"Of sound, the spoken word and technology; it should not be long before audio/visual recordings become untenable as evidence. Cleverly manipulated and placed in a different context, your utterances would acquire new meaning."
The above quote was taken from Lagbaja's tribute - a collection of four songs to Fela - the most controversial and most revered activist-musician that has ever come out of Nigeria. Two of the songs in the album titled Abami used Fela's voice profusely in a prearranged sequence that gave the impression that Lagbaja had sat with the late creator of Afrobeat music in the studio to have an actual conversation. The songs are 'Vernacular' and 'Put Am Well Well'.
About the songs Lagbaja himself had written: "A few questions may arise in your mind. When and where did this conversation take place? Did it even take place at all? Were the sentences uttered in the context in which you hear them now? Were those the exact words and sounds uttered in that exact order and context? In fact, did Fela utter some of these words and sounds? Whatever your self-inflicted answers, remember not to believe everything you see on television. Neither should you believe all that you hear..."
Although this is not a music review, it is apropos to opine that the Abami (A Tribute to Fela) album is the best, most radical and most creative musical tribute that has ever been paid to Fela since his demise. Lagbaja, the masked musician has MEE Mofe Damijo, of very blessed memory, to thank for the materials he used for the songs. MEE had conducted one of the most comprehensive and in-depth interviews with Fela. It was a most creative and clever manipulation of the spoken word by Lagbaja to create a different context than it was originally intended.
Guess who is manipulating contexts again. Tiger Woods. Well, not exactly. On the eve of returning to competitive golf after a five-month, self-imposed hiatus, NIKE, one of the sponsors who have stood by him through the sex scandal that stunned the world, released a commercial that got the world talking again. I think it is germane to see the original context of the recorded voice, which I have managed to transcribe. It is from a Tiger Woods DVD documentary released in 2004. In what I suppose is an answer to the question on whose character traits between his father and mother he possesses, Tiger had said:
"I am a mixture of both, 'cos when I play, I can see both of them in me. I am pretty fiery but at times I am calm."
Earl's response, in the documentary, to Tiger's comments was:
"... yea. Tilda (Tiger's mother) is very authoritative and very definitive, so yes and no. I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything? So, we (Earl and Tilda) are two different types, but we co-existed very well."
In the advert, some parts of the above comments were expunged or discarded or jettisoned to create a different mood and context of Earl Woods speaking to (scolding, admonishing, counselling) a somber looking, stoned face Tiger in an apt atmosphere of pin-drop silence as Tiger could only manage to blink two or three times in the 30 seconds clip with these words: "(Tiger), I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything?" In the original recording, Earl was not speaking to Tiger but in the NIKE ad, Earl was speaking directly to tiger.
We will never agree on whether the ad is good or bad (and I have actually heard some people say it is eerie and creepy) but we would all agree that it achieves one major thing; it's got people talking.
The veracity or authenticity of Earl's voice and words and Fela's voice and words in the two examples of contextual meanings are not in doubt. But we must look at another example; the Yar'Adua/BBC 'interview'. I, in particular, did not hear the original broadcast on BBC Hausa service, but I heard a voice that the BBC (British Broadcasting Service) say is the voice of our ailing President, Umaru Yar'Adua, posted on their website. Who are we to doubt? The voice sounded sick and tired when it (the voice) said:
"At the moment I am undergoing treatment, and I'm getting better from the treatment. I hope that very soon there will be tremendous progress, which will allow me to get back home. I wish, at this stage, to thank all Nigerians for their prayers for my good health, and for their prayers for the nation.
"As soon as my doctors discharge me, I will return to Nigeria to resume my duties. I would also like to wish our team, the Super Eagles, success in our Nation's Cup matches in Angola."
The question that comes after hearing the voice requires a yes or no answer. If you heard the voice, was that Umaru Yar'Adua's voice? We would remain divided on this when we look at it from different perspectives. The nagging questions are: Why BBC? Why BBC Hausa Service and not BBC World Service? Why not Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria? Why not Voice of Nigeria? Perhaps, nobody puts it more in context than the National Assembly that admitted that interview, indeed, the voice in evidence, in the case of Yar'Adua and the Presidency Vs Jonathan and the Nigerian people. The honourable men of the Assembly unanimously agreed that the voice was that of the President and was tenable in evidence. It is based on this that Goodluck Jonathan is able to act as president. Thank God for the voice. But let us suppose for one minute that it is discovered that the whole Yar'Adua/BBC thing was a ruse, would Jonathan's acting presidency be illegal?
The President has since returned as he predicted, albeit like a thief in the night and we have yet to sight him anywhere, except in rumours that he sometimes receives fresh air by being driven around in Abuja and of course by Muslim and Christian clergies, who were invited to pray for him. Note that none of the clergies admitted that they heard his voice clearly, only gestures, grunts and moving lips. Men of God don't lie, whatever the context.
By the way, does anybody know where the video tapes of a certain coup in 1995 that implicated many military leaders are being kept?