We are three in a saloon car and Sensima is playing on the car stereo. One of us is a music critic and the other a financial analyst. One word leads to another and then there’s the need to ‘unlock’ some of Skiibii’s street lyrics on his most popular song.
“What’s the Kpakam he keeps repeating?” the financial analyst asks, catching my eyes in the rare mirror for answers. We are set to leave the venue of an event we had attended.
“Well,” I say, “it’s a literal sound denoting the usage of a padlock. But, of course, in this song it’s been used figuratively, you get? Here, it means…well, it’s a ‘sex song’, so to say, you figure it out yourself.”
They both look back at me questioningly. I’m sitting in the backseat. The music critic is sitting in the front passenger seat and the financial analyst in the driver’s seat.
“Figure it out, how?” the music critic asks.
“Figure it out for us naaahhh” the financial analyst whines.
They like to put me on the spot like that. The music critic is non-Yoruba and doesn’t understand the language, and although the financial analyst is Yoruba, she isn’t a better follower of the Nigerian pop music than I. The song’s chorus comes partly in Yoruba language. I try a little harder, knowing they already know what I mean:
“If you’re conversant with dog breeding,” I explain, “they use the word Lock for Sex, you get? …like locking two dogs. Now that’s what Skiibii is saying, but, with respect to humans.”
They both laugh and I join them.
“I kind of like the song.” The financial analyst says, shifting back in position to ignite the car.
“Of course you do.” The music critic jests.
Soon we are discussing where to go spend the rest of the evening.
Up until then, I haven’t seen the video of Sensima. When I eventually see it — a day later — it more or less takes me by surprise. I like it. I like it very much. The video is abundantly colorful filming of contemporary African fashion, dance, style, and rhythm; a production not uncommon to what any of these modern African diaspora artists would make — Major Lazer, Skepta, Burna Boy or Odunsi. The video is moderately packed with mellow as well as energetic choreography. It is intelligently shot, too, opening up for a couple critical interpretations:
In the three minutes, eight seconds video, why they choose to dress in such contradicting and color blinding manner may be taken that they are merely following a trend in the Nigerian contemporary pop music. It’s the first thing catching attention: the disregard for color and mode of dressing. A scene featuring someone dressed for the heat — almost clad — features another looking as though must be dying of cold. This mishmash of colors and dressing styles is a direct reflection of the Nigerian society. In the quest of meeting our very basic need — and mostly being unable to afford it — we have become the receiving end of the first and second world countries’ dumps. We pick what we can get from them and make it ours; make it beautiful. This has, over time, partly formed our existence.
One of the dancers wears a hoody with Chinese language inscriptions on the back (he most certainly doesn’t have an idea what the inscription says in Chinese, but isn’t that the least reason we dress ourselves up as modern Africans?) We dress not for aesthetics, not in response to our weather conditions, but for the primal purpose of covering our nakedness and at the same time being modern at it. “Our cultures don’t dress us,” the video seems to say “we dress from anything coming out of the ruins we can get, and this, too, can be beautiful.”
The scenes featuring many guys in a dark room standing zombie-like and making a single movement of their necks to a side in response to rhythm would remind one of the silent but harmful waves of the many addictive influences and substances taking over the lives of many a youth around the world. It is a similar scene to one of Olamide’s Poverty Die shots. But the scene is more instructive in Sensima. Olamide’s is the raising and dropping of the head. In Sensima, the movement is a simple jerk of the neck to the side, such reflex reaction one can associate with drug addiction.
But in all, on the surface, what one sees in the video is beauty all through; it is like examining Dotun Popoola’s piece of art. In the ruins of things, there is a fine synchronization of instrumentals, voice, dance, pictures, not to skip the comics.