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Photography Courtesy of Aderemi Adegbite

“The complexity of my multiple identity means you’ve got to consult with me if you want to understand me”

Being the opening track of Agbero International album we wanted to set the record straight and break free from all the labels people keep trying to apply when wanting to describe us or our music. The title “Afropunk” is in direct reference to the punk movement and how we identify strongly with their free spirit and anti-conformity stance. At the same time we remind our listeners of the long history of the black liberation movement in sports and the arts as we reference activist singer and actor Paul Robeson, the first black heavy weight champion of the world Jack Johnson and black punk/rock groups like Bad Brains, Fishbone and Living Color.

The “Agbero” (local tout) is played by a friend of the band Ibrahim Oyetunji. He can be heard praising BANTU with all manners of superlatives in Yoruba.

Photography Courtesy of Uche James Iroha

“wave your weaves in the air, wave them up high and near, show the world let them see you’re a Lagos Barbie”

There is a lot of politics around the representation of self as a black woman and the western notions of beauty. We wanted to address this without alienating listeners so we decided to write a sing along tune with a satirical edge, for this we coined the term “Lagos Barbie”. Starting with a call to action in our chorus we ask women to “wave their weaves in the air” we are aware of the absurdity of this message knowing that no serious minded Lagos big girl who spends a fortune keeping her “Barbie” looks would dare do so, but we also know it one of those lines that make you go “hold on, wait a minute. Did I just hear right?”

We then proceed to charm the Lagos Barbie with verses celebrating her “star” like qualities and her “bling bling baby” status while singing about weave and wig types with absurd-sounding names like “proto” or “chocolate”. On the third verse we flip the script reminding our sisters not to compromise their African beauty and greatness.

Ká Máa Dúpẹ́
Photography Courtesy of Abiola Balogun

“Ká máa dúpẹ́ come rain come shine, I’m gonna rise, I’m gonna smile”

We wanted to celebrate life and the ability of the human spirit to triumph no matter the odds. The opening line of the first verse sets the tone as we readily admit how difficult it is to be optimistic when it all feels like the world is crushing down on you. It was important for us to show our humanness and vulnerability something we believe everyone can relate to. We deliberately sang the 3rd verse in Yoruba to invoke the beauty of the language and its deeply positive proverbs and adages. This also connects to the song title “Ka Ma Dupe” which translated means “let us be thankful”

Niger Delta Blues
Photography Courtesy of George Osodi

“Twenty years after the Ogoni Nine, the blues of the Niger Delta has now become the blues of Nigeria, yours and mine”

The Intro starts off with a call and response lamentation in Yoruba about the state of our nation and how politicians have pocketed our wealth using our money to corrupt the moral values of our society.

In this spoken word piece we wanted to re-engage Nigerians with issues affecting the oil producing Niger Delta region. We wanted everyone to see the bigger picture and understand that it is our collective struggle and not an isolated incident. We start off addressing oil spillages and the daily terror endured by the common people in the South West of Nigeria before moving on to remind Nigerians of the effects world bank structural adjustment programmes, Biafra war and military rule has had on the psyche of our nation. The track features 76 -year old Afrobeat co-creator Tony Allen on drums. The chorus was sung with a deliberate inflection of Niger Delta pidgin English as a homage to the people’s struggle.

Má Kó Bámi
Photography Courtesy of Uche James Iroha

“In this time and age of double signal, the complication of courtship can be fatal”

As teenagers when courting a girl she would sometimes mock you with the line “Má kó bá mi, má súnmọ́ mi Teacher ń bọ̀” which roughly translated means “Don’t put me in trouble, don’t get too close, the teacher is coming”.  A clear indication not to push your luck too far.

With “Ma Ko Bami” we wanted to keep this youthful playfulness while exploring the complexities of the courting game.  

Corporal punishment  is not uncommon in the Nigerian school system hence the intro that references a children’s protest song that we would sing in private amongst our friends after having gone through yet another lashing session.

Ṣe Jẹ́jẹ́
Photography Courtesy of Uche James Iroha

“No need to rush my brother, for there’s one life to live, make the best out of it, se jẹ́jẹ́”

Life in Lagos can sometimes wear you down. Everyone seems to be living on the fast line, juggling multiple hustles, jobs and careers. A common byline painted on our yellow buses reads “No time for lazy man”. The megapolis of 20 million does not pity the weak. While this reads true of most urban centers we still want to remind ourselves of the pitfalls of the daily struggle and the need to catch our breath and reflect on our goals from time to time hence the Yoruba phrase “Se Je Je” “take it easy” after all as our forefathers taught us “suru ni baba iwa” “patience is the most important of all virtues”

Oní Tèmi
Photography Courtesy of Uche James Iroha

“Our connectivity feels like pitch-perfect oriki poetry”

Its been a while since we last wrote a love song, actually this is the second time in the history of BANTU that we have meditated on affairs of the heart (our first attempt was “Me You & The Moonlight” on our self titled 2004 release) so we taught we’d give it a try. We invited spoken word artist Wana Wana to come trade lines as we conjured the spirits of infatuation. The big band arrangement was the perfect musical backdrop.

Photography Courtesy of Uche James Iroha

“Dem go dey talk, dey talk, dey lie lie dey go”

We wrote this song during the last presidential election. Political candidates across the spectrum were rallying supporters around empty populist one-liners promising everything from Free housing to Free money for all. We felt we needed to call them out and tell them to their faces that we are sick and tired of their stories and lies.

Photography Courtesy of Uche James Iroha

“We all wrapped in fake cocoons, too scared to address our wounds, suffering, smiling, groomed for doom, fighting each other for elbow room”

“Anything for the boys?” is a popular phrase you hear around Nigeria. It’s an indirect way of asking for a handout without wanting to come across as begging.  There is a whole ritual of hand gestures, phrases and salutes that come with the line. Inspired by this, we ask the ruling political class if they are aware of our plight and suffering. We address issues of Nigeria’s failing infrastructure, the country’s current economic recession as well as the collective Stockholm syndrome of the masses.

Ilé (Africa)
Photography Courtesy of Aderemi Adegbite

“The journey’s been long, our sacrifices plenty, callouses on our hearts, bear testimony to the pains endured in unbearable cruelty”

With “Ilé (Africa)” we come full circle from Germany back to Nigeria we reflect on the journey and the challenges we have faced both individually and as people of Africa. We reference known and unsung heroes like the Congolese anti colonial activist Ambroise Boimbo who snatched the ceremonial sword of King Baudouin I of Belgium on the eve of his country’s independence. We end the song with friends from across Africa currently exiled in Europe or America calling us up saying how much they miss home.

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