Last Saturday I was down at Nyagingo’s home imbibing high grade chang’aa for the better part of the night with men of my level. It was the first commemoration of Jaduong’ Hesbon’s passing on. Hesbon was Nyagingo’s husband until last year around this time. Owiti Ligwara was there. We call him Ligwara because of his raw energy when it comes to accomplishing tasks like digging pit latrines. He is also a great eater and the title holder of the village eating competition. He is therefore my arch-rival in the qualifiers for the next eating competition in Migwena.
Anjao Chuma Liet sat next me. Chuma Liet is a dreaded man in our lakeside village. In fact, the nickname ‘Chuma Liet’, which means ‘hot iron rod’ best describes; Anjao’s groin literally burns. A number of widows in the village have been inherited by him. Anjao is a professional wife inheritor. He claims the act of ‘tero’ or wife inheritance is an inborn talent. So we call him the village ‘terrorist’ only that he terrorizes with his groin not bombs. A group of old men sat on their own drinking busaa from one beer pot. They took it in turns using two or three oseke reed straws. My father would have been there had he not died a decade ago.
Ayoi the village Nyatiti player entertained us that evening. When he struck the strings with Ogwang’ Lelo’s hit ‘S.M. Otieno’ everyone staggered to the open dance floor. Ogwang’ Lelo K’okoth was one of the greatest Nyatiti players from the lakeside. The song praised the late lawyer S.M. Otieno, delved into the happenings of his death and the long court case over his burial place. The song, back in the days, was a hit.
With my O Level certificate from Pand Pieri Secondary in Kisumo, I am one of the most educated brains residing in the village. My analysis of politics is received as expert opinion. Forget about my ambition to take Ligwara head on in the upcoming eating competition. Villagers take me seriously and sometimes even call me Japuonj – teacher. These are some of the few good things that Pand Pieri did to me. One of the wounds of Pand Pieri I carry with me everywhere I go is the name itself. Pand Pieri means ‘hide your buttocks!’. Those brainy fellows from Maranda and St. Mary’s Yala used to sarcastically ask us whenever we met in music or drama festivals why we were hiding our buttocks. Those book boys did not have even little respect for us. When we sat our O Level exams, they indeed confirmed they truly didn’t respect us. Or how could they score As like that while we suffered with our Ds? Maybe God was on their side.
Let me not lose focus. I was talking about last Saturday. Ayoi belted tune after tune of great Nyatiti players. Owiti Ligwara literally wriggled his body on the dance floor. In his drunken stupor, he matched the beats of Ayoi’s rhythm. Ayoi chanted out Ligwara’s name giving him praise and recognition. That made Ligwara lose his head. He wriggled even more, like a millipede. His buttonless brown shirt, originally white, accompanied him in every step. I was nodding my head like a gecko. The music was painfully sweet. It was intoxicating our heads. More and more joined us on the dance floor. Both men and women. All of us had either taken chang’aa or busaa.
The music stopped. It was Anyango Asepso, the wife of the late Sungu. She approached Ayoi in a drunken stupor and got hold of the loud speaker. Her skin glowed; she was yellow. But I remember when she was married in our village, Anyango was as dark as ripe nyabend winy. At some point, she discovered oil that could change her skin complexion.
“Ayoi, let me praise you today. Ayoi the python that eats without biting! Ayoi the poet! All women here love you!” She staggered and ululated, piling praise upon Ayoi the singer and continued, “now, all of you men are a let down to Ayoi. You cannot dance to music like you composed it yourselves. You must give something to the singer. I release from my pocket without resistance thirty shillings!”
More ululation as Ayoi struck a chord in response and said, “Anyango Asepso, you are the only soap that washes the heart of Ayoi. Asepso your neckline kills every man, handsome and ugly alike. Asepso you are the only woman who can drink, dance and give money at once. Asepso…”
“Stop the praising…now, it is my turn,” Apiyo Sudhe shouted as he dropped one hundred shillings in the carton box in front of Ayoi. He staggered and grabbed the loud speaker from Ayoi.
“Ayoi..you know me,” he could hardly speak clearly. Chang’aa governed the speed of his tongue. Apiyo Sudhe is one of the most successful fishermen in the village. He is considered rich. He is also a very violent man hence the nickname Sudhe – rabid dog.
“Ayoi…” he said and paused, belched and continued, “Ayoi, you see we are remembering Jaduong’ Hesbon, the homestead is filled with people. You see? Yes! I want to praise myself here tonight. Okay? Yes.”
“Stop wasting our time Sudhe. We want to dance.” I shouted at him.
“Ogwang’! Ogwang’ the mongoose! You dare challenge me?” Sudhe shouted back at me. “What money do you have? I have money! I, Apiyo Sudhe, the dog that barks at the shadow of Nyawawa – the evil wind, and still survives. I, Apiyo Sudhe, son of this land. I…Apiyoooo the stick that fears never the thickness of the bush! Ogwang’ the mangoose, I ask you to repent to the gods!” He staggered backwards.
I staggered towards him instead, pointing at him.
“Apiyo Sudhe, you dare tell me to keep quiet? I, Ogwang’ Pelele! Ogwang’ the mongoose! Ogwang’ a boy can urinate through the yenambewa and a girl cannot! Ogwang’ the waves that beat the buttocks of a boat! What do you know Sudhe? Sudhe? Sudhe? Ogwang’ a bull that stabs and bellows! Ayoi entertain us. I have added twenty shillings without fear or favor.”
Ayoi struck his Nyatiti and smiled…he was impressed. The music came back to life and the drunken dancing continued…
To be continued…
Yenambewa – the ventilation space between wall and roof of a hut.
Nyabend Winy – the seeds of tickberry or lantana camara.