I am in love with Yoruba Culture
…….I studied Computer Science now to study Yoruba
…… Kabiyesi Alaafin of Oyo loves Yoruba Culture
….. Why I wear male’s clothes
A MULTILATERAL COMBINATION OF TALENTS
Watching her from afar off one could take her for a man as she was dressed in Yoruba traditional male’s attire but her feminine voice and features revealed her gender. She is a stage wizard. She is a multi-lateral combination of talents. While on stage her skills and talents are displayed: chanting, singing, dancing, reciting poems and panegyrics with eyes shut as if in trance. She squeezes her face , tightens her lips, grinds her teeth as she clinches firmly on the microphone and would suddenly go on her knees and immovable as if electrocuted. Her gap tooth , complexion, voice and humility could melt a man’s heart. She is excellent in the usage of Yoruba proverbs, idioms and aphorisms.Her words cool frayed nerves. She is rich in Yoruba composition , a gifted Oral Artist and she chants Hunter’s poetry (Ijala Ode), poems and shower panegyrics at ceremonies like wedding, naming, house warming, burial among others.
She responds to questions with proverbs and would render chants with her infectious smile .Not only this, her humility is superb inspite her talent and wealth of experience. She knows the panegyrics (oriki ) of almost all the Yoruba towns ,names, professions and what have you. She does not need to think twice or guess before she showers your oriki on you. This is the life of a 24 year-old lady who is from Owolanke family in Oyo town.
”She is a stage wizard .She is a multilateral combination of talents. While on stage she exhibits her stage craft as she chants, sings, dances,recites poems and panegyrics with eyes shut as if in trance.”
Doing her job
AT THE PALACE OF ALAAFIN OF OYO
Okoto Akewi is a household name in Oyo. She has become a brand .She is well known at the palace of Alaafin of Oyo . She is a computer wizard . Who has the gut to wake up Alaafin of Oyo Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III up in his palace?. Who will be in Iku Baba Yeye‘s compound and be making ‘noise’?.’
Who dares go to Alase Ekeji Orisa’s palace and be shouting on top of his voice?.No one , no one can try it except only and the only one the Okoto Akewi also known as Omo Iku Elerin who with her velvet voice would sing, chant and praise the Iku Baba Yeye , Alase Ekeji Orisa ,the second in command to God . According to her she goes to the Palace everyday to chant for Alaafin of Oyo.”I have been doing that since my secondary school days .When I was in Oyo College of Education ( Special) I used to go to the palace during our Cultural week. For the past six years I took it as a duty to be going to the Palace daily to perform, you know our Monarch loves Culture and he is the father of Yoruba Tradition and Culture. . ”, she said.
”Who has the gut to wake up Alaafin of Oyo Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III up in his palace?. Who will be in Iku Baba Yeye’s compound and be making ‘noise’?. Who dares go to Alase Ekeji Orisa’s palace and be shouting on top of his voice?.No one , no one can try it except only and the only one the Okoto Akewi also known as Omo Iku Elerin who with her velvet voice would sing, chant and praise the Iku Baba Yeye , Alase Ekeji Orisa ,the second in command to God”
She wakes up the Alaafin of Oyo , Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III every morning with her golden voice. When she opens her mouth and sing everybody listens .When she chant panegyrics (oriki) and shower praises on her clients they open their wallets to appreciate her .Her words is full of wisdom . She is talented, an enigma , an Historian and a promoter of Yoruba Arts and Culture and has made it globally accepted .Her voice has spread and gone international as she receives calls from United Kingdom,Australia , America and all over the world chanting and raining praises on his clients. That is the lady in Oyo who is the raving moment shaking the Ewi Industry .Welcome to the world of Ogundele Nike Suliat aka Okoto Akewi Omo ekun elerin.
Okoto Akewi at work
ITS GOD’S GIFT
She introduced herself”My name is Ogundele Nike Suliat also known as Okoto Akewi Omo Ekun Elerin. I attended Agboye Baptist Primary School Oyo, St. Bernadine Girls Grammar School Oyo . From here I proceeded to Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo, the only special school in Sub- Sahara Africa where I studied Computer Science .
I started chanting panegyrics at age five. I am now 24 years of age .My parents supported my work because it is a congenial occupation in the family .My grandfather was a Hunter chanting Ijala while my late father was also in the same profession but for one reason or the other he stopped and went into business. He died about one and a half years ago.Only my mother that is alive today .I started chanting while in primary school .I continued in secondary school, during the Cultural programme in School I used to go to the Palace to participate in the Cultural activities .
At my NCE level I was always invited to perform .So when I completed my NCE program, I went fully into it”.
