On the 20th of October 2021, Nigerian youths gathered in memorial of the innocent lives that we lost in the horrific events of October 20th 2020 when the Nigerian Army opened fire on citizens who were protesting against bad governance, police brutality, and impunity. The memorial day was another display of impunity by the government and law enforcement institutions as young Nigerians were wrongfully arrested and dispersed with the use of force. To reignite the spirit of young Nigerians and lead them from a place of collective grief to collective healing, 22-year-old Nigerian singer, songwriter and instrumentalist Efe Oraka is memorializing the soul of the dead on ‘Live Rounds In The Dark’, a sorrowful ballad accompanied by a doleful dim-lit video.
We had a quick chat with Efe about her new single and we have slightly edited her answers below for length and brevity.
What inspired you to make music about the incident?
Efe: I think it was me just needing a release, at first. The emotions were intense at that period; I was on the protest ground almost every day and I had friends protesting every single day. My friend got hit by a police officer. We couldn’t find some people for a whole day, and I even had a queer friend who was harassed in Abuja for having her flag out. I saw a sense of community, but some of us still struggled to accept each other and it made me feel terrible. It was just too much, especially on that Black Tuesday night. I knew some crazy stuff would happen, but I didn’t think I would watch it on Instagram Live and till today, I still haven’t gotten over it.
Few people are brave enough to speak up these days, how do you feel about being one of the few people using their art to speak about this issue?
Efe: I had made the song for a while but I struggled with putting it out because it is a very sad song and I didn’t want to keep exuding sad energy. I won’t even promote it because the fact that I had to make a song about this event alone is sad. Of course, I’m proud that I could write about it, but I don’t think it’s a feat worth celebrating. As much as I made the song to remind people about what happened so nobody gaslights us, I also realized that some people might need this type of music to heal and process stuff, so I just put it out. In all honesty, I was scared to put it out because of the Nigerian government and their vices. I don’t talk too much, but when I decide to, I say what I have to say without fear. I might be subtle with my choice of words, but you will get the message, and if eventually, it gets me into trouble with the Nigerian government, so be it. I’m an artist and I make my art for a community and if that’s the price to pay, then I don’t mind.
It’s been an entire year since the Black Tuesday event and we are still fighting the same issues. What do you think we need to do better?
Efe: I feel like the average Nigerian cannot do anything wrong or right at this point. We have gone beyond the dichotomy of wrong and right regarding what we as citizens can do to make the Nigerian government recognize our plight. We have done everything we could; protested on the streets and they killed people; protested online, and they banned Twitter, yet; we got VPNs and continued the fight. As much as I want everyone to fight or to feel like there’s something worth fighting for, I remember what happened a year ago vividly. I remember getting angry last year during the protests, when my mum would say “They will not answer you people, they will kill you people” and when it finally happened, it made me understand what the older generation went through during the Civil War and why they went silent. It’s the government’s ballgame at this point and we can only keep uplifting ourselves as a community, creating opportunities and focusing on our entrepreneurial activities even though they keep curtailing our efforts.
What do you want listeners to take away from this single?
Efe: I want people to understand that we have a power within us. There is so much power within us as a community and individuals, and we must never forget that. Coming together for that cause was one of the most beautiful things that has ever happened in this country. During the protests, I was retweeting people I don’t agree with on a normal day because we all set aside our differences and focused on one goal. I mean, I cannot dislike you if SARS ends you, you have to be alive for me to not like you. It is also a power play, the hands of the victors write history, and there are so many biased accounts of what happened during the World Wars so we cannot let it repeat itself. When you think about the people that actually went through those wars, you would know that we need to document things and chronicle these events so the government doesn’t blur things out and tell the next generation a lie. I didn’t learn about Biafra and the war until I turned 18 because they didn’t teach us in school and I don’t want that to happen in the next 20 years so yeah, this song is to remind everybody that we saw what we saw.
Listen to ‘Live Rounds In The Dark’ HERE