The Aesthetics of Teni’s “Uyo Meyo” By Wándé T Àjàyí
At a time real music seems to have been lost to the whims and caprices of “street bangers” that has no moral to teach, Teniola Apata came up with a lyrical genius she tilted “UYO MEYO”. Questions have been asked of what music really means to teach and achieve in a 21st Century third world country where nothing seems to work. Some have argued our music culture promotes violence and intimidates our teenage grade to self-help in a bid to match the mostly fictitious high life our random songs and artists portray.
The chorus is an age long folklore that has been handed down from generations of Ondo Ekimogun people of Ondo State in South West Nigeria. In ancient history, the Yoruba people live a communal lifestyle. The good of others is a plus to one. Unlike nowadays where people live independent of others and the dearth of communal goodwill, the song reminds us all of the greatness in communal living.
On July 28, 2018, Teni uploaded a video singing the chorus on her social media handles to felicitate with her younger sister who just bagged a degree. “Uyo meyo leun o san o kan mi o e“. It means “my rejoicing with others has brought forth my own source of joy”. Evidently, not long after her sister’s graduation ceremony, Teni’s own came and she rejoiced.
The first verse is embedded with words of encouragement that has been expunged from our musical lyrics long ago. “Everybody is born a winner” looks pedestrian but in a country where you must work hard to feed, clothe and provide shelter for yourself, those are strong words enough to motivate anyone who is contemplating giving up.
The failure of the Nigerian state has turned an average Nigerian to a habitual loser. She admonished us to just work hard and believe. No mountain is insurmountable if you believe. 2018, in Nigeria, recorded the highest figure of suicide. If, perhaps, someone had spoken the first verse to any of them, they could have had a rethink and strive harder to keep living.
The second verse is a follow up on the first. Yes, she’s aware of life, generally, is not a bed roses. Nothing comes easy. She’s preparing her audience for the inevitable. Life sucks. Her eyes have seen it all. She was less than a year old when her father was gruesomely assassinated. The pains of growing up without a father. They had it all and suddenly, like a pack of cards, it all crumbled.
Her father was a retired Brigadier General of the Nigerian Army. The tone with which she sings is melancholic and downcasting. But then she found her voice again by telling us all that though they will tell us we can’t, we actually CAN! They won’t provide the needed help, so we shouldn’t even expect it. All we need is to keep pushing on and quite harder. And with the help of our “Ori”, we will surpass expectations.
In African Traditional Religion, the place of “Ori” cannot be overemphasized. Ori, literally meaning “head,” refers to one’s spiritual intuition and destiny. It is the reflective spark of human consciousness embedded into the human essence and therefore is often personified as an Orisha in its own right. Teni begs her Ori to let her prosper and guard her. She pleads with her Ori to open doors for her.
She ends the classic with the last verse. In Yoruba traditional setting, the dead is saintly and communication with the dead is expected to be done with a pure heart and soul. Figuratively, she announced her pure mind with the first line in the verse; “Owo mi ma re, funfun nene“. “Here are my hands, they are clean and pure”.
A proud act. Then she went on to invoke the spirit of her late father “Omoluwoleja Apata“. She informed him it has been God all these while. Even when she thought she’d lost it all, God told her, there are still steps to take. Yes, General Apata is dead but “omo l’aso“.
Again, she tapped into the rich Yoruba traditions by calling on the dead not to sleep. Yoruba believe a dead parent is the Guardian Spirit of his/her children. It is reciprocated. She has made him proud as a worthy child that has kept his name alive despite the wishes of the enemy to kill it off. She is demanding that he protects her in return cause she’s made her proud and he should be happy wherever he is.