After lazing about the long rainy day of 31st December, 2016, my friends and I got ready to go out for New year’s eve and the crossover. Chika*, my friend whom I came from Bangor with (the one who was devouring rice and chicken wings previously), had been out all day, sightseeing in Glasgow, by herself, finding places that even Macy* (who’s been there for 10 years) didn’t know were close by, under the rain! She’s a natural adventurer and a restless explorer. I am always amused by her proactive spirit and relentless quest for discovery. Macy, whom we came to visit, was poured all over the bed, like hot okra soup, as well was I, on the couch, then eventually, I moved to the carpet, and back to a smaller couch… restless… searching… for the perfect lazy position.
Our ride arrived and we were chaperoned from Gad’s street by Macy’s great friend. We arrived the home of our very warm and welcoming host, who I suspect, was already tipsy before we arrived. This was like 8pm-ish. Other than my two friends, Macy and Chika, and one other lady with pretty dreads, who had to be in her mid-thirties, every other lady there was a mother. Maybe, I should just call them women. They didn’t look it! They were ageing gracefully, and still had solid curves (mum, I wasn’t looking, honest!) Although, there was this younger girl, 14, I think her age was, who made a brilliant dance team mate with her mother, rocking the dance floor crazy and an 8-ish looking boy, who for some strange reason, after my apparently failed efforts at correcting him, kept calling the Nigerian duo, ‘P-squares’. I tried to explain to him what a square in math meant (yes, I’m that kinda guy), since he said, it had been mentioned, but not yet taught in his class.
‘Their names are, Peter and Paul. Both of the first letters are P, hence the name, P-square’ I explained to him. I was proud of myself. This lad would remember me years later, as the random guy he met once who explained the concept of a square in math and taught him to properly address the superstars. I had impacted someone’s life positively by teaching them something. Only for the kid to turn to the girl, who at this time, had become our DJ, making us, grown men (including me of course), to listen to Justin Bieber, and said, please play ‘P-squares’. The boy just shattered my messiah complex. There went my efforts to inspire the next generation mum!
The girl’s mother stepped in and rid the music of all its juvenile tendencies by playing some good dance-hall songs. Interlacing Afro-pop songs from Kenyan and Ugandan artistes I never heard of before with songs by Nigerian artistes, all the while, giving some crazy steps, embellished in mind boggling twists. Her daughter, her partner in music crime, was killing it as well. They bore the us-against-the-world kind of groovy relationship that had to be borne from the unique association of a single mum and an only daughter. I confirmed my suspicion from Macy who didn’t know the details of the story. Some jackass must have hit and run, I suspect. Men!
We ate some amazing food bruh! Ugandan delicacies that were simply brilliant: Pilau (African chicken fried rice), Kachumbari (African Salsa salad), Ugali (Maize meal), Matooke (cooked green bananas), Roasted lamb, beef joint marinated and cooked in an oven bag, spinach cooked in coconut milk. Food is a universal language that we seldomly mention. African food especially, that’s a gift to the world I tell you.
I was having a conversation with John (from Calabash) and he was telling me about the Kikuyus of Kenya, who because of their enterprising natures were referred to as the ‘Jews of Africa’. In Nigeria, the most enterprising tribe are the Igbos. Then, there were the ones they called the ‘Black Egyptians’, the Merus. Somehow, we started discussing about what time zones our countries belonged to and our chaperone, Douglas*, was asking if Nigeria was ‘plas one’. Oddly, my now, British attuned ears were hearing him say, ‘class one’. I asked what he meant, and he goes, ‘just like in maths, plas… plas one’. And I go, ‘oh yeah, Nigeria’s time zone is “plus one”’. Pardon my misunderstanding, I wasn’t used to the accent.
3… 2… 1… Happy new year everybody! The time finally came. We made it into 2017 unscathed, but not sober. Wine glasses clanged together, shots taken, perks given and hugs were freely distributed without tax or fear of current being tapped. We locked elbows and held hands in solidarity, singing, for Auld Lang Syne. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps, to say goodbye to our old friend, 2016. I downed my glass of ginger beer after carefully dodging the shots that were served at midnight. 15 minutes later, the lady-in-dreads asked me if I’ve had something to drink.
‘Yes, I’ve been enjoying my drink’ I tried to be vague
‘Did you have any shot?’
‘uh… No. But, it’s fine. I had something else’ My honesty had the better of me. Plus, it was too early in the year to lie. I knew where this was going.
‘How come you weren’t given any shot?’
‘It’s okay, I don’t like to drink anyways’
‘No, It’s the new year, you must have at least one’ she left for the kitchen.
One minute later, she returns, handing me a shot glass with a greenish liquid that looked like Limca that was over-saturated with spirit.
‘It’s fine, I don’t want to take any’
A mint sensation later, different and definitely better than the burning feeling of a Jäger bomb, she walks away. Mission accomplished!
Ja-Mnazi’s Am Not Sober rocked the house later, with everyone echoing the chorus and raising their glasses ‘Am not sober!’, while rocking to this Kenyan jam I had never heard before. I don’t remember who picked the song, but it perfectly described the moment. Nameless’ song (feat. Amani), Ninanoki, was another hit that got my East African friends singing out loud. Jaguar’s Kigeugeu and Madtraxx’s Get Down were other hit songs that I was listening to for the first time as well. They sounded great, but I didn’t understand what the songs meant, except for the not sober one.
The night started getting quiet and this Kenyan lady accused Nigerian women of not being able to shake their ‘assets’. What?! Has she seen our music videos? What was she talking about?! I tried to show her Timaya’s Ukwu video and had my argument discredited, because he used a lot of foreign dancers in the video. She clarifies herself, ‘It’s not like it’s a bad thing and I’m not saying they can’t. I’m simply highlighting that they’re quite reserved in their shaking and don’t shake as much as East Africans’.
I couldn’t argue with that. East African shaking game is on another level I tell you. Even her who was speaking, a mother who’s first kid is about 10 or so (and she didn’t have him early), what she was doing as ‘casual shaking’ was way more than what my peers could do. I conceded graciously. Chika, strangely, smiled at the outcome of our argument and seemed to concede as well.
The morning came and met us, too sleepy to move. The host had scooched me over on the couch I was sleeping on after I zoned out from the hangout and started reading James Crosbie’s Ashanti Gold.
I’ll tell you this, after listening to the vocal cadence of Swahili, its emphatic enunciations, its antelope-hoofed sounding consonants and its intermittent interjections of ‘eish’ and ‘ah’, I have fallen in love with the language. It has definitely moved up the list of languages I want to learn. I look forward to an East African tour, that’s for sure!
*Names of my friends were changed to protect their identities
Photo location: Glasgow Necropolis, Castle street, Glasgow.