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2016 is departed, but not without leaving behind a few scars and extensive healing processes.We hope 2017 to be better, but suffering is an inevitable part of human existence. We can’t wish away the lows.

Obudu Mountain Cabin. Image Source: wikimedia.org

This article was birthed on a starry night high up in The Obudu Mountain Resort. As I sat in the clouds and listened to nature’s songs, I met a man who swore music helped him survive 2016. That man, @NsisongEffiong  also became a darling friend afterwards.

With no further ado, here is how Nsisong survived 2016 – as told by Him. I pray this piece would serve as a harness for someone through the turbulent portion of 2017.

When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, truly it’s hard to fear anymore evil. – Susan Ekpoh

Before I begin, I would like to tell you a bit about myself. I am a restless man – a geek by day and by night I moonlight as a poet. These little stories I am about to tell you are not arranged with any sense of chronology. You may come to make sense of them in a rambling way and see them for what they are – stories of how music helped me survive 2016:

Have you ever been frozen in place? If you have ever read a Stephen King horror, then I know you have experienced it. However if you haven’t, allow me to explain how I came to be so frozen. I had a friend in University, he had to drop out due to personal challenges in the second year but he kept hustling. In 2015 he got admitted into a training course that would offer him employment on successful completion. In early February 2016 I bumped into him while on the job, he was undergoing his medicals. We spent few minutes chatting and he was looking forward to finishing his training then getting his life and finances back on track. I was genuinely happy for him. Two weeks later I was in my office when I heard the news of his death.

It made no sense – Why didn’t he die all those years he was down and struggling? Why did death have to wait until success was around the corner? On that day and the days that followed no song captured the conflict raging in my mind like Kanye West’s “Ultralight beam”.

Saying Goodbye
Breakups are messy. Now I’m not necessarily saying the breakup act is always messy, as sometimes there’s no big blowup or as T. S. Eliot puts it, “sometimes things end with a whisper instead of a bang”.  I’m saying breakup recovery is messy – the period where you try consciously to wean yourself off someone. You need a mind block while the heart attempts to selfheal its raw places and I’ve not known a more effective mind block than music and earphones. So it made sense that I would turn to Music.

By this time there were great albums out, but Sia’s This is Acting was my drug and it made sense that an album made up primarily of rejected songs Sia wrote for other people would bring me comfort. The album was raw, full of honesty and emancipation from fear. My best track during that period was “Jesus Wept”; it wasn’t an up tempo pop song, rather it was sad and mournful and I loved it.

Lost Cause
2016 will also go down as the year the world lost the most of its humanity. The world really fucked this one up, I kid you not. From Aleppo to Brexit to Black Lives Matter to Trump; 2016 was littered with WTF moments that it was sometimes hard to come to terms with the reality of the world today. Juxtapose all of this with being part of a generation where live has been deconstructed into Likes, views, Retweets and Hashtags, then you have a recipe for crazy. Jon Bellion captures this in the track “Woke the F*ck Up” from the Human Condition album, where he says:

We live in an age where everything is staged 
Where all we do is fake our feelings 

However the song that captures this generation perfectly is Mike Posner’s “I took a Pill in Ibiza”.  The original song is a slow somber number where Posner shares his personal struggles with fame and highlights the danger of substance abuse. But hey, we turned it into the 2016 club anthem and a poster song for all it wasn’t meant to stand for.

I wrote more in 2016 than any other year. Some days the words would tumble out into lines and verses without urging, on other days it was tortured and forced. But as Stephen King put it:

Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you are managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.

So I recognize creativity when I see it because I know the sacrifices we have to make to create beautiful art. One of the most beautiful songs I listened to in 2016 was Emeli Sande’s “Breathing Underwater”, I was so enraptured by the track and I couldn’t help but gush.

In the midst of all the crazy, I had a lot to be thankful for in 2016. God was great, as always, and I could see his hand everywhere. When Nathaniel Bassey released his This God is Too Good album, I knew it was for me. Some days I would show up at the thankful place, have “Onise Iyanu” on repeat and refuse to leave.

So here are some of my favourite albums of 2016, in no particular order

  • Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
  • Lindsey Abudei – …and the Bass Is Queen
  • Sia – This is Acting
  • Nathaniel Bassey – This God is Too Good
  • Brymo – Klitoris
  • Passenger – Young as the Morning Old as the Sea
  • Amos Lee – Spirit
  • Solange – A seat at the Table
  • Emeli Sande – Long live the Angels
  • John Legend – Darkness and Light
  • Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
  • Bear’s Den – Red Earth and Pouring Rain
  • Dierks Bentley – Black
  • Rihanna – Anti
  • Lukas Graham – Lukas Graham
  • Beyonce – Lemonade

You are welcome to share the songs and albums that held you through 2016 in the comment section. Sharing is caring.

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