PRAY FOR ME: THE DYNAMICS OF ITS MUSICAL VIDEO

Dare

The song tells the story of a young ambitious man who becomes tired with the sedentary life of the suburbs and decides to seek fortune in the city. He informs his father of his decision but gets a negative and unsupportive response. His father tells him of the crazy nature of the city and advises him to stay back. His mind made up, he chooses to ignore his father’s counsel and leaves for the city. Though he acknowledges that he is bound to face life challenges, he braces himself and asks his father to forgive his disobedience. Four years and eleven months into his self-imposed exile, the young man sends his father a letter. In it, he intimates him of his ordeals in the city thereby confirming his father’s argument that life in the city is unbelievable. He recounts how he has to struggle to make ends meet. He urges his father to forgive him and pray that things turn around for him.

About the musical video

The musical video of 4 hrs. 50 sec begins with a short – 38-second playlet. It features the trio of the protagonist and singer Dare Alade, Olu Jacobs who plays the role of his father and Joke Silva as mother. Both father and son are having a serious conversation while the mother lurks behind the house eavesdropping on their discourse. In the course of the intercourse, Dare informs his father of his intention to leave the suburbs for the city. His father Jacobs tries in vain to restrain him from his plan, telling him of the madness that describes the city. The son insists on embarking on his journey, the warning of his father regardless. Seeing that his son is adamant and resolved to do as he wished, Jacobs leaves him with a caveat: ‘you are on your own’ and works away dejected. The eavesdropping mum is captured to be also distraught at the turn of event. 

The myth called the city

The story of Dare is the story of most youths all over the world. It speaks of a quest for self-liberation and a search for greener pasture. It is indicative of the rural-urban migration that is the trend among the young ones. Due to the low level of dream actualisation and life expectancy that plagues most rural setting in this part of the world, youths in those areas are beginning to consider the prospects of the city. They have heard of the skyscrapers, the ever-busy tarred roads, unending job opportunities and other facades that make the city appealing. What they haven’t been told however is that the city is just an enigma- a phenomenon one can never fathom. It’s like esu, the Yoruba god of duplicity who takes more than it seems to give; like the rat that bites you and then administer a gentle breeze on the spot so you won’t uncover its ruse; like the tortoise who invites the elephant to sit on a throne placed over a concealed pit; the story of one who stands in the position of a benefactor yet plans mischief for you; and the story of that man who invites you to eat but not to be gratified, he gives you a plot around the palm tree to till. The city is Janus-faced. It’s into the pitcher plant called the city that these youths fall. While some grow thick skins and make the best out of it, most are devoured by it.

Although there are no stated indications of the location of the dramatic act, one can conjecture from the language used by the interlocutors Yoruba that the playlet has a typical Yoruba setting. The actors also wear costumes that are peculiar to the Yoruba’s- the woman on ‘iro’ and ‘buba’ and the men on ‘buba’ and ‘sooro’. For all its worth, the image of the setting projected does not look particularly rural, judging from the kinds of houses we see, the semi- structured landscape and the cool décor of the room from which the protagonist says his last morning prayer before leaving home. It’s interesting to note that the father also spoke impeccable English alongside his mastery of the Yoruba language. This paints a picture of an average retiree who moves to the countryside with his family, not just to enjoy the peace and quiet but also to run from the high cost of living in the city. In addition, the utterances of the father propose the idea of a confident and self-sufficient man who can provide for his own. The family in question can therefore not be classified as indigent. One then begins to questions the sense of urgency that propels the young man to the city. Whatever this young man hoped to discover in the city must transcend the material scope.

