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Mother’s Day is incomplete without Sweet Mother

Mother’s Day is incomplete without Sweet Mother/Skabash

The joy of Mother’s Day is never an unwelcome guest, but some songs are happier to receive it than others. Whether mothers are celebrated on March 27 in the UK, Nigeria, and Ireland or May 8 in the US, Nigeria, China, Germany, Greece, Australia, and Ukraine, ‘Sweet Mother’ by Prince Nico Mbarga welcomes the day with an open arm.   

Before we speak extensively on the song, here are tips on how to celebrate your mother on Mother’s Day.

  • Call her to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. An SMS or WhatsApp message will suffice
  • Pay her a visit
  • Buy her a gift
  • Make her a meal
  • Tell her you love her and always thinking about her

Watch this video and know more about the tips and bonus points.

Mother’s day in Lagos: How to

Mother’s Day is incomplete without Sweet Mother/Skabash

‘Sweet Mother’, a highlife song in Pidgin English celebrating motherhood, released in December 1976 by Mbarga and his band Rocafil Jazz, remains one of the most popular songs in Africa. The song would have died on delivery if not for the tenacity of Mbarga. The demo tape was turned down by EMI in 1974, who tagged it “childish”, and subsequently by Decca Records and Philips Records. It was released two years later by a local recording company, Rogers All-Stars, based in Onitsha.

The track became a national anthem across Africa, selling over 13 million copies. On December 31, 2004, ‘Sweet Mother’ was voted Africa’s favourite song by BBC listeners, selected from a shortlist of 10 songs. The track won over 27 per cent of the vote from 2,500 voters.

“We weren’t surprised by the result. It’s a timeless classic,” Joseph Warungu, who organised the poll, said about ‘Sweet Mother’.

“It’s not just about the lyrics. There’s something about the singing guitar that gets you.”

The track is slow and soulful yet utterly convincing, and that’s what ‘got’ me. You don’t need to have experienced the love of a mother to believe what he is singing. The lyrics show its workings to delight any mathematics teacher.

Besides songs about romantic feelings, the truly great songs are the evergreen. The one’s golden-oldies radio stations cannot do without playing. This track and others like Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s Lady or Miriam Makeba’s Malaika are a natural metaphor for music itself.

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Songs that are about unresolved and unresolvable issues like police brutality (pardon some of Fela’s songs built on this theme), power outages in Nigeria, road rage, and the likes make one wonder why didn’t the musician write a newspaper article or talk about it on Breakfast in the City on City FM 105.1 or Kakaaki the African Voice on AIT? How do the lyrics, the piano, the conga drums, and the guitar proffer solutions?

But the music about love for a lover or mother loses its awkwardness and you can easily see through the words to the lyrics. The words and the musical instruments become pure lyrics. Mbarga, whose music was inspired by what he experienced while in Cameroon during the Nigerian Civil War between 1967 and 1970, played several instruments like the xylophone, conga drums, and electric guitar.

Mother’s Day is incomplete without Sweet Mother/Skabash

Born to a Nigerian mother and a Cameroonian father on January 1, 1950, in Abakaliki, in the current Ebonyi state, Mbarga could fuse the musical traditions of both cultures laced with Congolese rumba. He played in his school’s band before making his professional debut as a member of the Melody Orchestra in 1970.

When he returned to Nigeria in 1972, he formed his band, Rocafil Jazz, and had regular gigs at the Naza Hotel in Onitsha, Anambra state. In 1973, the band released the track, ‘I No Go Marry My Papa’, well-received by its enthusiasts and music lovers alike. The band hit the goldmine three years later after releasing the classic ‘Sweet Mother’. The band recorded nine albums in the next six years, including my favourite, Aki Special.

On June 24, 1997, Mbarga, died. Two weeks prior, he fell off a motorbike after being hit by a car in Calabar, Cross Rivers state. He was in and out of consciousness before giving up the ghost.

I can never listen to ‘Sweet Mother’ without thinking it was written by a true musician – someone who thought and felt and loved and spoke in music. I can remember listening to this song and loving it in 1984. I can remember listening to this song and loving it almost as recently as on Sunday when a WhatsApp message from my boss said ‘Mother’s Day’ was trending.

Give yourself the same treat and let ‘Sweet Mother’ take you on a journey down the maternal love you have had in your life and the ones who are currently enjoying. You can as well follow the lyrics…

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Sweet Mother Lyrics

Sweet mother I no go forget you

For dey suffer we you suffer for me yeah [2x]

When i dey crry my mother go carry me

She go say my pikin wetin you dey cry yeah yeah

Stop stop! stop stop!! stop stop!!!

Make you no cry again oo

When i wan sleep my mother go pet me

She go lie me well-well for bed

She go cover me cloth say make you sleep

Sleep sleep my pikin oooo

When i dey hungry my mom go run up and down

Mother’s Day is incomplete without Sweet Mother/Skabash

She dey find me somthing we i go chop

Sweet mother eeeeee..sweet mother oooo..eee

When i dey sick my mother go cry cry cry

She go say instead wey i go die make she die

She go beg God, God help me, God help me, my pikin oo

If i no sleep, my mother no go sleep

If i no chop, my mother no go chop

She no dey tire ooo

Sweet mother i no go forget dey suffer wey you suffer for me yeah yeah

Sweet mother eeeeeeeeeeee

Sweet mother oooo….eeeee

interlude…instrumental…

You fit get another wife

You fit get another husband

But you fit get another mother? No!

interlude…instrumental…

When i dey hungry my mom go run up and down

She dey find me somthing we i go chop

Sweet mother aaaaaa…sweet mother oooo..eee

When i dey sick my mother go cry cry cry

She go say instead wey I go die make she die

She go beg God, God help me, God help me, my pikin oo

If I no sleep, my mother no go sleep

If I no chop, my mother no go chop

She no dey tire ooo

Sweet mother I no go forget dey suffer wey you suffer for me yeah yeah

Sweet mother aaaaaaaaaaaaa

Sweet mother eeee..ooooooo

Sweet mother aaaaaaaaaaaaa

Sweet mother eeee..ooooooo

Conclusion

You are for music or you are against music. And being for music means embracing anyone who’s good at it. Continue to rest in peace, Prince Nico Mbarga. Mother’s Day is incomplete without ‘Sweet Mother’!

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