eazi, or that life is anything but strife and stress.  Ask many Lagosians and they would say: Life is Hustle.  Or (mispronounced) ‘Ozzu.   These ones, who in fact need this album the most, would probably be the last to consume Mr. Eazi’s product – a chill pill in music form. 
By now you should know Mr. Eazi – his real name is Tosin Ajibade (nice name, Tosin) and so he’s Yoruba, from Nigeria, but sometimes he gets confused and thinks he’s Ghanaian because that’s where he learned how to really chill out and eat banku or whatever inferior imitation of Nigerian food they eat out there…and now cheesy people will bring up the jollof wars again.  Spare us.  Nigeria is the Giant of Africa, end of discussion. 
You should know Mr. Eazi by now - his voice is rough and strong and smooth, like ale, alomo without the excess bitters, and he collaborated on these super-amazing recordings – Bankulize featuring PappyKojo, Skin Tight featuring Efya, both produced by DJ Juls, and more – that were adored but all more-or-less underground one or two years ago until all of a sudden this goofy Eazi guy’s photograph was everywhere and Wizkid who was newly sort-of world-famous was signing him.   
Both of these tracks – Skintight and Bankulize - are amazing.  Neither is on this album, but you can find them, with adorable visuals, on youtube.  They show talent, promise, and oodles of swag.  What do you call the charm of a chocolate-skinned handsome and lean guy with a sort of raffia hat always there on his head or hanging behind his shoulders?  Aboki swag?  Cowboy swag?  Cool Fulani herdsman? 
Now to comment on this album labelled – Life Is Eazi – The Mixtape - Accra To Lagos: It seems my gorgeous African brother and namesake Mr. Eazi has recorded the same song – same beat at least – times fourteen, and called it a mixtape.   Why would he dare do that?  Well, keeping it simple worked for Wizkid and may work again here. 
Do you remember that Ayo (Joy) project, the Wizzy-platter marketing something called ‘Afrobeat’ or ‘Afrobeats’ - whichever name you choose?  It was a rather jumbled album but effective as a sampler of Wizkid’s style, designed to introduce him to specific global audiences and help him find a place in their music marketing categories.  Did it work or not?  Ok, so now his team is likely saying let’s try that formula again, in every way, starting with the earth-toned album cover and ‘not doing too much’ with the music. 
By the way, I adore the cover photos on both albums: the coral-bead-wearing “Fela girls” and shabby mud house and traditional clothing on Wizkid’s cover, and the ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ bags sewn into ‘agbada’ that Mr. Eazi wears in a mock chief-attire on his front cover.  Inside he poses with a casual jacket made of blue bag-material.  Always the hat.      
In the album/mixtape proper, I love him singing ‘I understand your needs, I understand your needs’ on ‘Right Now’ – Track 13 of 14, which is the one, the shining, the stand-out track on this album.  Oh that voice!  I remember now why I have a crush on the guy.  I don’t know, would YOU marry someone just because he’s intelligent and hot and sings beautifully? 
The rest of the music has:
-           some words but not many really because it is eazi-er to repeat the same ones.
-          a computer simulation of a nice happy person spanking drums kaa-kaa-kaa-ka-ka forever, but you won’t believe, they’re not all the same producer.  I exaggerate a little – there are lovely times, rhythmically, on Track 07 ‘Accra to Lagos’ for instance, and there’s even a saxophone feature on Track 09 ‘In The Morning.’
-          featured artistes like Falz, Olamide, Phyno, and Tekno, of Nigeria and presumably Ghanaian artistes like Mugeez and Medikal.
-          funny moments like Mr. Eazi saying bumbum on the very popular ‘Leg Over’ – Track One;  saying pint (the way the street pronounces pant, underwear) and bumbum again on ‘Detty Yasef’ Track 08 where Falz is not his uproariously funny self; and DJ Cuppy playing Eazi’s girlfriend on Track Six which may not be funny to you.  
The truth is I’ve rooted for Mr. Eazi from Day One, and I’m not about to stop now. 
Omo wa ni - na our pikin.  Open door make ‘im enter. 

 ~  *  ~  

Summary, both albums are very just-ok work by far better than ok artistes. Oh well. 

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