An Evening of Sakara Music

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Yinka Olatunbosun

Indigenous Lagos music can really be enjoyable when you have great friends and good wine. At Easter Sunday, Freedom Park played host to lovers of Sakara at the second edition of Sakara Music Fiesta organised by Evagrin Koncepts in collaboration with Eagles Aromatic Schnapps. Sakara is one of the least played songs on most Nigerian radio stations that often favour pop, dancehall and hip-hop. Sakara, a popular music genre which originated from Lagos in the 30s, shares semblance with folk songs from Northern Nigeria and Apala which is actually its sub-genre. Sakara became more popular amongst the Egbas, Ijebus and Oyo people. The main instruments for Sakara music are Goje violin and Sakara drum and the early performers of the music include Abibu Oluwa, Salami Alabi Balogun otherwise known as lefty who released over 35 records and Yusuf Olatunji popularly referred to as Baba L’Egba.

To promote local content, the Evagrin’s Group Project Coordinator and Founder of the Sakara Music Fiesta, Mr. Hakeem Adenekan led the dance steps in celebrating the rebirth of Sakara music which featured live performances by the major Sakara music inheritors such as Jamiu Lefty Balogun, the son of Lefty Salami Balogun; Wasiu Oseni Ejire, the son of late Oseni Ejire (Omoolofin) and Abideen Yusuf Olatunji who is the grandson of Late Yusuf Olatunji (Baba L’Egba). It was until they began performing that many of us knew how infectious the Sakara dance is. With one leg raised, the dancer sways to the sound of the Goje violin.

This reporter caught sight of Ayoola Shadare,  the convener of the Lagos International Jazz Festival who was doing such comic dance. Curious to understand why the performers usually sit, this reporter sought answers from Shadare who was enjoying himself.

“That’s what they call Ijoko Agba”, he said, emphatically and continued dancing, with every modicum of Lagos swagger. Ijoko Agba literally translates to the seat of elders. The performers were elderly, their wide-legged pants called kembe would nicely swallow the tight-fitting ones that pop stars usually wear. Mr Adenekan was the most excited, exhibiting the white Kembe flare as he did fantastic dance steps. The women who danced to Sakara were graceful not sexually provocative.

The performances were punctuated by discussions around Sakara music. While the fiesta was in progress, a nearby food cafe had its speakers blaring pop songs that seemed offensive to Sakara music fans. “Please, tell them they are disturbing us with their noise,” shouted some vexed sakara fans. Incidentally, those who dislike Sakara music consider it as noise and even off-limits in an office environment. Meanwhile Sakara music has die-hard fans such as Wale Babalakin, a senior advocate of Nigeria and should not be misconstrued as the music of the unlettered.

The lyrics of Sakara music include praise singing, maledictions for enemies, prayers for benefactors and insults for corrupt public holders. All these elements would later seep into Juju and Fuji music which have more crossover appeal across age brackets. Though not much has been said about the influence of Sakara in new music genres, the rhythmic patterns in it are very similar to Trap music. Sakara is an undying music tradition that has outlived its proponents. Little wonder why many expatriates were at the fiesta to share the joy of our cultural heritage being preserved on the platform of an evening entertainment.