Calabar Girl: noun. [kah-la-bah gehl].
- A gorgeous female that’s straight wifey material
- An edikanikon and ekpang kukwo specialist
- A female of Cross River or Akwa Ibom origin
As is typical for me, I learned of Iyanya late. By the time, I started playing Kukere on repeat on my iPod at the gym and perfecting my etighi skills, everyone else was already on to Ur waist. Still, I took great pains to inform any and everyone who would (or would not) listen, that Iyanya is Calabar. That “kukere” is a Calabar word. That it means “Don’t worry.” It was kind of like how back in the day we took great pains to lay claim to Seal and Dr. Alban as Nigerian artists. I know I’m not the only one.
Even my Dad became familiar with Iyanya’s music because of me. You don’t know my Dad. If you did, you’d know that this is nothing to sneeze at.
I was playing Kukere in my car one day while my Dad and I were going somewhere and he casually asked me, “Is this Beyoncé?”
The question threw me. On so many levels. I had questions of my own. The most important two of which were:
- One- Ok, so Dad, you are now so up on your pop culture game that you ask me questions about Beyoncé?
- And two- How on earth did you manage to confuse Iyanya for Beyoncé? The musical stylings are nothing alike. Not to mention that one of them is and sounds like a woman. And the other is and sounds like a man.
I was stomped. So I inquired. He explained it to me as if it was obvious, “Well, I heard, “All the ladies! All the ladies!”
Ummm, ok. I wasn’t sure whether to add or subtract from his cool points. On the one hand, Props, Dad, you get ten points for knowing the lyrics to Single Ladies. Kind of. On the other hand, minus ten points for not being able to determine that Kukere and Single Ladies are NOT the same song.
So shortly after I became a fan of Iyanya’s music, my sister, a few friends and I planned a trip to New York. As luck would have it, the weekend we were in town was the weekend Iyanya was kicking off his North American tour in New York. I was sooo there.
I had heard rumors that there was going to be an etighi dance-off. My friend told me that at the concert, people were planning on doing etighi mid-air. In an effort not to be outdone, I started polishing up my never before seen or heard of upside-down etighi dance move.
It was going to be on and popping.
Finally, April 4th rolled around. The weather was cold as hell. Yeah, yeah- hell is probably not all that cold, but you catch my drift. We were not deterred by the cold. I put on my dancing shoes- which were actually a pair of extremely uncomfortable 4.5 inch heels that are a nightmare to dance in, but that’s neither here nor there- and we headed out. We got there super late and finding parking was a disaster of gargantuan proportions. Still, we made it there and rolled up about 8 deep into Club Amazura in Queens, New York.
The venue was packed. I only know two of Iyanya’s songs, so I was curious to see how he was going to make a whole show of it. He brought some girls up on stage and had them winding their waists to Ur Waist. Let’s just say that alcohol is a hell of a thing- And I’m not judging, I had a bit of rosé myself. Ok, fine. More than a bit. But that’s really none of your business. And we are digressing, anyway.
The entire waist winding exercise I’m sure was very pleasurable for the male spectators in the audience. Not so much for me. I will be honest and say, that Iyanya did have something for the ladies too. He took his shirt off. It was interesting.
And then came the moment that made it all worthwhile.
As Calabar girls, we are used to certain things.
We are used to being portrayed in the media as housegirls. We are used to being asked if we know of an Ekaete or an Akpan. We are used to being told some random boring story involving edikanikon soup by people we have just met. We are used to being perceived as sex fiends by people who don’t even know us. Yup, that one is a biggie. For some reason, Naija guys think it is necessary or in some way endearing, attractive or remotely sexy to meet a Calabar girl and be like, “Soooo, I heard you guys got… mad skills… in… you know… doing stuff. Is the myth true?” If I had a dollar for every time some drunk (or not so drunk) guy at a Naija party makes some reference to the Calabar girl’s alleged sexual prowess as a pick up line, I would have built a mansion on Banana Island by now. Mabasi.
What we are not used to, however, is being shouted out at concerts.
All these years, we have gone to concerts, shows, parties and events. Tirelessly. Ad infinitum. And not a single shout out have we EVER received. We have sat silently, muted. Waiting. Watching and praying… while everyone else got shouted out.
April 4th, 2013 was our day of validation. A day of reckoning.
I was sipping on some rosé, minding my business, when Iyanya did the unimaginable, “Are there any Calabar girls in the house?”
I could not believe my ears. Had he just said what I thought I had heard him say?
And then he said it again, “Any Calabar girls in the house? Shout out to the Calabar girls!”
Ladies and gentlemen, we seized our moment. We did it for all the Calabar girls everywhere. We did it for all the years we have lived with the burden of never getting shouted out. We did it for all the many nights of standing at shows and events and being overlooked. We stretched our five seconds of fame into five minutes.
We. Went. Crazy.
All four of us. Me, my sister, my friend, Ofon. And Regina Askia- one of Akwa Ibom’s most finest-est.
And Iyanya shouted out the Calabar girls multiple times. And then he didn’t shout out anybody else. It was wonderful. We came out to support Iyanya. And apparently, he came out to support us right back.
I have now made an executive decision- that Iyanya is a great man who did a very noble thing that night. He is an upstanding individual, a law abiding citizen and a righteous man. In fact, he deserves a “Prado jeep” from Governor Akpabio for this single exemplary act.
I think that other Nigerian artists everywhere would do well to take a page from Iyanya’s book and shout out the Calabar girls in their shows from this day forward. We have stood silent for far too long.
A week later, I still have visions of myself, full to the brim of rosé and hopping from foot to foot. All because Calabar girls got a shout out. I cannot stop laughing.
Shout out to Iyanya… for shouting out the Calabar girls.
Peace, love and light.
Check me out —> Koko Akan