You cannot listen to Good or Bad by J-Martins without thinking about your brother, the one who had bought speakers when he was in secondary school. Like you, he could obsess over a song and play it relentlessly until you suck it dry. Unlike you, he would not use headphones or earphones to keep the music within your head, if he liked a song, the house had to vibrate with the strains and strums of his new favourite song. But it wasn’t Good or Bad you were looking to listen to on an afternoon that was ultimately destined to be boring. You had just finished listening to Let’s Get Serious by Jermaine Jackson and your music player segued into the Timaya and P-Square flavoured buffet of a song.
You remember where you were when you first heard the song, on a bus taking you to Ojuelegba from Lawanson. At first, you giggled at the chorus, let’s get serious and fall in love? It grew on you and by the time the song was ending, your head was moving with the music. Years would pass before you would download the song, after another chance encounter with the song. At this time, you were no longer the slightly dreamy teenager navigating laboratories and lecture theatres, yet it still made you giggle but there was a connection you’d felt with the song, an extravagance in the lyrics and beats that felt familiar.
On this promised boring afternoon, you are reading Stevie Wonder’s Wikipedia page when you find out that he wrote and produced the song. You are slightly surprised at your affinity with the minstrel who has won more Grammy awards than any other single music artist. You had been driven to know more about him after finding “As”, what you feel about the song is enough for an essay. You continue to read about Stevie and find that he had performed in the closing ceremony of the Centennial Olympics.
But it is the opening ceremony of that Olympics games that is seared in your memory, Muhammed Ali lit the Olympic fire after getting the torch from a pretty woman you did not know. You sat cross-legged on the floor while your father chanted “Muhammed Ali”.
“Daddy, was he the same one who did rumble in the jungle?” Your father had told you the story of the epic fight in Zaire when he’d seen you watch George Foreman’s sitcom on Cadbury Breakfast Show.
“Yes he is the one, he was the greatest boxer in the world”
“Why was he shaking like that?”
“He has Parkinson’s Disease; he cannot control his movements.” He said crisply and you knew your next questions had to wait until later. You would remember his explanation when you met CNS Pharmacology many years in the future.
Your father continued to say his name with a brand of awe that even the eight-year-old version of you could recognise, but you were more interested in looking out for the Nigerian flag in the sea of flags on the screen. That would be the Olympics that your country won its first, and second Olympic gold medals. You watched Chioma Ajunwa take that 7.12 metres jump that gave her the gold and heard the boom that reverberated Nigeria when Kanu Nwankwo scored the goal that has to be Nigeria’s most celebrated soccer goal yet- the goal that defeated almighty Brazil.
You, the adult you, heads to YouTube to find the video of Muhammed Ali lighting the Olympic flame. The video is less than three minutes long. You, the adult you, with the knowledge of the complexities and glories of the life of the man- Muhammed Ali, sitting behind your laptop and watching the video with a swelling heart and you hear yourself say his name- Muhammed Ali. You are saying it over and over, awe dancing in your voice and your eyes setting errant tears free.