Lagbaja ‘Skentele Skontolo’: An Ingenious Blend of Music and Fashion
Anchored by Adekemi Faturoti, on review of Lágbájá’s chart-topping song Skentele Skontolo begins our review of evergreen songs across Nigeria and Africa. Covering a broad range of genres from highlife, juju, Afrobeat to Apala, from such recognised names like Victor Olaiya, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and Onyeka Onwenu. This review is an invaluable companion for those who have more than passing interest in the pulsating rhythm of the continent.
One wonders just how much music has to do with fashion, especially when each is appreciated by different sense organs – an ear for music and the eye for fashion. In addition, they are controlled by different industries in Nigeria. However, Lágbájá has brought both together in his song Skentele Skontolo, on the album ‘Africano Video Series’, produced by Motherlan Music in 2006. Basically about Yoruba fashion traditions, its message centres on the gele fashionable head tie of the Yoruba, without which a woman’s outfit is incomplete.
The lyrics of the song are not only most enjoyable but also serve to convey beautifully, long lasting impressions about the gele, an example of which is: “Ko si fashion nka to ju tia lo, iro ati buba yen pelu gele skontolo”, meaning: There is no fashion better than ours – iro and buba together with gele. Another emphasises that Yoruba women should know the intricacies of gele-tying, “Gele o dun bi ka mo we, ko da bii ko ye ni “.Lágbájá asserts that the counterpart of the gele is the fila worn by Yoruba men, “To ba ge gele skentele, e mi a ge fila skontolo.”
The evolution of the gele is also traceable in the song, with various styles bearing amusing names such as Koju Soko (Face your husband), Gbenusohun (Shut your mouth), Labalaba (Butterfly), Overload, Satellite, Ice-cream, National Theatre and Boys follow me. In the accompanying musical video, several women and children adorned in different fabrics like the aso ofi, aso oke, sónyán, lace and ankárá, showcase these styles of gele. The video draws attention to the difficulties likely to be caused by the gele if worn during day-to-day activities such as commuting because it could cause obstruction to the view of the road, thereby causing an accident.
The video is a well-arranged musical performance, involving melodious calls and responses, with an assortment of musical instruments. Both traditional and Western, they range from the gangan, akuba, omele, sekere, iya-ilu to the base and lead guitar, as well as the keyboard. The video is filled with heightened drama to entertain viewers and showcase the beauty of the Yoruba culture, underscored by lyrics mainly in Yoruba language. Another interesting aspect is that the instrumentalists are also the vocalists.
Lágbájá, real name Bisade Ologunde is one of Nigeria’s best-known musicians. In comparison with his other songs like Gra Gra, Simple Yes or No and Omo Jayejaye, Skentele Skontolo stands out from the rest with its originality. Ologunde sings wearing a mask, which for him symbolises man’s facelessness and voicelessness in the society. Lágbájá is a Yoruba word that means ‘nobody in particular’, and is a metaphor for the anonymity of the “common man”. Lágbájá could be said to be the modern-day Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, but differs from singing about social problems, with his engagement of indigenous traditions. Through his blend of Afrojazz, Afrobeat, highlife and Afropop, which he christens “Africano”, Lágbájá continues to inspire a resurgence of interest in African music.
In conclusion, the musical video is a must-watch for all interested in African and Nigerian culture whether they are Yoruba or not. Lágbájá declares “Wòwó girls don finish for Naija!” Indeed, all women who adorn a gele look beautiful, and has the artiste asserts: “Eni gele mi ba wori e lo mi a we”– she who the crown fits should wear it.
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