• Dami Afam Ade-Odiachi

Remembering DJ Babus, the excellent creator of heavenly vibes

It’s always terrible when people, good or wicked, die young. If they were good, you think of all the light that they would have brought to the world if they had lived until they were completely wrinkled and shrivelled, and it feels like such a loss. If they were bad you mourn the fact that they’ve been stripped of their chance to right their course and turn their ship about. I cannot say which hurts worse; pain is pain, loss is loss. Any attempts to compare the two are useless and fruitless.

Very recently, a young man I called DJ Babus died from Covid. I didn’t know him very well, and I’m not sure he knew me at all, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s a shame though, because now that he’s dead I’ll never get the chance to correct this.

By all accounts, he was a wonderful human being. The eulogies have rained like a torrential downpour. They say his hugs were warm with love; lovely. They say he had a kind word and a smile for everyone he knew. I even heard one story about him going all the way from Lagos to Ibadan to DJ a fellow DJ’s wedding for a paltry pittance. How generous he must have been!

We really must celebrate the people we love while they’re still with us. We must scream their virtues from every mountain, hill, or mound. There isn’t much of a point to do it when they’re dead… Not for them anyway… They won’t know about your fantastic eulogy, and even if they did know, they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. As far as I know, the next life and this life are quite firmly separated. Only the living really know what to do with love. The dead are simply dead.

I didn’t know DJ Babus very well at all, it must be said. I never asked him where he went to school, or if his favourite soup was Ogbono, and I didn’t ask him for his thoughts on Davido or Wizkid or Burnaboy. To the best of my memory, which is really quite good, I only saw him in one place, a restaurant and bar I haunt, appallingly, RSVP. He was their resident Friday night DJ.

RSVP is quite a good bar. The food is better than decent, and the drinks are also quite good, but the thing that set it apart from every other place on the Island, was the consistent quality of the Friday night vibe.

At RSVP, DJ Babus had a podium, a stage. It was outside by the pool and from it, you could see everyone in the outdoor bar: the people who came to eat, drink and talk, the people who came only to drink and once drunk dance, and then the people like me, who came mostly to dance and then drink.

He had a talent for music, but I thought his greater talent was his ability to read the room. He knew when to play Niniola and when to play Davido. He knew when to slow it down and speed it up. As a result of this, he never really had to suffer the indignity of drunk restless men and women marching to his stage to request this song or that song.

I am particularly grateful to Mr. Babus (before him na him, after him, na only him) for two brilliant moments I had in that bar.

Moment one:

It was my friend Mo-mo’s birthday, and I was nervous. At the time, I wasn’t doing so well. It was at the top of 2020 and I was struggling. My partner and I had split a couple of months before. I was quite terrible with it. I knew that the ex-partner was going to be there so prepared myself for the social battle ahead. I wanted to say, without saying anything, that I was better than ever, that my life was too sweet for me to focus on failed romance. That my romantic future was sexy and bright and beautiful.

I was prepared. I brought a great friend of mine along, Babs for emotional support. With Babs there fawning over me, acting very interested in me, people would wonder how I managed to tame such a terrifyingly attractive creature. My good friends Iconic and N$ were also summoned to action. Together we were devastatingly beautiful.

DJ Babus was on the deck, doing what he did best. The beat was thumping, hips were moving, waists were winding. The ex popped round and our fervour increased.

I was surrounded by the best people, all of them terrifyingly good looking, united in the spirit of pepper dem.

We were successful, the ex partner left very quickly indeed, mission accomplished. When we break up with people it delights us a little, to see them sulky and unhappy. But with DJ Babus conducting our rhythmic gyrations, I am sure that we looked the best we ever had: flirty, Sexy, almost 30, and thriving.

I will never forget the evening.

Moment two:

Our twenties and early thirties are really quite special. We’re young and optimistic. We’re chasing our dreams, no matter how unlikely. We’re discovering who we are. It’s hard, and it is difficult, but even the most terrible situations find themselves dulled when faced with the full assault of youth.

I really enjoy dancing, even if truth be told, I’m not that good at it. I enjoy losing myself in the physical exertion. I enjoy charting my body’s path. I know no dances that are popular. I know now that I can’t move like everyone else does. There is peace in this realisation. I don’t have to try. I take off my glasses, so I can’t see judging eyes, and then I do whatever it is I want to do.

I don’t go everywhere, and I can’t be seen with everyone. I wish this wasn’t true. I think everyone’s enjoyable, but my quest for enjoyment is one of the few solitary passions I allow myself. So these days I go around with my family and very old friends quite a bit. When they see me, there’s no judgement in their eyes, only love. I do not have to prove anything to anyone, certainly not on the dance-floor, and definitely never in a bar.

There’s a night in RSVP that makes me smile, even now. It was one of those nights that could have quite literally been my birthday party. I knew everyone that was in the bar that night, all 100 - 200 of them, and I loved them. There wasn’t an enemy in sight. I danced with my great friend Denola and his great friend Yagazie. We danced on the stage, with DJ Babus serving momentarily as our hype-man. Then I found my sister-in-law’s sister, and we settled into a dynamic groove. And then I shifted to another great friend of mine Shatta Wale, who was standing with his great friend Abi. We were talking but DJ Babus had supplied another appropriate hit. I was vibrating with the thrill of it all, then one of the bouncers, walked up to me. I noticed his feet, which were very very large indeed. I suppose I was taken aback because I’m quite small.

He said, “I like your vibe.”

I said, “Thank the DJ. This only happens when he plays.”

I looked at Shatta, then I looked at Abi, and I said, “A more Afam thing could not have happened if I tried.”

And now, the greatest shame, that I didn’t think to tell him any of this before he left us.


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