Blood dripping from his head

A painful, violent story of migration captured in the song "Lagos" - for our series "Liner Notes," in which musicians talk about making music.

Azu Yeché (supplied).

I had just returned from school one evening I was relaxing in the living room with my mum in Port Harcourt, Nigeria aged 10. Suddenly, a car drove in and we weren’t sure who it was till my brother stepped out of the car with lots of rags tied round his head. He was accompanied by his head teacher.

I immediately started laughing because I thought he was just fooling around as usual or maybe he had offended the head teacher. Within seconds, it became clear that it was a serious situation as my mother ran towards him screaming because she had seen blood dripping from his head.

The headmaster told us that he had been attacked by a gang of people and was stabbed several times on his head, neck and hands. I went into a state of shock and everything changed immediately after he was rushed to the hospital.

I couldn’t really comprehend it and I didn’t have time to do so as I was suddenly going to write an exam to join a new school in a different city (Lagos) and subsequently London. After he recovered from the brutal incident we both moved city and left home.

So much happened in such a short period, I only very recently came out of the initial shock of seeing my brother in that state. We never really spoke about it till this day. Perhaps, writing this song helped me deal with the situation.

I initially wrote “Lagos” on my guitar and then took it to Tony White who is a great producer and has produced some great music. We’ve been working together for a while now so there is trust between us. I told him this story as an artist and friend and explained how I wanted it to be produced in a sparse way. Because of the sensitive subject matter of the song, he instantly understood that this was not a song that required bells and whistles. He added some electronic pads along with acoustic guitar and piano to accentuate key points of the story and the results were exactly what I had imagined for the song. The final result has a hymnal quality to it.

It was very emotional to record the song, and I think that comes out in the final version. The vocal on the finished track is the first take I recorded. Perhaps, I could have aimed for a more technically perfect and pristine vocal but this was raw and honest — that’s what the song needed.

Further Reading

The entitlement of Bola Tinubu

The Nigerian presidential candidate’s claim of ’emi lokan’ (it’s my turn) reveals complex ethnic politics and a stagnated democracy. Most responses to it, humor and rumor, reflect how Nigerians enact democratic citizenship.

Father of the nation

The funeral of popular Angolan musician Nagrelha underscored his capacity to mobilize people and it reminds us that popular culture offers a kind of Rorschach test for the body politic.

A city divided

Ethnic enclaves are not unusual in many cities and towns across Sudan, but in Port Sudan, this polarized structure instigated and facilitated communal violence.

The imperial forest

Gregg Mitman’s ‘Empire of Rubber’ is less a historical reading of Liberia than a history of America and racial capitalism through the lens of a US corporate giant.

Africa’s next great war

The international community’s limited attention span is laser-focused on jihadism in the Sahel and the imploding Horn of Africa. But interstate war is potentially brewing in the eastern DRC.

The Cape Colony

The campaign to separate South Africa’s Western Cape from the rest of the country is not only a symptom of white privilege, but also of the myth that the province is better run.

Between East Africa and the Gulf

Political encounters between the Arab Gulf and Africa span centuries. Mahmud Traouri’s novel ‘Maymuna’ demonstrates the significant role of a woman’s journey from East Africa to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Āfrīqāyī

It’s not common knowledge that there is Iran in Africa and there is Africa in Iran. But there are commonplace signs of this connection.

It could happen to us

Climate negotiations have repeatedly floundered on the unwillingness of rich countries, but let’s hope their own increasing vulnerability instills greater solidarity.