Dashiki Dialogues: Ke Dezember Boss!

2011-12-16 12:45

The slight break in the music sends us all gasping for breath in time with the bassline – like the selector knows we needed it. I mean, ke Dezember Boss! and we’re celebrating.

And just in time with all our exaltations, before we can ask for encores, Fela Kuti rips into the air.

First the ebullient roar of the tenor and bass saxes, a few beats ahead of the percussive factor that marks our heartbeat.

There’s the collective howl of song as kith and kin are led by the speaker box and the boom-boom.The chorus is unmistakable and infectious: “Water ... you no get enemy ... if you wan’ cook soup, na water you go use ... ”

Now, to me, this rapport, this indiscriminate electricity connecting us all, was the first sign of a special day.

It’s marked also by aunts and mothers working magic in the kitchen.

The young nieces are there too, learning that magic first hand. The chicken has been marinated and fried, the chakalaka is already in the fridge next to the grated beetroot and other salads.

The green peas and tuna fish with lemon and mint have also found unity in that alchemy.And there’s also enough space for thunderous laughter.

The year-end foolery and embarrassments are remembered as events.

This culinary caucus is occasionally disturbed by that uncle in overalls and smelly worker-boots looking for a beer in the fridge.

He keeps asking when the food will be ready. It’s always the same, sharp, matriarchal retort: “Hey, wena, go outside, do you want to cook?”

Put back in his place, he goes outside with a frosty brown bottle in his hand.

To spite his expellers, the old timer makes sure to smuggle out an ice lolly from the ice box for his favourite grand-nephew ... its poetic justice for the tipsy old man.

Just as he sits, and the soundtrack having moved a few tracks further, he discovers a sweet revenge in song.

With one hand on the chair for balance, he gets down, singing along with a defiantly raspy voice: “She go say ... ah be lady yo ... she go say a no be woman.”

It’s a comical moment of personal revolt. Everybody reads this as such and laughs out loud. It’s part of the grand dialogue of the delightful family.

Ke Dezember Boss! and all dashikis are brightly coloured.

» I’m on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu

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