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Teju-Cole-Okayafrica-Earbuds-64

Okay Africa asked Teju to curate its Africa in Your Earbuds series, so he compiles a list of Nigerian pop hits. The kind of music that “badt guys” and “bad gyals dem” would grind to in any Lagos night club.

Titled One Night In Lasgidi, the playlist spells out what Cole would play if he were a DJ at a Lagos club. He would begin with Brymo and end with Asa. Somewhere in-between, he’d mix in Wizkid, Davido, Naeto C, Dbanj, Phyno, 9ice, and even Nneka. [Listen HERE]

Cole knows a lot of things. And it’s no surprise at all that Nigerian pop music is one of them.

What I didn’t know was that Cole also knows his Lagos club scene quite intimately. I know because I’ve read and reread the essay that accompanies the playlist.

In it, he lays out the logic of the playlist—his choice of time periods, artists, and influences. But the essay also presents a portrait of the city of Lagos as a club. Gorgeous read!

Enjoy!

It doesn’t really get good until about one A.M., but you do want to be there by then, because you’d like to get in at least two solid hours of dancing by the time the clubs shut down. Afterward you run the gauntlet of cops on Falomo Bridge. “Oga, anything for us?” “Ehn, don’t worry, on my way back.” And on the way back, you lie. “Officer, I already saw you before na. You no remember?” Naturally, you’re not trying to drive to the mainland at that hour. You’ve made arrangements to sleep in some island neighborhood, assuming you’re not rich enough to already live there: Ikoyi, V.I., Lekki 1, Lekki 2, Lekki 3, Ajah. At this hour, you’re taking the uncannily clear roads at speed, stopping not even for traffic lights. The breeze is blowing, the great lagoon sleeps. Twenty-one million people are in whatever form of shelter they call home, these human energies at rest, numerous as the stars above the endless city. The past two hours begin to come back to you, a blur of moves and bodies, and the two or three things you saw and were reluctant to believe, good things, bad things, badt guys, as Lagosians say, and bad gyals dem.

Day is for thought, and night for clubs. Night I’ve spent in clubs in at least a couple dozen cities by now, in as many countries. American hip-hop generally rules the scene, chart toppers mostly. A surprising number of DJs, from Stockholm to Cape Town, know their old-school selections. But in the past few years, contemporary Nigerian dance music, Naija jams, have been taken in by enthusiastic audiences at out of the way clubs in the U.S., huge crowds in East African stadiums, and on mainstream radio play in the UK. For the duration of the set, you are transported to Lagos Island on a Friday night. Saturdays are dry because there’s church on Sunday. Sundays are nonexistent because there’s work on Monday. Wherever you are, it’s Friday. You are transported to Lagos, Lasgidi, Eko City, the Gidiopolis, as stars like D’banj, Wizkid, or Davido ignite the floor. You enter a specific space inside the urban Black Atlantic, and only later do you remember that you are, in fact, physically elsewhere: in Brazzaville, in Berlin, in Brooklyn….read more

 

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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