The role our mothers play

During the course of the discussion that ensues between father and son, we not only see that the mother was side-lined but had to stoop so low to the level of an eavesdropper in order to glean from a conversation in which she as a stake. How on earth can a mother be shut out from such a matter that pertains to the well- being of her son? This scenario would undoubtedly give folks in the feminist circle something to talk about. Before we begin to build interesting conspiracy theories however, it’s possible to make a proposition out of this issue- there are two sides to a coin after all. Knowing the bond that exists between a mother and her child, it’s most likely that the mother was privy to her son’s plans all along. It has come to be accepted that most children find it less awkward to bring their mothers into their top secrets, most especially when it has to do with matters of decision-making. Mothers have a unique way of responding to weighty matters even while fathers may get overly excited about them. From the atmosphere of the skit, one can make a rough assumption: the son had informed his mother about his decision earlier on. The mother reasons along with his son but doesn’t have the ability to give a go-ahead without the approval of the father. She therefore advises him to talk to his father and hope for the best outcome. The outcome does not look good hence she is distraught. Theirs must be an awkward family relationship.

Why the short notice?

The young man started by telling us of how he woke up one Sunday morning and told his daddy ‘I’m living home’ for the city tomorrow. Those who only listened to the audio version of this song would find the opening lines illogical and implausible. How do you get up from bed on such a holy day only to give your father a short notice of your epic exit? Unless instructed in his dream, by an angel, to leave home within the next 24hours or face a certain loss, his actions would bother on the abnormal. The grey area in the narration is addressed howbeit in the light of the skit. In it, we see the father asking his son if he is still hell-bent on doing things his own way. This implies that they must have had a prior discussion over the issue where the father must have dissuaded him from making such a move. He is only making his final and hasty decision known so that his father won’t have time enough to discourage him further from living.

Don’t be a fool!

Yes, the words of our elders are words of wisdom- only a fool will choose to disregard them. Those who have read the biblical story of King Rehoboam in neglecting the words of his elders would know how well he ended. Let’s appraise at the father’s response cum counsel to his son’s decision. In the first stanza, according to the narrator, daddy says to him ‘son, don’t be a fool’. Well, that’s sounds like a familiar caveat an average African child hears from his or her father. our fathers’ have occupied the room of semi-all- knowing for too long they think the sense of sound reasoning is their exclusive preserve. Often times, strains in the father and child relation is caused by the inability of the father to see from the child’s point-of-view and at least try to reason along. The moment one’s subject of discussion borders on issues they are not convenient about, they dismiss it as a foolish enterprise. Although youths are easily given to rash and exuberant tendencies, to say that they are not capable of healthy and well-meaning thoughts would be fallacy at its best. History is replete with lots of youthful figures whose ideas have revolutionized the world. How about the adage that posits that a fool at forty is a fool forever? Shouldn’t a father feel disappointed if his child cannot take a wise decision at a youthful age?

Much assay about the city

Moving on, daddy says life in the city is unbelievable, that the son could get broken and may never find his way. Now, how pessimistic can an outlook be?  The fact that the city can be full of uncertainties has been established earlier. That’s however not to imply that it is devoid of benefits and pleasant opportunities. Life itself is filled with vicissitudes and risks- calculated or not. Come to think of it, where in this present world is danger-proof? Be it in the city, the town, the suburbs, villages or even hamlets. The entire globe has become a village where there is hardly anywhere to hide from the arrows of contrary events that besets us. Isn’t it instructive to note that it’s those who live in places far from the cities that feel the pang of human suffering the most? They often receive the greater and unfair share of the outbreak of famine, terror attacks (the boko-haram insurgency as a case study), and diseases. Wherever a wise man finds himself, he considers the alternatives available to him and makes the best of every situation. There is no safe haven anywhere!

Just a little boy? Seriously?

There is nothing a child won’t hear from a displeased father. The father’s persuasive skill keeps getting interesting with every utterance. Dare isn’t just acting foolishly but is also a little boy. Again, a mere audio play of the song would not have suggested any clue as to the age range of the narrator. As such, one could easily assume that he is at best a teenager. From what we can decipher from the skit however, nothing about the narrator justifies his father’s description of him as a little boy. Here is a full-grown man who is more than old enough to be a family man in other climes: tall, well-built, cheeks covered with beards and sturdy features. It’s not going to be out of place to set the man’s age between late twenties and early thirties. How do you then reduce someone of such physical features to the level of a little boy all in the name of persuasion?  

