Monday, June 16, 2008

Open the door to your heart make I enter..

After an enjoyable frisbee session in River Plate park (my favourite park in Abuja - its empty most of the time) on Saturday, R and I went to Orbit Gardens - the nearest Bush Bar to where I live. Its the first time I've been to this bush bar - I'm not sure why I have avoided it till now. Its "very ok" as they say, set as it is on a series of terraces with discreet enclaves amidst lots of greenery. Shame they couldn't have painted or tiled the surfaces around the seating areas, instead leaving the area with a municipal-grey coloured concrete. And every now and then there is a smell of sewage, as a drain connected to Croc Lake empties. Oh for a well designed and kitted out Abuja bush bar...

As we sat and supped on our cool Stars, the Nigerian song which has the chorus, "Open the door to your heart make I enter" wafted through the speakers. A tingling bell of a thought rang in my head, which I've only just listened to. The song is an invitation to love, told in the language of the house-help. One only hears the expression, 'make I?' from maids when they want your permission to do something, like clean the floor. It is the language of subordination. The woman singing the tune carries a metaphorical tray, which she is about to set down in front of her oga, who is wearing a metaphorical agbada. Perhaps it is a large plate of pounded yam and stew. She will curtsy after she has placed it on his lap. He will grunt with satisfaction. When they make love she will call him Daddy, R Kelly-style.

Or have I got the song and its insinued meaning of 'make-I?' all wrong?


Anonymous,  1:28 pm  

Dude u don over anaylze a simple song by Soty, the song is called malaria..c´mon man its not math just music.
Make I is pidgin and u knw as well as I that not only house helps speak it, in the south south it a popular way of communication and its now even very urban and hip in nigerian pop culture to knw how to speak it..

Man i like ur blog but u need to take it ezz sometimes, dnt make summink more than what it is´..a simple ass love song in pidgin


onydchic 2:00 pm  

Um... to answer your last question:

YES. You have WAY over-analysed that song.

Its pidgin. Everyone says it, not JUST cleaners (?!?).

Jeremy 2:26 pm  

ok so when I say 'make I' it does not imply a power relationship, no be so?

So, oga would say to his secretary, 'make I give you a lift home?'

I'm not sure it works like that. It seems to imply a power relationship - that x is there to serve/help y.

As for the point about over-analysis: in a country which is utterly un-analysed, I am doing my little bit. Analysis of popular culture is a useful way of understanding what it means to live in an historical moment in a society's development..

Waffarian 2:38 pm  

Hmmmmmm make i think this matter small. I dey come.

onydchic 2:52 pm  

Well, if you want to look at it that way, consider 'make i' as very informal way of saying 'can i' or if u must, 'may i'.
And also, if you look at it in the context in which it was used, its a bit like saying, 'Open your heart, let me enter.'

Different phrases mean different things in different scenarios, dude. Maybe you need to not take every comment so seriously and literally.

And as per your last paragraph, analysis is all well and good, when it is not misdirected. But it was a harmless song lyric. I really doubt she was saying, 'oh master, i am not worthy...' Maybe you need to better analyze the use of pidgin english in everyday conversation.

Anonymous,  2:59 pm  

no jeremy. 'make i' is simply pidgin for 'should i?' In which case, oga could say to his under-g, "make I come tonite?", or master could say to servant, "make i give una your money now or make i hol' am for you?"

ijebuman 3:34 pm  

Oga, make i pass comment??
What power relationship are you talking about? if you speak pidgin regularly, at some point you would use "make i", the fact that you hear "make i" from house helps et al, is because they usually speak pidgin.
Respect for elders is ingrained in our culture and this obviously comes across in the way pidgin English is spoken.

Regarding the "R.Kelly 'Daddy' thing" methinks you've been watching too much porn ; - )

Anonymous,  4:35 pm  

all i have to say is i can't believe r kelly got off. I saw those vids and it was definitely him! face, voice and all!

Anonymous,  5:20 pm  

Yes jeremy, you have got the 'make I' all wrong. 'Make I' can be "should I", or "shall I", in the sense of asking for permission. That's true. It can mean 'let me', in the sense of asking to do something.

But it can also be used assertively, as in "make I tell you something Jeremy, dis brokin wey we dey speak eh, dem no dey learn am for school oo!"

