Monday, February 1, 2010

Nigerian Music

Last week I went to pick my class up from music. They were standing in the sunshine in a semi-circle around the piano while Mr. K, the music / drumming teacher, played. Mr. K teaches them a lot of African and Caribbean songs -- he is Jamaican, and specializes in African drumming and music.

It was the end of class, but Howard raised his hand.

"Yes, Howard?" Mr. K called on him in deep, accented tones.

"I know a Nigerian song," Howard announced.

"Oh you do?" Mr. K asked. "Could you sing it for us?"

"Yes," answered Howard bravely. He squared his shoulders and stepped forward. Lifting his chin, he looked directly into Mr. K's eyes and began to sing in a high, earnest voice:

I like the way you do me, do me, do me.
I like the way you do me, do me, do me.
I like the way you do me, do me, do me.

Over and over again, he repeated this refrain, with no variation in the words. My eyes widened and I looked around, waiting for the class to giggle. But they watched him intently as he sang. Mr. K looked surprised, then raised his eyebrows in resignation and kindly waved his hand, using his signal for "stop."

"OK, Howard," he said. "That is pop music. Do you know what pop music is?"

"No," Howard answered.

"It's like radio music," I piped in.

"Yes," Mr. K said. "Probably people listen to that song and dance to it in Nigeria, where your family is from. But it is not a traditional song, and, Howard, it is really not appropriate for school."

"Oh," Howard said, with interest.

"Perhaps you could ask your family if they know a traditional Nigerian song," Mr. K suggested. "What language do you speak? Ibo? Yoruba? Find out. Find out, and bring us a traditional song in your language."

Howard nodded amiably, and we went to line up to return to class. But all week I haven't been able to get the image of Howard, singing so bravely and clearly, out of my mind, and I often find myself humming tunelessly, "I like the way you do me, do me, do me."

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