I wake Alaafin of Oyo up with my Chant-Okoto Akewi
By Taiwo Abiodun
She is popular both home and abroad as she promotes Yoruba traditional chant beyond Oyo town to America, United Kingdom and other countries. Taiwo Abiodun spoke with the Ewi Exponent,popularly known as Okoto Akewi.
Okoto Akewi’s rare gift
Her voice could melt a stone-hearted man. Her deep and touching poems with deep meanings could cool a woman’s hot temper and could as well throw a couple to Cloud Nine. Her words and composition could make one cry and shed tears. She is excellent in the usage of Yoruba proverbs, idioms, puns, aphorisms and sayings. She uses words as soothing balm to calm frayed nerves. She is talented in words. She is rich in composition. She is a gifted Oral Artiste as she sings, chants Hunter’s poetry (Ijala) and uses praise poetry at weddings, burials, child’s naming and other ceremonies. She combines talent with education and research.
Her stage craft is wonderful and great. While chanting as if in a trance would shut her eyes , squeeze her face, twist her lips exposing her gap-tooth, and swinging on the rocky chair singing and chanting .She responds to questions by first of all chanting oriki. Not only this, her humility is superb in spite of her talent and wealth of experience. She knows the oriki of almost all the Yoruba towns ,names and what have you. She does not need to think twice before she showers your oriki on you. This is the life of a 24-year-old lady who is from Owolanke family in Oyo town.
At the Palace of Alaafin of Oyo
Who has the gut to wake up Alaafin of Oyo Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III up in his palace?.Who will be in Iku Baba Yeye’s compound and be making ‘noise’?. Who dares go to Alase Ekeji Orisa’s palace and be shouting on top of his voice?.No one , no one can try it except only and the only one the Okoto Akewi also known as Omo Iku Elerin who with her velvet voice would sing, chant and praise the Iku Baba Yeye , Alase Ekeji Orisa ,the second in command to God . According to her she goes to the Palace everyday to chant for Alaafin of Oyo.”I have been doing that since my secondary school days .When I was in Oyo College of Education ( Special) I also continued during our cultural programme but for the past six years I took it as a duty to be going to the Palace daily to perform, you know our monarch loves culture and he is the father of Yoruba tradition and culture,” she said.
She wakes up the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III every morning with her golden voice. When she opens her mouth and sing everybody listens. When she chant panegyrics (oriki) and shower praises on her clients they open their wallets to appreciate her. Her words is full of wisdom . She is talented, an enigma, an Historian and a promoter of Yoruba arts and culture and has made it globally accepted .Her voice has spread and gone international as she receives calls from United Kingdom, Australia , America and all over the world chanting and raining praises on his clients. That is the woman in Oyo who is the raving moment shaking the Ewi Industry. Welcome to the world of Ogundele Nike Suliat aka Okoto Akewi Omo ekun eleri When she chants Ewi Exponent is sonorous, smooth, treble, tremor.
”My name is Ogundele Nike Suliat also known as Okoto Akewi Omo Ekun Elerin. I attended. Agboye Baptist Primary School Oyo, St. Bernadine Girls Grammar School Oyo. From there I proceeded to Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo the only special school in Sub- Sahara Africa where I read Computer Science. I started chanting panegyrics at age five. I am now 24 years of age .My parents supported it because that is their profession , my grandfather was a Hunter chanting Ijala while my late father was also in the same profession but for one reason or the other he stopped and went into business. He died about one and a half years ago, it is only my mother that is alive. I started chanting while in primary school. I continued in secondary school, during the Cultural programme in school I used to go to the Palace to participate in the cultural activities .At my NCE level I was always invited to come up and perform and chant, my Ewi. So when I finished my NCE, I went fully into it.”
Our culture is rich
Okoto Akewi said she didn’t know the profession would gain world acceptance as it is now, she said ”I never knew it will be generally accepted like this. I was just playing with it just doing what I enjoy doing most until it became part and parcel of me. Today many invite me to parties, naming ceremonies, wedding ceremonies and burial ceremonies . I enjoy doing it.”
She pleaded to Yoruba people and said ”Our culture is going down and we need to make sure it does not go into extinction .I thank God for everything is going on well, thank God things are working fine. We are from Oduduwa and our Culture is rich, we should take our Culture to higher height .North, South, East and West , home is the best, we should not abandon our culture for foreign one.”
She gave the importance of Chanting panegyrics , according to her ”when we chant oriki, praise you will be happy, it soothes your nerves. When a wife is angry let the husband shower oriki on her, and their differences ends, no more fighting .It is our tradition and that does not mean we are idol worshipers”
How I make my money
Asked how much she charges Kabiyesi Alaafin , she replied ”He is my father and the father of Yoruba Tradition and Culture, I cannot charge him but what he gives me is more than charging him. When I chant in the palace Kabiyesi would just give me money, huge one. .For public performance they hire us and we are ready to go to anywhere even we are ready to go to America if invited. we do charge them but I will not tell you how much I charge(burst into a prolong laughter).
Meaning of Okoto Akewi
Asked to tell the meaning of Okoto Akewi, she laughed , then shook her head as if she remembered an episode and then said ”It has deeper meaning ”Life is like a game, Okoto (traditional game) it is a piece of round rubber object that rolls when played , it is like life , unstable and you don’t know what its result would be. It is unpredictable. Life is unpredictable, full of disappointment. That is Okoto Akewi. I have faced and experienced some things in life and I decided to have the name for my group”.
Okoto Akewi said although she enjoys the profession, but faces challenges at many of the parties she was invited to. She said “when we are invited to perform at parties the musicians would not release microphone for us to use, they see us as sub entertainers , they don’t want to release microphone .I have been to an occasion where I was to sing or chant but was not allowed as the musician refused to give us the opportunity or release the microphone .I remember an occasion where we had been paid but did not perform yet the man who invited us did not collect the money back .So what I normally do is to tell the celebrant to inform the musician to let them know when we are to perform.”
First money I made
She speaks about the first money she made ”the first money I made was in 2017 when a man sent N100,000 (one hundred thousand naira) to me without doing anything for him .I cannot mention his name .He was the first man to do that. He lives in America. The man said he appreciated my work. .Another man gave me N300,000 without doing anything for him, they appreciate my work.
She has vowed to go back to Obafemi Awolowo University to study Yoruba. She said ”I have National Certificate in Education (NCE) in Computer Science from College of Education , Oyo Special I am going to Obafemi Awolowo to read Yoruba in order to have more knowledge.