America has a way of presenting a fragment as a whole.  It evokes an ignorant bliss that the inexhaustible is actually exhaustible.  That everything that can be known is within reach.  I was raised with this ideology because it is easier to minimize the world than to mine the world.  It is a basic fact.

Before my own self-awakening, music was used to blindfold myself from the intricacies of humanity.  It became my own Abu Ghraib where I was the torturer and the captor.  Gospel was good.  “Secular” was bad.  American was normal.  Foreign was “weird”.  Everything fit neatly within boxes because I refused to believe God created a world that reflected His infinite complexity.  Music had to fit into my worldview, and if it did not, I acted like it never existed.

But there’s this nasty little thing that happens when you turn your eye away from the world: you begin to rewrite your own identity and limit yourself.  Only listening to American gospel music helped me run from an identity I hated: I am half-Nigerian.  I boiled down the world’s richest culture into a manipulative, egotistical man that happened to be my father.  I became the most American gospel-loving person who happened to be named Imade.  I was too busy playing the victim of Nigerian culture to actually enjoy it.  I became a caricature of myself.

So how did I leave my musical Abu Ghraib?  It was through cautious exploration that was bolstered by my belief that God knew me more than myself.  I “dabbled a little” in Asa and found that she spoke to a part of me I never knew existed.  I wanted to decode her Yoruba lyrics as a key to exploring my abandoned heritage.  I started listening to TY Bello and in astonishment; I recognized that something so far away could be so familiar.  Having a heart for God is truly universal.

Suddenly, the world became more complicated, but also more beautiful.  Nigerian music became the soundtrack for forgiving my father.  I started to see God’s redemptive purpose in my pain.  Intertwined in my identity struggle was a truth I needed to embrace.  Nigerian music shined a light on the most neglected part of my soul.  It reminded me that I am, in some small way, a Nigerian.


This article was written by Imade Nibokun. She is a Nigerian American writer and blogger with a passion for Music. She currently blogs at


  1. Wow, you are in the right major. Great article. Sorry you struggled this long to see that your heritage, and probably mine is true Nigerian. I love Nigerian music. There was a double revolution that too place between James Brown and Feme Kuti. We shall discuss some day.

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