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 http://www.imadeintruth.com/