Water No Get Enemy

28 08 2017

Regarding the extraordinary music of Fela Kuti, one of his songs stands out to me as both an incredible song, and tribute to the eternal wisdom of creation. Water No Get Enemy, from 1975’s release Expensive Shit has become an anthem in many ways. The poignant melody and driving rhythm, characteristic of Afrobeat, is one of the irresistible currents of the song.

‘T’o ba fe lo we omi l’o ma’lo, If you wan to go wash, na water you go use.’ From the beginning, Fela points out the indisputable importance nature, therefore society, places on water. The next phrase, T’o ba fe se’be omi l’o ma’lo, If you wan cook soup, na water you go use.’ Reminds us that water is not only a natural element, it is a preferred tool in accomplishing tasks.

Since, the lyrics aren’t added until almost halfway through the song, there is no need to create emotional tension with the lyrics, as the music has provided the set up for catharsis. Bringing it home as soon as children are mentioned with the lines ‘T’omo ba n’dagba omi l’o ma’lo, If your child dey grow, na water he go use,’ followed immediately by ‘If water kill your child, na water you go use
T’omi ba p’omo e o omi na lo ma’lo.’ What worse than for a parent to lose a child? Who would think of maintaining a relationship with anything responsible for the death of your progeny? Unless it is water: ‘If water kill your child, na water you go use.’ Because it is a required part of life.

Furthering the natural place of water in elemental/societal/political existence, ‘Ko s’ohun to’le se k’o ma lo’mi o, Nothing without water.’ Since a true government relies upon the people being governed for the authority to rule, any government leaving the will of the people behind, becomes no longer a government, and cannot rightly provide peace for the just. When Fela sings of black man power, he is of course referring to Nigeria, and his people there.

The descriptive manner in which he points out how and why the people of Nigeria should never stand idly while a non representational form of government entrenches itself within law, belongs to all people of the natural world.