Obamadrama 6:45 pm  


Even as an American, I realised u lost the meaning of the song. I like your blog though....check out for more laughs!!

ayo 10:26 pm  

It just means "open the door of your heart let me enter" Jez.

Anonymous,  11:46 pm  

Folks, no need to pile on on poor Jeremy.

But Jeremy, "make I" in the context of the song simply means "may I?" or "can I?" In another context, it can also mean "I am" -- as in, "Make I go house come." And no Jeremy, it's not that kind of 'come' either. LOL!

Anonymous,  12:32 am  

"in a country which is utterly un-analysed, I am doing my little bit"

Yee Gods, you take yourself too seriously sometimes, don't you ask your wife questions before you make a semi-fool of yourself in public?

You de craze? Make I slap you?

A lot of things are simple really, do not kill yourself trying to analyse them.

Kola 1:08 am  

Not to repeat what the others have said, I will simply concur with most comments; I really like that song because its sounds like a sincere expression of a smitten lady's expression affection towards her lover, or proposed lover. The pidgin is used by the artist probably to allow the song appeal to a broader base of nigerians. QED.

Afolabi 4:58 am  

I sought of agree with you, only that you got the dialogue wrong. If there's anyone saying "open your...make I enter" it should be the agbada-clad oga, not the other way round. The song should even be sang differently..:)

plastiQ,  7:16 am  

Music, doing its thing again. Make I comment small (lol). Jeremy I think u are right, and everyone else is right too. BUT, maybe...u pushed the baby over the cliff a little. Lovely post anyday.

Anonymous,  9:58 am  

i think you start speaking pidgin a little bit more and then try and note the number of times you say 'make i'. then u can over analyse and see whether u were in a master servant relationship.

Sandrine 1:12 pm  

Hi Jeremy,
I hear something different from you, but keep in mind that I do not know the rest of the lyrics nor pidgin.I hear a woman in love asking somebody to love her back.If she might seem humble, asking "may I enter" it would be because she doesn't know if the object of her love shares the same feelings and it would make her vulnerable.
Take care.

anonymaus,  6:20 pm  

1) It's all to do with context, I usually associate "make I..." as someone being either genuinely helpful or they have an ulterior motive.

2) The other bit you mentioned about a bright young thing being seduced by a man (whose best years are behind him) with chicken legs and an over endowment of adipose tissue around his mid-section makes me wonder... How can this be?

You can't come close to black girls in Britain, unless you think, they think you are worth their while. If you're lucky they will "kiss their teeth" and look you up and down and insult you and turn away, or even worse they may even slap you after a rapid fire insult aimed at you. So I wonder how girls (I mean young ladies) in Nigeria are so diminished they would seriously consider such a prospect of sleeping with a pot-bellied chicken legged old boy. Is it poverty or cultural brainwashing to be submissive to a man (even the physically unattractive variety).

Anonymous,  6:05 pm  

Jeremy, language is never so simple.

Although I agree that "make I" is probably the language product of a unequal power relationship, once coined language can be used in many different ways on different occasions and even at the same time.

Contrast it to the polite forms of english: May I? Should/shall I? these don't contain elements of force or coersion found in "make I". Indeed it would be impolite for someone offering to imply they were being forced to do something by the benificiary of the action on offer.

In the case of "make I" there is, to my mind, a note of defiance to it. Not as strong as "you're making me do this", but similar. Used in perhaps what could be its orininal context of the houseboy/colonial administrator it subverts the polite and reminds the benificiary of his coersion, rather roughly for English tastes.

Or it could one of those tumbling language gems that start out some how in one language and end anotherwhere in another.

the point is that the language has carried it away from that and it can now be used in many ways that don't mean the same thing.

In a culture that uses the obsequious to so many different and sometimes contradictory effects, it can be quite useful.

but it could also be plain and functional, unladen with implied meaning

can we have a similar discussion on "well done"?

FreeSotyAbeg,  4:47 am  

I have not read all the comments. so pandorn me if im repeating something someone has said.

Pigin English has come a long way. therefore a phrase may mean a totally different thing from wahat it used 2 mean.

'Make i' now not only means asking for permission or necessarily asking for anything.

In the context she, Soty, (bless her) used it, she definately means 'Let me' as opposed to 'can I' or 'may i'. I know... I speak the language.

makes sense now doesnt it :)

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