I smile to think I have been following Saraba since their very first edition some few years back. It has always proved an interesting read, even when the busyness of life makes reading e-works an issue. Sometimes. I have tried all means with Saraba from reading on my system directly to downloading and printing. The styles of getting to read have changed through the editions as the publishers have kept trying their best to ensure each edition is as readable as possible. I have done different each time and always finished satisfied despite the seeming little editing issues of the first issues to the more refined ones.
I was going through the tenth edition of Saraba Magazine, a literary e-zine and I had to smile. It was edited by some good friends and a few of the contributors were my pals too. I had downloaded it a couple of months back and had promised to read it. The usual sin of procrastination kept pushing it to the list of ‘later.’ Finally, this lazy Saturday, I cancelled it from one of those things I should do penance for.
The beauty of an e-zine like Saraba is that they have the sweet gift of choice. There’s always a singular theme per each issue and then a call made for submissions. From a very large and varied pool, the editors make their pick of some very good pieces from around the country. In this edition, the contributions came in from Nigerians, Indians, Botswanan, and Americans among others.
The piece begins with a humorous memoir from the reviewer, Joseph Omotayo. Titled ‘My Music Timeline’, the author writes on his view of music through the years culminating in his experience in Secondary school. It starts slow and might have a reader leave the piece but picks up fast. The major credit to the piece is the humour and strokes at childish innocence and misadventure that it portrays. At the end of the piece, there is the traditional morale that comes from most African tales.
Agatha Aduro’s ‘Sweet Notes’ is one sweet tale that would get any reader smiling. It talks about a girl whose flirtation with music goes wrong at the expense of her mind. Several people try to help her out of her misery for what selfish reasons they have compounding issues till a certain musician comes by playing a strange tune. It is one tale that would string your thoughts.
‘The Chocolate Torte’ by Andrew Rooney and ‘We Have Known Ironies’ by Donald Molosi are other short stories in Saraba 10. These two short stories, like Agatha’s ‘Sweet Notes’, deal with romance. However, one cannot help but ask where the music theme comes in them. While they are lovely tales (no doubt), you just keep going through again and again, wondering: what did I miss? Perhaps, it is then that the romance inherent is the music, for isn’t love the music of life? Perhaps. Perhaps.
There are several poems in the magazine too. Like the tales, the poems are largely sensual. Ayomide Owoyemi’s ‘The Guitarist’ brings a certain depth to love and music shown through the guitarist who the atmosphere into/a swirl pool of scales, striving/harder to strum home his points.’ Cheedam Nezram’s steals the show with two poems ‘The Piano’ and ‘An old melody’. Her poems are verses of longing: that of a lover, a lover largely lovelorn who wishes that the addressed would love back as fiercely. They are also of a lover hoping despite everything that love would finally win despite every setback.
Michael Lee Johnson’s ‘Picture, Cap and Gown’ gives you that story of a whole life gone captured in the end by only a picture. What? Yes, that deep. You find yourself asking in the end, is our whole life just going to be summarised in a ‘picture?’ Then the question arises again: where is the music in this poem?
A critical essay that catches one’s attention is ‘Naming Hip-Hop and Recalling Abati’ by Akinlabi Peters.. The first is a rejoinder to a piece by Reuben Abati on the identity crises of the Yahoozee generation (the younger generation of this age). Abati’s piece criticises the songs of young musicians seemingly saying most of them lack depth and are copies of Western music. This Akinlabi disagrees with in very strong terms. He backs his disagreement with a very strong argument that would leave any Nigerian of the ‘Yahoozee’ generation quite proud. Lore Adebola’s ‘Between Einstein and Me: Thoughts of Music’ is a short piece that follows the mind of music through the views of Einstein who the writer claims an affinity with. She draws lines that fuse music and science together – how she believes Einstein saw it, and how she appreciates it.
But it isn’t only tales and poems about music alone. It isn’t just the critique of its piece. Music finds its way into the piece too in the notes and line arrangement. Enter Ikeogu Oke and Jude Nwankwo. Ikeogu gives some songs (music and lyrics) that is accompanied with arrangements by Jude Nwankwo. So, for those of you who know how to read the sol-fa notes, the adventurous ones, you just might want to get through to this and get yourself humming or playing (whatever instrument you use) these fine ones.
In the end, one notices that all the pieces are short and to the point. The short stories are really short. The poems, songs and critiques are same. This gives each piece a crispness that allows the reader to breeze through. With the fifty-five pages of the whole work, you might, like Dickens’ Oliver or even I, ask for more.
You discover in the end that whether you want to read about music or read music, there is something for you. From the lyrical flow of the pieces to the appreciation of beauty in its great wave, there’s a certain beauty that you get. There is a true cadence (in every word) that you flow with through it all. It is definitely an issue worth reading and after it all, perhaps you might be moved like me to write your mind on it; to hail friends who you didn’t know wrote this well (Donald Molosi, wait till I get to you!); or to simply smile at the marvel that is music… And if at any time, you are moved – if you can’t dance, simply tap your feet.