The Bata Dancer. Rotimi Ogunjobi

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Название The Bata Dancer
Автор произведения Rotimi Ogunjobi
Жанр Зарубежное фэнтези
Издательство Зарубежное фэнтези
Год выпуска 0
isbn 9788835416302

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with Baba Lamidi, as everyone fondly called him was about eight years ago. Together, Yomi and Debola ad travelled to Ijebu-Jesa to invite Baba Lamidi and his dance and drum troupe to the official opening event of the Heritage Theater. Baba, who was at that time in his sixties, could only participate in the rather strenuous dancing for a few minutes, but the encounter left a lasting impression on Yomi.

      The meeting with Baba Lamidi planted a seed idea for a new stage play he planned one day in the future to write - a one-act monologue, which he titled The Bata Dancer. Yomi knew there would yet be a lot to do, because this new play project had all to do with a theme which he knew practically nothing about. Dance would be a major element of the new play, more specifically the Bata dance.

      Now back again in Ijebu-Jesa, he hoped to be able to find the required presence of mind to concentrate on writing The Bata Dancer. Above all, Yomi hoped that Baba Lamidi Ojedeji was still alive, because he hadn’t seen him in eight years.

      It wasn’t too difficult to locate Baba Lamidi’s house, in this small town. Yomi had been to visit twice before. It was a well-built storey building with a large front courtyard. The building showed signs that it was built by someone of more than average means. The tired brown paint however suggested that the owner was tired of beautifying a perpetual cost-centre

      “Who are you looking for? “. Yomi was accosted at the gate by a lady as he entered Baba Lamidi’s compound. She looked about five years or so younger than him and had a deep voice, almost like a man’s voice. Her voice sounded rather nice and pleasant though. Yomi thought she looked nearly out of place in front of this house.

      “I am looking for Baba Lamidi”, Yomi reciprocated her pleasantness.

      “What do you want to see him about”, the lady persisted.

      “I’ve been here before. I am from Ibadan and I just thought to drop in to say hello”, Yomi replied.

      “He is not at home; he has travelled” the lady told him, regretfully.

      “When do you think he will be back?” Yomi asked.

      “He has travelled to Oyo for an event, and we are not expecting him till tomorrow or the day after”, she explained.

      “That is disappointing. In any case, I am here for much longer and I will certainly return to see him “Yomi said.

      “Okay then, you are welcome”, the lady replied.

      Yomi turned and returned to his car. He thought he should have asked the lady what her name was, but refrained from going back to do that. The last thing he wanted at this time was to earn the distrust of a community in which he was yet a visitor. He noted nevertheless that she was quite attractive. She had an unusual deep voice, but the most beautiful smile he had ever seen.

      Yomi found a buka restaurant and bought himself a meal of pounded yam and melon seed stew. He ate greedily; the stew was very spicy and just the way he loved his food. Afterward, he returned to the hotel and there sat in the lobby, listening to an aimless and lively debate between three employees, about the music and politics of the day. Falana eventually called at about a quarter to five. Yomi drove to Falana’s office, and together they went to the place which the estate agent was to show him. It was a nasty house; an unkempt tenement building with four dungeon-like rooms on either side of a dark corridor running the entire length of the house. Outside was filthy, with a green stream running right across the front yard. Goats, pigs and chicken roamed unhindered, and the ground all around was littered with their faeces .Yomi was very disappointed to have been brought here.

      “This is not even a bit like what I hoped you would find for me. Not anywhere near what I described.” He spiritedly tried to mask his disappointment and anger.

      “It is not expensive; you definitely said you are looking for a place that is not expensive”, Falana told him.

      “Yes I did say that, but I certainly didn’t say I was looking to live in a dunghill”, Yomi affirmed.

      “Okay, I will look for something else”, Falana told him as they returned to the car.

      “How soon will this be? My need is rather urgent”, Yomi reminded.

      “As soon as I am able to find another, I will let you know. I will need to talk to some landlords. But you know, because you are stranger in this place, the landlords may not be so willing, which makes my work much more difficult”, Falana told him, successfully making Yomi feel like he was the reason why he might not be able to find a house.

      Falana promised to again call him next day as Yomi dropped him off at his office. Yomi knew of course that Falana was unlikely to call because next day was Sunday. He returned to the hotel, unable to get over the disappointment he felt. He sat for a while in the hotel bar, ordered a bottle of beer which he drank quickly. He fetched a book from the box in the boot of his car, and then bought another beer which he decided to take to his room.

      The title of the book was Eegun Alare, and it was written in Yoruba. It told the story of an itinerant performing masquerade, an Eegun Alare , who left his town in search of fame and fortune; both of which he eventually found. However, he meets with disaster when a magic trick goes wrong and he find self unable to change back from the crocodile which he turned himself into, because raindrops fell on him, and this was a taboo. Yomi could only read the story half way this time before he had to lay it down. Reading Yoruba as an adult was somehow no more easy to do for him; which was quite strange since as a child he read stories in that language without any difficulty at all. This one was written in verse, which made it even more difficult to read.

      He though the story of Eegun Alare resonated well with his personal quest. He also left familiar home grounds in search of a new beginning. He wasn’t an itinerant performer like Ojelade the masquerade, but he was nevertheless also in search of bigger achievements. Ojelade was a master of his art though, while he was still floundering and yet in search of himself.

      Beyond the mysticism which accompanied Ojelade’s quest, he would recognise that dance still remained the foundation skill of the typical itinerant performing masquerade. Baba Lamidi’s Osumare Troupe was the most awesome dance Yomi had ever seen. Seven costumed acrobats and dancers completely arrested the attention of the spectators for nearly a full hour, and still at the end of it all, the audience were sorry to see them leave. A news reporter attempted to interview Baba Lamidi after the performance, but this never happened. Baba seemed more insulted than happy that his skill could be considered of mere entertainment value. On this day though, the leader of the drummers, a young man whose name was Ayankunle, was too happy to be interviewed instead.

      “The drums have voices of their own; individually and collectively. If you don’t understand the language of the Bata drums, it is impossible to dance to it.”, Ayankunle mentioned in the interview, and that quote haunted Yomi for days. He was sufficiently intrigued, to again go in search of Baba Lamidi a few weeks later. This time he felt like there was nothing more desirable to him than learning how those drums spoke. He came visiting Ijebu-Jesa midweek and found Baba Lamidi at a game of Ayo in the courtyard in front of his house. Yomi recognised his game opponent as Ayankunle, the drummer who stood for him at the interview.

      He was grateful and happy that Baba Lamidi still remembered him, after he introduced himself, mentioning the Heritage Theater.

      “I want to learn the language of the drums. Can you possibly teach me?” Yomi quite nearly blurted out. He was discomfited by Ayankunle’s persistent stare at his legs; and apparently the young man doubted that the limp in Yomi’s leg could be an asset to anyone at all. Baba Lamidi also appeared trying to find the kindest reply to give this young fool from the city.

      “What you have asked from me is like the head of an elephant. It is too heavy for a child to carry”, Baba Lamidi told him, very amused.

      “Yes I do realize that, but when a burden is too heavy for a child to carry, he calls on his father for help; and that is why I am here” Yomi reverently replied . Baba Lamidi nodded his head wisely.

      “And why do you choose to carry this particular burden?” Baba Lamidi again asked.