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Music in aid of family, social order

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WHAT caught my attention the first time I watched the video of Reminisce’s Ponmile was the blend of Yoruba words with English to make beautiful sense promoting social order. I decided to listen carefully to the lyrics again and resolved that it was a piece worth studying as a sociologist.

Reminisce is a Nigerian singer, rapper, and songwriter from Ogun State.  In 2014, Time Magazine named him as one of seven “world rappers you should meet”. Just recently, he became the only hip hop artist in Africa to have an album debut on Billboard Charts World Music category at no. 12.

The gradual return to indigenous languages by young Nigerian musicians who used to sing only in foreign languages is a welcome development.  This must be encouraged because language and culture have tremendous effects on the development of a society.  To examine the impact of music on the development process, I have decided to review Reminisce’s ‘Ponmile’ and its contribution to social order.

Ponmile is rooted in the family institution, the bedrock of all other social institutions. The family plays a vital role in social order and the maintenance of peace. Consequently, the function of the family can only be realised by the stability of the couple in a union.  The requirement of that agreement is what Reminisce tried to contextualise in the track. And in doing this, Reminisce was influenced by his culture because the Yoruba cosmology places value on the family institution and the process of setting up a family is as important as the family itself.

Indeed, the Yoruba value good character, with anyone that has it referred to as ‘Omoluabi’. Yoruba land is a patriarchal society, and the man is expected to provide for the family. So, Reminisce saying that ‘Mo le to ri e we l’Okun o; mo tun le to ri e we lo Osa’ (I can swim in the Ocean and the Atlantic because of you) is an admission of his responsibility as a man to cater for his family as expected among the Yoruba.  ‘Mo le to ri lo gun opo-opoinaa’ (I can climb the electric pole because of you). The Ocean, Atlantic and electric pole represent the length a man, as envisioned by Reminisce, can go for the wife.

In essence, a man that cannot provide for his family is unworthy of being a husband. The use of ocean and the Atlantic and an electric pole is a metaphor for what Reminisce expects. For him, it is only a man that can do this that deserves to be honoured by his wife and the society.

Ponmile meaning ‘honour me’ as demanded by Reminisce is based on the fact he has accepted to fulfil his side of the bargain in the marriage with the wife expected to reciprocate by giving honour to the husband. The honour is quickly spelt out to mean that the woman should not double deal.

And in an attempt to promote social order through a stable marriage and family, Reminisce reiterated the importance of love before consummating the union. Ife o gbaagidi; be ni kin se a, b, d (There is no force in love, and it is not as simple as ABC).  It is deep and should be seriously considered by a couple before, during and after marriage. Love is not blind! So, love between couples needs clarity and no pretence from the outset.

“If you do not love me again, please, let me know; do not let me detect your double deal with Brother Samu,” Reminisce further warned. It is important to note that infidelity is the cause of many divorces and this is part of what Reminisce wants to correct in this track. Transparency, truthfulness, faithfulness, loyalty, love, trust and so on are ingredients that are necessary to make both marriage and family work to reduce or prevent social disorder.

Indeed, marriage is not a bed of roses. It has its challenges as observed by Reminisce and is why he asked, “will you be my umbrella when it rains/ “Will you be there when things are not that pure?” Issues like this have to be resolved for a relationship to work. Moreover, no perfect marriage or association does not have its challenges irrespective of the social status of the couple.

“If you are there, please let me know promptly and if not, let me know as well because I can kill myself at your disappointment”. This concluding part of the track is sometimes responsible for suicide among couples. It equally shows that as strong as men think they are, they have weaknesses that must be managed lest it leads to death.  What Reminisce has done is to use music to address social disorders that are preventable through the right information, education and communication. This kind of music should be encouraged.

  • Adetola, PhD, teaches Sociology at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago- Iwoye, Ogun State.

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