The pied piper of Bamfete comes out when the moon is a thick slice of white goodness in the sky. He clutches the flute and lets out the shrill tone that it is known for. No one has seen the player of the instrument, some say he is cloaked by darkness and anyone who sees his soulless eyes, may not make it to the next full moon. We only hear an audio rendition of moonlight ballads; the exciting notes floating from his flute, oscillating like unstable electrons to create wavelengths of brilliant melodies. His hands are positioned in perfect angles on the holes in the pipe, letting air in and out in rhythmic persuasion, calling out to all and sundry to dance to the jingles of the piper.

They say his music is captivating; your legs must sway when the piper comes to play. The piper’s voice always reflects the mood of the entire town, a playlist of some sort that plays both sad songs and happy songs. Anytime the town is preparing for war, the piper comes out with his flute to play scintillating songs that make the blood of the youth boil with courage. Its’ pure tunes carry a hypnotic harmony, electrifying the warriors with ‘ginger’ and a roaring sound of fearlessness erupts from their quarters. It is believed that it spurs the gods to act in our favour and serenades the ones who have been angered. The flute was our intermediary, the way we spoke to the gods without seeing them; from the piper’s flutes to the ears of the gods. When Ala was unyielding, we would hear the mellow, melancholic tunes; our acoustic prayers, different octaves of solemnity, carried by the wind to the skies which replied with thunder and rain.

We believed that he was no ordinary man; we believed that someone who resonated with both gods and men had access to a place where even our traditional priests couldn’t sit. Music was what elevated the pied piper. It went beyond what the eyes could see, speaking to our very spirituality. Without words, we found a way to connect beyond physical frequencies. No one knew the strange player of that sacred pipe; we didn’t care to know him but we were content with hearing the sound of music that had become a part of our culture. We talked about him in folktales, fables that were passed on like testaments from one generation to the next. We tried imitating the sounds we heard and accompanied what we now call the ‘oja’ with drums and percussion.

‘Oja’ holds a very special place in Igbo culture. It has evolved from the lone voice of the unknown pied piper to a revolution, snatching a genre of its own in the shelves of musical libraries. The ‘oja’ has taught us that music is a language and it takes only a magical flute to reach into our very consciousness and speak in soulful vibrations.

 

 

ABOUT THE WRITER

Udochukwu Chidera Amarachi is a Nigerian writer and pharmacist. She was the second-place winner in the 2023 AS Abugi Short Story Prize. She won the third position in the 2023 BKPW Poetry Contest. She was also shortlisted for the 2023 The Green We Left Behind CNF contest organized by the Arts Lounge Literary Magazine.  She won the 2022 Movement of the People Poetry Contest, the 2022 Shuzia Songs of Zion Poetry Contest, and the 2022 Shuzia Prose Contest. She won first runner-up in the prose category at the 2022 Lagos Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation contest. She also won an outstanding entry at the 2022 Chinua Achebe Poetry/Essay Anthology.

She is a contributor at Tabono Anthology, Tush Magazine, 2022 Chinua Achebe Poetry/Essay Anthology, Conscio Magazine, Ngiga Review, World Voices Magazine, Valiant Scribe, Our Stories Defined Anthology, Writer’s Hangout Initiative, Arts Lounge Literary Magazine, UI National Poetry Anthology, Aayo Magazine, Renata, and Writers Space Africa Magazine amongst others.

 

 

About The Author

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