|Either of these two singers could have covered the stage well at the event. Just one could have sang and the audience would have been thrilled. But they chose to come the same day to AWF’s event. And it was good entertainment they provided their listeners. That was the duo of Zainab Sule and Christiana Makut. They are friends, and they performed separately, but one came because the other said she would come. “I am here today because of this stubborn girl,” Makut said, pointing to Zainab – a gangling lady at five feet, five inches if there is any. Her no-holds-barred, free walking style was as smooth as her voice, and so were her songs. And there were these equipments Zainab brought with her that was a singer’s dream. Both the microphone and the amplifier she used were good accompaniments to her rendition. Something about the appropriate, top quality equipments struck a note. It made Zainab come across as an artist who knew what her talent is, and she invests in things that would help it come out the best.
It would show in Eugenia Abu’s (the face of NTA) comment that Zainab had grown much in her singing career in the last four years. That was how long Abu knew her as a singer. What Zainab sang was commended by the audience all original, and her songs had lyrics that treated serious day-to-day issues as well as the not-so serious, much of which got the audience laughing and clapping at the same time. There was power, something moving in Zainab’s voice when she sang five different sets of songs including ‘Second Chance’, and so also was the audience held spell-bound by a beautiful voice and command rendition when Makut sang ‘Iris’, a song by Goo-Goo dolls, as well as ‘Sunglasses’ by Krissy. Sola Odulusi, who has become a regular feature at AWF guest writers’ Session treated the audience to a mini art-exhibition, and his work drew appreciative comments from the audience.
“Let me let the ink in my blood flow,” was how Zakama put it as he prepared to read when Ms Judith Rapu, a barrister and the Master of Ceremony invited him to take the hot seat. That was a quotation from an admonition he got from an elderly writer years back – ‘ink in my blood’. As he read mostly from his collection of poems titled: The man lived, which had won the ANA Prize for Poetry, the passion in the Fulani poet (so-dubbed by someone years back) also came to the fore as he read with a force that gave life to his work. Having read Soyinka’s work, The man Died, Zakama had wondered what actually died in the man who was incarcerated in prison, “I concluded that it was the spirit in him.” In his own collection, he made the man’s spirit to live again in poems that were fired by the things the author experienced whether “good or evil, high or low, beautiful or ugly”, and he told stories behind each of the poems too, one of the things that made his reading interesting, and a reason he said whoever reads his work reads “a part of my life.” Zakama read his work sitting, he read it standing, he read it laughing, he read it frowning, and he read gesticulating. He read like one who still felt the same thing when he wrote them years back. And it was apparent that in those poems, time and events were distilled, frozen; they were stories inscribed on papers with ink flowing from the blood of the poet, but shares in simple poems as their author likes to introduce himself in his email correspondence.
His poems such as Mother, A Gecko passed by me, Fulani poet, Praying mantis, Bootfalls in our streets, How can I die, My generation, and Farida, drew comments and questions during the Question and Answer Time. Makut, the singer, thought Zakama’s poems were simple, and they reminded her of things she knew happened many years ago. In that case, Zakama’s poetry lay bare the life of its author, just as it did the lives of many who read his work. Known to always fight for the female folk, Eugenia Abu thought Zakama mentioned his wife so often as reasons he wrote some of his poems, and therefore suggested that he caught the lady in question – who smiled shyly where she hid herself among the audience – in a poem dedicated solely to her. “Well, a certain six line poem that I wrote years back was actually the reason I have her as my wife,” Zakama had responded, drawing a round of laughter in the hall.
El-Nathan John wondered if it didn’t amount to ‘literary masturbation’ the manner Zakama wrote his life in poems for others to read. “For someone who does not believe in art for art sake, why would you want us to read about you?” he had wondered. That spurred other comments from some in the audience, but all agreed that inspiration for writing comes from diverse sources, and according to Abu, everyman’s life is a story, meaning it is a story that is a microcosm of so many stories out there.