Chief Stephens gave a rousing farewell party for Faith. It brought the heavens down on Tamuno’s Heaven, with the very many guests shining like its spectrum of light. First, Faith danced with all the girls -quite a clamour-, then she danced with all the men -quite a riot. Thereafter, she took the longest bow I had ever seen because the ovation would simply not abate. There she stood, in the middle of the dance floor, in that sensational dress she had won on the opening night, gloriously highlighted by a hundred points of light. Watching her being spun round and round by the revolving stage, from orbit of colour into colour, like a never-ending farewell, gave me a great feeling.
To manage the club after her was a fellow called Fedora because of his fondness for that sort of cap. He came as the head of a new team, as both Alonzo and Lucas had left about the same time as Faith: Alonzo to become the personal bodyguard of a government minister who had recruited him from Seventh Heaven, Lucas to work in an accounting firm. One of the first signs of Fedora’s captainship was the change in the dress-style of the waitresses. The sombreros came off. The high boots became plain shoes and socks. The leather bra and pant transformed into short-sleeved shirt and short. Perhaps he felt he had to create a personal style, but to the habitues accustomed to seeing the girls as they were they suddenly seemed like members of a choir.
I did not stay much longer to note the other transformations. There were too many ghosts haunting me there. And I often tended to see things as they used to be: the previous erotic uniforms of the girls, AJonzo answering my enquiries with perplexing ‘revelations’, Lucas like an old headmaster trying to arrive at a single mathematical equation to solve all accounting puzzles, Esther favouring me with optical embraces, Faith calling me her genius and brother and telling me about life being like smoke, and sometimes Tamuno’s robins. In consequence, I found myself often having to hurry out of the club to take large gulps of air. So, since I would not quit the night, I went in search of another spot to anchor my flag in.
My search took me to a club called Kabila. The freshly painted, walled exterior was quite promising, even though its location was in a neighbourhood where a robbery incident or a broken head at night was nothing to panic the residents unduly. But the interior was as empty as a void, except for a bandstand and chairs arranged around if in a semicircle. The special fare was Makossa music, the East African swing that had swept into Lagos -as in other parts of the world, I was told- like an arresting gale. Makossa was everywhere: in the song of babies on the streets, in the dance-gyrations of working class girls, in the all-sex dresses of street girls, even in the breast language of old women who no longer felt any need for the convenience -or inconvenience- called the bra.
At that crowded Kabila that night, I witnessed the systemic erotic provocation called the Makossa dance. I did not understand a word of the lyrics being belted out in undulating waves by the band, but I neither needed to nor was I particularly interested. My interest was wholly seized by the three dancers in tight
dresses that I first wondrously mistook for their skin. There was so much sexiness in their dance motions -like a suspended conjugation- that I was exhilarated. There was so much vitality about them -translated into acrobatic buttocks, suggestive hip swings, body spins, knee jerks, breast thrusts and every other convertible physiological detail- that when the dance stopped, the entranced audience jerked into consciousness like voyeurs caught in the act.
I found the experience quite tingling, even if bawdy. I told myself I would most likely visit there from time to time, but it was not the sort of place that I wanted to plant a flag. Apart from the fact that I tended to find live shows progressively boring, I also preferred to frequent places where I did not have to keep fidgeting about my safety. However, it was Kabila that led me to the Red Hat, via an overheard conversation between two half-dressed girls behind me. One wanted the other to come with her to this “exclusive” place called The Red Hat the next day, where there were “plenty of whites”.
Excerpted from Alpha Songs, a Lagos novel by Maik Nwosu, published in 2001 by Hybun Books, Lagos, Nigeria