Memories keep us going

Though occasions are ephemeral, memories last forever. It’s the knowledge that one retains about a person, event or period. Oftentimes, this knowledge serves as an anchor and keeps one going during tough and trying moments. On his journey to the city and even in the city, he recalls the pleasant memory of the lovely moment he once shared with his mum. During this moment, mother and son are seen playfully throwing stuff at and lovingly embracing each other. Although in a pensive mood, he could still afford to smile at the recollection. The experience is the same in the city where nothing seems to be working. Try to imagine how a man can survive 26 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit or how a mother can survive been away from her family for a long time because duty calls. How would it feel if they had no happy memories to hold on to- no lovely occasion to recollect? Good memories are like anaesthetics; it reduces emotional pain, like balm; it soothes and comforts the hurting soul, or like cold water; nothing quenches psychological thirst like it. 

The road

May we not walk on a day the road is hungry. That’s a transliteration of a prayer commonly said among the Yorubas. In fact, in most African traditions, reference to the road often tends towards the negative. Running through the entire course of the musical video is the motif of the road- its recurring cum symbolic nature is too poignant to make it go unnoticed. The concept of the road varies from culture to culture. It’s allegorical in nature and is Janus- faced.  The road can imply a path/track through which one journeys or a course of action that leads to a particular action. This dual implication is evinced in the experience of our narrator. He decided to embark on a journey from his father’s house to the city. Since he had no teleporting ability, he needed to go through a designed path- the road. Luckily for him, he journeyed through a tarred one so his movement wouldn’t have been less stressful. However, the other side of the road (journey through life) didn’t look soothing for him. In one of his articles, Tai Solarin said the prayer “may your road be rough”; that prayer was effective in the life of our narrator. Although the road he took to the city was quite smooth, his road to self-actualisation was bumpy. The road now takes on a spiritual meaning. Unlike the physical road that leads him to his utopia (the city), his road to fulfilment was fraught with pain and uncertainties. In a strict sense, the road, as depicted in the video, is a means to two destinations- the physical (the city) and the metaphysical (life) destinations. Getting to the physical is not rocket science; however, the metaphysical requires resilience discipline. The journey of our narrator, through the road, therefore symbolises the human doggedness to keep surviving no matter the circumstance.   

Haziness

The beauty of musical videos is that it helps to appreciate the power of imagery and artistry better. Colours, costumes, props, sceneries, motifs and graphic designs in good videos are carefully selected to create symbolic effects. All the afore-listed, among other things, are called signs/symbols. Every kind of image can be seen as a sign of something else. Those involved in the creation of graphic effects understand this and therefore carefully select what they put in their messages while considering their signifying value. For a creative producer, the production and interpretation of media texts depends on codes (rules for how signs are selected). A notable graphical effect in the musical video in question is the use of hazy visual effect. This effect is used right from the moment he leaves home throughout his journey to the city. Of course, the graphics director didn’t apply this effect for no reason. Its use was to depict the mind-set of the narrator concerning the journey he decides to embark on. Haziness is a state of obscurity, confusion or uncertainty. It depicts lack of knowledge or understanding concerning a situation. By creating a hazy atmosphere around the journey, the viewer can deduce that the narrator is not certain as to what the future holds for him. Although he braces himself for the journey, he is still confused and has a sense of foreboding.

Oblivion

No one can hold back the hands of time- it keeps moving, our displeasure regardless. According to the narrator, four years and eleven months has passed since he left home and during the entire period, he didn’t share a single correspondence with his family. Whatever reason adduced to his decision is beyond the audience’ knowledge. One will however not be surprised when his case is compared to that of folks who live the shores of their country for another without renewing contact with friends and family. Some say out of sight is out of mind. Nevertheless, when you love someone, you keep his or her interests first. 

