Thursday, June 20, 2013

Everybody Run, Run, Run

"He had introduced Ifemelu to Fela at university. She had, before then, thought of Fela as the mad weed-smoker who wore underwear at his concerts, but she had come to love the Afrobeat sound and they would lie on his mattress in Nsukka and lisen to it and then she would leap up and make swift, vulgar movements with her hips when the run-run-run chorus came on."

One need not know much about the music of Fela Kuti for this passage from early in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah to be evocative of college love affairs, for the run-on sentence to call to mind the running together of amorous recollections.

However, if one recognizes the "run-run-run chorus" to which Ifemelu is making her swift and vulgar hip motions as coming from a song entitled "Sorrow, Tears and Blood," which Fela had written about police violence in general--and a brutal police raid on his family compound in particular--then one is left with a sense of Ifemelu and Obinze (the "he" who is remembering) as people all too capable of taking their pleasures in abstraction from the social context that gave rise to the Afrobeat sound.

I have not finished the book yet, but already I have a sense that it is the sort of book that will be reprinted 30 or 50 years from now with an apparatus of scholarly endnotes, and deservedly so.

Everybody run run run
Everybody scatter scatter
Some people lost some bread
Some one nearly die
Some one just die
Police dey come, Army dey come
Confusion everywhere
Seven minutes later
All don cool down, brother
Police don go away
Army don disappear
Dem leave Sorrow, Tears, and Blood
Dem regular trade mark

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