A new song

A New Song by Debo Popoola


A short story by Debo Popoola

As Sola walked over the dilapidated pedestrian bridge in Oshodi, he saw— as he had always been seeing— homeless bodies that have made the bridge their solace. These bodies seemed less concerned about where they were or who maybe passing-by as they snored loudly from exhaustion.

Sola, who was accustomed to this scene, did not give them any regard like they too had not. What went through his mind as he walked over the rickety rails was his scheduled meeting with his would-be producer if things went well at the meeting.

Music was what to him – his soul. When he graduated from the university a year ago, he hated being counted as one of the numerous jobless graduates traversing the streets of Lagos, submitting applications for befitting and unexciting jobs: he wanted more. He wanted to live on his talent.

Sola by all standards was musically talented.

In his days in the university, he won many competitions with his musical group: they were three and he was the lead vocalist. They had the ambition of rocking the music world after their graduation, but the other two could not withstand the scathing comments that all the producers they met gave about their demos, and they left the band for greener pastures.

The howling noise from the maddening crowd of Oshodi made him lose himself amongst the unidentifiable hustling souls of Lagosians. As he walked through this “noise capital” of the world, the smell from the blocked drainage by the road sank deep into his brain; coupled with this stench was a carcass on the highway with no attention given to it as flies made a guarding cloud over it. He hurried towards the bus-stop to get a bus heading to his would-be producer’s office. As he walked on, he saw two bus conductors engaged in a sort of fisticuffs, the cause of which Sola did not care to know, and passers-bye showed little concern as everyone hurried about as if being fast-forwarded by an invincible remote control.

Few steps away from the bus-stop Sola started hearing repeated utterances that sounded like where he was going. These utterances had in them accentual ambiguity because the bus conductor was an Igbo man and he found it difficult pronouncing the Yoruba name. When Sola wanted to verify from the shouting conductor, the bus conductor showered curses on him, telling him to “go to helli”. It was not until a compassionate man clarified the utterance that Sola became sure of the bus destination.

He sat quietly in the bus as he gazed through the window, it had rained a day ago and the pot holes harbored residue of the rain. As Sola put his face through the window and pouted his lips to let out phlegm from his throat, a speeding Okada splashed the stinking water from the pot hole on his face. He felt like cursing but the offender had disappeared from the vicinity. He boiled inside as he dashed out of the bus to get a sachet water to clean his face. After cleaning his face, he slipped his hand into his pocket to get his wallet and pay for the water; his hand slid to the bottom of the pocket without any obstruction. He could not believe it.  He checked all his pockets and discovered that his wallet was not there. In that wallet was everything that he had – his money, his I.D cards and many other important business cards. He almost burst out crying but instead found himself laughing as tears streamed freely from his eyes.

No sooner had this happened than a boy, hawking puff-puff, came to him with the wallet. He could not believe his eyes when he checked and his money and documents were intact. The boy told him that he found the wallet on the ground and was told by his mother to trace him to the bus-stop and return it. Sola gave the boy fifty-naira in appreciation. The boy had really made his day. He made his way back to the bus just before it drove away, and as it was habitual of Sola to always look outside, Sola saw the Bougainvillea planted for the beautification of the highway begging for attention; they looked weak and dying; the leaves had turned brown; no thanks to the scorching sun. Weeds had taken over the green grasses.

Sola alighted the bus and walked a short distance to his would-be producer’s office. He checked the time from his watch and discovered that he was seventeen minutes behind schedule. He increased his pace.

On getting to the beautiful music production building and telling the secretary that he had an appointment with the producer, he was elated to hear that the man had not arrived at his office that morning, and so was asked him to wait. Sola sat at lodge made available for waiting – watching the TV. He brought out his demo and took a good look at it for the umpteenth time today.

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Sola had met this popular music producer through one of his church members. This church member was impressed by Sola’s rendition in church one Sunday, and after the service, met with him and commended him. She then promised to introduce him to a music producer who was her close friend. She arranged a meeting much later at her house. This popular music producer had in that meeting told Sola to bring his demo to his office.

Thirty minutes later, the producer arrived in his sparkling Homer jeep. As he walked into his office, he saw Sola, and beckoned to him. They greeted each other, he apologised for coming behind schedule, and they made their way into his luxurious office.

The producer asked Sola to sit and asked for his demo. After collecting the demo, he went into an inner studio to listen to the demo. Sola’s heart started beating very fast as he prayed silently that his demo would not be rejected again like other producers had.

Memories of the past flashed like lightning in his head as he remembered the producers he had met in the past, he remembered their comments, he remembered one that said: “This will make little or no money”; and another that said: “I can’t waste my money on this junk”; and the one that said in the nicest way he thought possible: “Mr. Sola, I don’t think music is your way, please try teaching or trading.” The comment of the last producer he met hit his heart like a grenade: “You will be the biggest fool if you think you can make it in music”. All these comments gave a grey illumination to the fear inside him. But what kept the fire of hope kindled in him were the comments of his fans during his school days and the belief he had in himself. He was so lost in thoughts and did not know when the good-looking producer returned from the studio. It was the producer’s touch that made him come alive.

“What are you thinking about?” The producer asked.

“The past sir” Sola answered.

“Anyway sola, I have listened to your demo and…” As he was saying this, his cell phone rang. He took excuse and answered the call.

Sola’s heart beat faster, eager to know what his fate would be this time. The call took more than five minutes and those five minutes seemed like a lifetime to his troubled heart.

“Sorry for the interruption”. As I was saying, I have listened to your demo and it is fantastic. I love your songs, they teach morals and I am ready to put all my money into it.”

Good music does not only appeal to the ears alone, good music soothes the heart and makes the soul flourish.
For several weeks, six of the ten-track album topped the charts. The hit track was a song titled “A Will Finds A Way.”

The album sold millions of copies and Sola, who used to live in a boys-quarter in Obalende, relocated to a new mansion in Lekki. He became popular and he had thousands of friends on his facebook account and millions of followers on his twitter account.

Sola, in preparation for his second album, was driving to his producer’s office. When he got to Oshodi , he was amazed at what he saw. The pedestrian bridge wore a new look and there were no homeless bodies instead, he saw people in uniforms cleaning the streets. The drainage was clean and no stain or dirt could be seen on the ground. The pot-holes had disappeared and there was no commuter commotion as they all queued for the clean healthy long busses to arrive. He drove on and saw the bougainvilleas looking beautiful and bright again; he saw the grasses now green, and the weeds had been separated from them.

Then the title of his next album said itself into his ears: A NEW SONG.



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