At the point where he asks if mama is okay, we see a scene of his father and a young lady (most likely Aduke) standing morosely by a gravesite. The lady drops a bouquet of flowers on the grave and rests on the shoulder of the elderly man crying. What catches the audience’ attention is the conspicuous absence of the mother in that scene. Not only is she absent in that scene but from also from the proceeding scene. Where on earth is mama? Could she have decided to stay away from the mournful scene? Was she away from home at that moment? How come we are shown a graveyard scene at the point where his son asks after her?  From all we saw of the video, we know of only other three members of the narrator’s family. Although there are no clear indications as to who the departed one is, one finds it impossible to wave away the likelihood of the mother being the departed. If this happens to be the case, then the narrator is in a state of oblivion concerning the loss he has suffered. One can only imagine his agony when he eventually receives the sad news.

In his letter, he makes mention of Aduke- the relatively mysterious character. What’s interesting is that he didn’t ask after her well- being but tells his father of how he heard she has come of age. It seems as though he was lost in thought at the point he chipped the part about Aduke in. Nearly five years is enough to transform a person, a female most especially. 

Things are bad though

Truth be told, the city isn’t wearing a smiling face for our big man. Talk of going from the frying pan into the fire. Someone with a good pair of eyes should be able to see from the video that Dare left the Garden of Eden for the Sahara desert. Of course, Eden was located in in an obscure part of somewhere; it had all he needed to live fine. Just a detailed comparison of the two locations he stayed is enough to prove the unfortunate turn of event. When he was at home, he had a moderately furnished room and naturally appealing environment to himself. Things however began to look doubtful from the moment he began his journey to his supposed promised land. First, he journeyed under an atmosphere. What strikes our attention however is the scenery of the part of the city from which he was writing. Wherever it was must be the slum section of the city he went- a sprawling collection of ancient looking houses with incredibly brown and rusty corrugated roofing sheets. It brings to mind the classic poem Ibadan by J.P. Clark: “running splash of rust and gold” (minus the gold). It’s like living in the Makoko end of Lagos or Russian Siberia. Even the room from which he writes is way below Spartan: the only piece of furniture visible is a wooden chair; there is a mattress lying on the floor instead of a proper bed; a candlestick serves as the means of lighting. From the look of things, the young man cannot afford a decent accommodation. One’s financial capacity determines his social standing after all.

Pray for me

It is a rite of passage in the African tradition for a child aspiring for greater heights or seeking to move to a new phase to court the favour and seek the blessing of his or her elders, his parent especially. From the video, we see that the condition under which the narrator left home was far from appealing. Instead of approving of and blessing his journey, the father makes it clear that he is in no way in support of it. He storms off from the place of conversation with the warning ‘you are on your own’ trailing him! While it is expedient to follow ones instinct and take risk, one cannot downplay the input of the supernatural, especially in this part of the world where we attach great significance to matters of faith and fate. The belief of the majority is that the spiritual dominates the physical and the neglect of the former will mean a shipwreck of the latter. While some could make other excuses for the man’s haplessness in the city, it won’t be out of place to suggest that his condition could have been better had he courted the favour of his father before embarking on his journey. There is something about the prayers of the elderly over one’s life. It’s catalytic, taking one to greater dimensions with speed inexplicable; like salt, bringing out the best of life toil. Although he overlooks the significance of this moral cum religious rite at first, having seen the result of his foolhardiness, he is left with no choice but to appeal to his father to pray for him for a turnaround. Well, when we chide a child with the right hand, we draw him close to our bosom with the left. The old man came around- he prayed for him.

