Music of My Soul
People have been on my case. More so ardent followers and friends, wondering about the inactivity of my blog. And I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve lied to most if not all of them. Spinning lies along the lines of being busy, oh the environment I’m in promoting zero creative thinking and the lamest of all, that I am working on a mega project. This I’ve done mostly because I don’t think anyone had the time to allow me explain how complex the situation is. Else, I would have told you the truth.
Of my writing getting stuck. That no matter how much I try, I can’t seem to get them out of me and on to this page for your readership. And it’s partly because I cut off my very essential aid, which then I’d thought a distraction. The aid who now, looking back, is as important to me as a midwife is to an expectant woman.
I like to think of myself as an addict; an addict of music. I have sat down, tried to evaluate why it is so, and I’ve decided it’s majorly because growing up, music was like a measured commodity in our house; dished out to us only on specific days, mostly on Fridays and Saturdays. So I spent all of my free midweek hours looking forward to the precious hours of rhumba and benga music blaring through the house, of it blasting through openings of our house for anyone and everyone close by to not just hear but listen to. To hum to, to fumble as they try to create their own rendition of it and eventually dance to it. On those days, I wanted to rush out, stand by the oak tree that marked our gate, point at the air towards our house and say “That is our music!”.
As if music was a swarm of bees, or smoke; something you could see moving through the air.
It wasn’t so in other homes. One of our neighbours was in the habit of rousing us with his loud Ohangla music. You see, he worked as a manager for one of the local pubs. So it was that where he went, he took his music with him. The kind that got us learning how to jiggle our waists at that young age. The kind that got us passing by bars and pubs on our way to the market so we could have a taste of it once more. And itching to find out the thing that lurked behind the wispy alluring curtains that hung down bar doors. These curious parts of ourselves we folded away like stolen money once we got back home to our mothers. Reverting back to our demure filial selves.
We lived for music that was served in funerals. It was no surprise that news of death was received with excitement. For three or so days, music would flow freely like rain water through our homes. We could pitch camp at the deceased’s in the name of music. It didn’t matter if there was no blood relation. We went, secured spots in the yard, somewhere close to the DJ. So we could pass orders; “Play Tony Nyadundo. He loved Tony Nyadundo!”
So when I say music is important to my writing, you must understand. Understand that it is the heart that pumps blood to all parts of me. Understand that it is the breath that gives life to each one of my stories. Fictional or Non-fictional. I am a child born to art, music and stories.
I would have told you that sometimes, I struggle with this addiction that is music. That I hate it when it gives life to memories I so much want dead. That I loathe it when it makes my wounds throb in pain. That sometimes, it reminds me of bad things; like pain with no physical bruising, mourning with no body to show for it, and people with lives devoid of happiness.
Music takes me far back to when I was eight. To the moment I became aware of the weight that comes with death. Struggling to my toes in order to pay my respects to my old man. I remember lingering on his placid face. Wondering why he looked so pale and ashen, why his mouth looked frozen in place, why he had wads of cotton stuck into his ears. I remember staring long and hard thinking maybe then, I would be able to see blood leak out from his ears. Or maybe he’d drop the act and open his eyes because surely, he must be suffocating therein!
I remember how unfeeling I was, not crying even when the casket was lowered. That moment of madness when it seems the earth is mocking you with its wide belly, ready to receive not just someone you knew, but a part of you as well. All in a gulp. Then with the grave in place, the small mound looking like earth’s paunch, unmoving and ever-present to gaud you.
It reminds me of when I shed my first tear at a funeral. Not a relative’s, but of someone I knew only in passing; someone who neither his living nor death touched me. But I cried nevertheless. Because my young mind thought it rude to not cry at a funeral. So I willed to mind my terrible memories, of dad hitting mom, of going to bed on an empty stomach, of my classmates who went about happy and smiling about their colourful yellow and orange lives when mine was a drab shade.
It reminds me of my ten-year-old self, showing up to school spectacularly late, looking like I crawled through a storm. It is a painful reminder of me numbing myself to the pain inflicted by the bamboo canes, wanting to take it and get it over with. Me choosing physical pain over the shame that would come with my having to explain my tardiness. How was I to say that I had to make food for my siblings, find a neighbour willing to look after them while I was away at school, all because mom was nowhere to be found after last night’s beating?
It reminds me of the times I pressed myself to the wall while I lay still in bed. Wanting to disappear into the wall, to be far away from here. Wanting to shrink into myself. To crawl out of this feeling, hurting, human skin. And the realization of wishes just being that, stupid helpless wishes. And the decision to face the emotional pain, to open myself up and make space for some more if I was to survive this life. It reminds me of that girl unclasping her palms and drawing them down from her ears, of her not reaching for the pillows each time she wanted to block out the noise.
Music reminds me of my failures. Of promises I made to myself but which I’ve failed to keep. Like when I promised to get away from this place. The place that is no longer the happy haven that raised me. Because over time, it has become a place full of plotting people, and the stories told of it are those that keep you up at night. And sometimes, I wonder if the reason I’m so afraid to get away is because maybe, I’m afraid of leaving the place that defines me. This place that has been like a navel string to me.
Earlier on in the year, I made a deliberate effort to cut myself free of this illicit dependence on music. This thing of music being the arms that birth my stories. It was an impetuous decision, partly because I didn’t like some of the stories that fell out. Explains why my blog has so graciously taken the brunt of it. Yet there is no way to get me to write without it. Leading me to understand that some addictions may well be of a positive nature after all. Such as mine. Or a morphine addict who lives a life of perpetual pain. So it is that I’ve decided to indulge it. To dance to that same old tune of my music. To relive the memories, if it means you get to have these stories in your lap. Juices writers manage to squeeze out of the fruit that is life.
About the writer:
Beverly Nasimiyu is a Kenyan writer passionate about non-fictional writing. She writes short stories on issues plaguing the African society on her blog, stumahway.com. She has previously contributed to Fuzu, an online business journal, and truebliss.co.ke. She writes under the name Giuliana Nasimiyu. Reach her through email@example.com.