Okoto Akewi’s Group
MEANING OF ‘OKOTO AKEWI’
Asked to tell the meaning of Okoto Akewi, she laughed , then shook her head as if she remembered an episode and then said ”It has deeper meaning, it is pregnant with meanings”,she continued as she spoke like a Philosopher ,”you know Life is like a game, Okoto ( Apex of a snail that cannot stand upright, a brown seed that rolls ) it is a piece of brown seed that rolls when played , it is like life , unstable and you don’t know what its result would be.It is unpredictable.Life is unpredictable , full of disappointments. That is Okoto Akewi.I have faced and experienced some things in life and I decided to have the name for my group”.
WHY I WEAR MEN’S CLOTHES
Asked why she wears male’s clothes all the time , she defended herself ”I love wearing men’s clothes because it makes me free, allows me to swing sideways and prance around on stage. It makes me to be free and easy while on stage”.She beat her chest and said ” I cannot count the number of male’s clothes I have , I have a lot and I love them all”.
OUR CULTURE IS RICH
Okoto Akewi said she didn’t know the profession would gain world acceptance as it is now , she said ”I never knew it will be generally accepted like this.I was just playing with it just doing what I enjoy doing most until it became part and parcel of me. Today many invite me to parties, naming ceremonies, wedding ceremonies and burial ceremonies ..I enjoy doing it”
She pleaded to Yoruba people and said ”Our culture is going down and we need to make sure it does not go into extinction .I thank God for everything is going on well, thank God things are working fine.We are from Oduduwa and our Culture is rich, we should take our Culture to higher height .North, South, East and West , home is the best, we should not abandon our culture for foreign one”
She gave the importance of Chanting panegyrics , according to her ”when we chant oriki, or praise you will be happy, it soothes your nerves.When a wife is angry let the husband shower oriki on her, and their differences ends, no more fighting .It is our tradition and that does not mean we are idol worshipers”
SOURCES OF MY WORK
Apart from having Ijala background, she said she goes from town to town asking elders, doing research on every Yoruba town’s panegyrics , stories and history . She said ” I travel to places, to towns and all areas in Yorubaland asking and seeking knowledge .
HOW I MAKE MY MONEY
Asked how much she charges Kabiyesi Alaafin as she goes to the palace to chant, she replied ”He is my father and the father of Yoruba Tradition and Culture, I cannot charge him but what he gives me is more than charging him. When I chant at the palace of Alaafin of Oyo , Oba Lamidi Adeyemi , father of Yoruba Tradition and Culture , Kabiyesi would just give me money, huge one, he would not count it , huge amount of money, huge money. He loves Yoruba Culture. Kabiyesi is a great Oba. If not this novel coronavirus I would have been at the Palace by now chanting .For public performance they hire us and we are ready to go to anywhere even we are ready to go to America if invited. We do charge them but I will not tell you how much I charge(burst into a prolong laughter).
Okoto Akewi said although she enjoys the profession but faces challenges at many of the parties she is invited to. She said “when we are invited to perform at occasions musicians would not release microphone for us to use , they see us as are sub entertainers , they don’t want to release microphone for us to use .I have been to an occasion where I was to sing or chant but was not allowed as the musician refused to give us the opportunity or release the microphone .I remember an occasion where we had been paid but did not perform yet the man who invited us did not collect the money back .So what I normally do is to tell the Celebrant to inform the musician to let them know when we are to perform”.
”When I chant in the palace of Alaafin of Oyo , Oba Lamidi Adeyemi , father of Yoruba Tradition and Culture , Kabiyesi would just give me money, huge one, he would not count it , huge amount of money, huge money. He loves Yoruba Culture.Kabiyesi is a great Oba. If not this novel coronavirus I would be at the Palace”
MY FIRST BREAK EVEN
She speaks about the first money she made ”the first money I made was in 2017 when a man sent 100,000 naira (one hundred thousand naira) to me appreciating my work .I cannot mention his name .He was the first man to do that he lives in America, the man said he appreciates my work. Another man gave me 300,000naira to appreciate my work”.On what she does with the money , she said .The first instrument I bought is Gangan, the Yoruba special drum. I bought costumes for our Entertainment Group we wear for outing .”
I AM GOING BACK TO SCHOOL
Okoto Akewi said she would soon go back to school to study Yoruba as a Course she said ”I have National Certificate in Education (NCE) in Computer Science from College of Education , Oyo Special, I am going to Obafemi Awolowo University , Ife to read Bachelor in Arts degree in Yoruba Studies in order to have more knowledge in Yoruba Culture ”
Although she is still single but quickly added that she has a boyfriend she is going out with.”I am not yet married but I am going out with a guy, I have a boyfriend who loves my work’.’.
As she finished the interview she gave a parting gift by pouring oriki on this Reporter ,
Taiye Kehinde lo ni nki gbogbo yin o,
Ngo si ki gbogbo yin lokokan
Obekese…omo a so alakisa d’onigba aso..
Taiye lo ni nki gbogbo yin oo…..