There is hope for a tree

When the clouds gather, we know rain is about to fall. Who says there isn’t hope for a tree that is cut down? Regardless of how long a man has been trying, with an unrelenting spirit and a prayerful hustle, he will strike gold eventually. It’s funny when people critique the musical video as one that projects no bright future for the narrator. Some even go ahead to deduce that it is altogether pessimistic. Well, it takes an observant viewer to read between the lines and see beyond the ordinary. Yes, the narrator not only claims that things are bad in the letter to his father, the scenery from his city experience confirms the claim.  Does that mean his case was hopeless? The answer is far from no. From the moment his father stepped out of the house, stretched his hand towards the sky and began to mutter words of supplication; signs that things are about to change for the better begin to appear. First is the appearance of the flash of lightning, roaring of thunder, rush of wind and the gathering of clouds. All of these natural phenomena are signs that precede the outpouring of the rain and when rain falls, it brings about freshness, fruitfulness and fragrancy. Next, we see the egg of a bird begin to hatch and a young live about to emerge. What more than newness can this imply? In addition, shoots are seen sprouting from the earth, which means the dead seeds are coming alive. Lastly, the plants begin to blossom- bringing forth pleasant flowers. The song ministers hope and redemption using the positive aspects of nature. Before the dawn of a new day comes thick darkness. A frail chick, yet alive, can still feed on grains

The role the choir plays

A tree does not make a forest. The artiste understood this and therefore availed himself of the benefit of a choir. There is something about the choir. It breathes life into any piece of music as it sings with insights into the lyrics and their meaning. In the presentation of a choir, we see diversity take a positive and pleasant outlook. The different musical ranges- tenor, alto, bass, soprano and treble- blend and fill the air with the aura of utopia.    Talk about organization and unity of purpose and there you’ll find the choir. The artiste cum narrator adopts a choir call and response-chorus approach, a musical style hardly used in the present-day Nigerian music industry. More importantly, he goes the extra mile to feature the Grammy award winning Soweto choir. This fantastic group of singers are all South Africans and not Nigerians. It is therefore heart-warming to hear them sing a song that draws ample vocabulary from a language alien to theirs. They pronounce Yoruba expressions like ‘gbadura fun mi; kori bami se; o dami loju…’ so well that a person who didn’t see the musical video would assume that the chorus was made up of Yoruba folks. Their level of professionalism and musical capability not only came to bear on the output; their presence gives the song credibility and wider acceptability. Among other things, their choice of costume makes them stand out. A regular choir will wear a robe for its presentation. This choir however preferred to make its costume a strictly African affair. Adorning their bodies were lovely clothes made from local fabric – the same kind of pattern/design but different albeit bright colour combinations. If I were to define them concisely, I’ll say they are pleasures to the eyes and melody to the hears. 

Remember Robinson Crusoe?

Archetypes make the world go round. There is really no new experience or event. In the mind of every human is an inherited memory- an image from our collective unconscious that forms our idea/pattern of doing things. Anyone who has read Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe should have no problem relating with the character of the narrator/artiste. Matter of fact, they share a lot in common. The narrator, just like Crusoe, the protagonist in whose name the title of the novel was derived, was a man who had an insatiable desire to explore and see the world. They are both from good families and have parents who can take care of them and set them on a good course. Crusoe’s father was passionately against his desire to leave home. Actually, he left him with a caveat pregnant with foreboding. You will recall that Dare’s father categorically told him “you are on your own”. Also, there journey, howbeit under different circumstances, was characterized by not too good omens- Crusoe, a tempestuous sea and Dare a foggy path. Both characters literally went through hell in their bids to make a life for themselves- loneliness and hardship was their companion.  Their painful experiences, nevertheless, things ended in a hopeful and promising way for them. 

So Long…

Musical videos do more than entertain the audience. They lend more credence to the lyrics of a song. In the musical video for Pray for Me,aspects of the song that may not be clear are made clearer. The listener not only enjoys the ethereal lyrics. Dare Alade has always been a fantastic vocalist and outstanding entertainer. Not only does he make excellent songs, his musical videos are always top-notch and highly creative. Pray For Me is not an exception to the norm. Its lyrical content is the cake while the musical video is its icing. 
© ayansolaibukun

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