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22.11.2008 Feature Article

Sikaman Palaver: Christmas is coming

My mum used to tell me about Christmas as it was celebrated in the good old days. The gramophone had to be wound by manpower before it gave off sweet music to which young girls in mini-skirts, the not too young in midi-skirts and the over-40s in maxi danced. The young men were either in pimpinis or bell-bottom trousers. The popular haircut was termed 'Show Your Back'.

The young folks actually prepared for great events like Christmas and learnt the dance forms of the 1950s and 60s like waltz, fox-trot, hot fox-trot and cha-cha-cha. Those were the days you heard of greats like Satchmo, Lord Kitchner, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett and Jimmy Hendrix who took the guitar to heights no one has ever reached since his death.

In fact, it was Hendrix who popularised the guitar with such skill that when he released the likes of 'Hey Joe' and 'Electric Ladyland' his phenomenon spread across the United States and infected Europe. He often burnt all his instruments after performances and this became his trademark. At 25, he died of an overdose of barbituarates, a sleep-inducing drug.

In those days, it was music that kept the world from falling apart. Cold war politics characterised the global political landscape of those times when the Kennedys and the Nikita Kruschev's gambled with the lives of their countrymen.

The world was just sighing over a brutal second world war of the mid-to-Iate 1940s. Japan was barely rising from the ashes of the holocaust and the image of Adolf Hitler was imprinted on every Jewish mind. He had caused the extermination of an estimated six million Jews, and his chief hatchet-man, Adolf Eichmann had become a target of Zionist forces.

Adolf was chewing the cud in Argentina when the Israelis came after him. He was working in a bicycle factory. The Israelis mapped out his daily routine, captured, drugged and dressed him in the gear of a pilot, passing him off as a drunken pilot. When he woke up, he found himself in Israel. He was tried and executed. The aggrieved world breathed easily now!

Those were the days our parents were giving birth to some of us. We were told that the deadly smallpox disease had been vanquished and wiped from the surface of the earth. The influenza had long come and gone, decimating the world population. HIV/AIDS was nowhere in sight. A cure had been found for syphillis and tuberculosis was getting cured with streptomycin.

There was hope, after all, for those living in Africa. Soldiers who fought in Burma came to tell harrowing tales of war. The world was then at peace! Religion boomed and triumphed as evangelism began to take hold and the Holy Bible was mass produced.

It was, however, music that soothed the mind. It brought hope to the living. The dead did not matter. Highlife music started developing as the acoustic guitar came off manufacturing lines. The electric guitar soon superseded the acoustic and the 'wahwah-synthesizer and the echo-chamber added to musical effect.

Soon, guys like Pat Thomas came on the Ghanaian scene and Faisal Helwani (may his soul rest in peace) started producing music. On the international scene, the likes of Johnny Nash were going pretty sentimental with 'Sunshine Day' before Jimmy Cliff delighted the world with his hit single - Synthetic World.

When Bob Marley hit the airwaves with 'Three Little Birds' the Christmas of 1974 and '75 became most enjoyable. Those were the days reggae music brought with it the smoking of hemp. If Marley of all people was blowing the stuff like nobody's business, how much less ordinary mortals. So was the feeling, and it got many into rehabilitation centres. Marley himself battled cancer and crumbled.

In those days, we welcomed Christmas eagerly. We were kids. Our parents did the thinking and the struggling and we did the enjoyment and the 'chopment' . I used to tell my mummy the special type of trouser material I wanted for Christmas and the size of the bar. Anything less than Bar-27 was not for me. In those days, I was called 007 and I needed to exemplify the name with the appropriate levels of bar circumference.

The first day I landed in secondary school, the seniors were astounded. They had seen bars upon bars but mine was simply explosive. When a senior asked me my name I told him I was called Merari Alomele, also known as 007'. He was shocked to the marrow

On my chopbox was the inscription "James Bond 007". When the news spread that a James Bond had landed on the campus with a bar size of nearly 30 inches, I became a celebrity overnight, but the consequences were dire for common nino like me. I was bullied and bullied and told to renounce my James Bond credentials. I refused! For the first year in school I had no peace!

On vacation for the first time, I was overjoyed. Pencil slim, tall boy with a restless spirit, I was just getting ripe to fall in love. I enjoy the Christmas. Mummy had money and every Christmas she organised a party for her apprentices. That was where I learnt how to drink bubra. And I drank it pretty well!

Every November, I long for Christmas. I love the carols in the air; the Christmas air and the morning dew. If I had been a poet when I was young, I would have started writing poetry in school. I didn't know I could be a writer any time in life. But something kept ringing in my mind. A teacher trainee who taught me when I was 11 told me I'd become a great writer. I wondered what she had seen.

One of the compositions, l in those days was 'Christmas Is Coming'. Indeed Christmas is just around the corner.

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MyjoyOnline, © 2008

This author has authored 338 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: myjoyonline

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