TITLE OF BOOK: Taduno’s Song
AUTHOR: Odafe Atogun
COUNTRY PUBLISHED: Nigeria
PUBLISHER: Ouida Limited, Nigeria
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2016
NUMBER OF PAGES: 240
BOOK REVIEWER: Mof’Oluwawo O MojolaOluwa
One morning, a letter arrives for Taduno in exile. It’s a letter that would forever change the course of his life and his home country. A novel by Odafe Atogun, a Nigerian writer and journalist, Taduno’s Song is a story of love in the time of tyranny and a collective struggle against a repressive dictatorship spearheaded by a musician and eponymous hero of the play, Taduno. Written from an omniscient point of view, the author weaves his plot with an effective combination of symbolism, allusions and a tactical use of comic relief.
Taduno, the hero of the story returns from exile prompted by a letter from Lela, the love of his life and victim of the oppressive military government in his home country. He returns with a sole mission- to save her without compromising the struggle against the despotic government of the day. In no time, he finds himself between the devil and the deep blue sea. Two options: to sing the despot’s praise and have his lover safe and sound- a promise with no guarantee or; to continue in the struggle and loose his woman, forever. To complicate matters, Lela would have him give her up for the struggle while the people all look up to their erstwhile hero to pick up the struggle from where he’d stopped.
After scaling several hurdles as the arduous task of getting his own people and indeed the entire nation to recognize him for who he really is, finding his lost voice, negotiating and re negotiating with the government for Lela’s release and keeping the hope of the masses alive, he runs out of time and has to elect between his love for Lela and his love for his country and people. Taduno chooses the latter, making the ultimate sacrifice in the process. He leaves his people with a message of hope, the promise of a miracle and one last song against the tyrant.
A fictional retelling of the erstwhile dictatorship of the 1990s in Nigeria, the hero bears a stark and untold semblance to Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the revolutionary musician likewise persecuted by the then government for his radical music, Atogun shines the light on a weapon sometimes sidelined and less talked about in the struggle against oppression and tyranny- music. The human life is rid with choices to be made on a daily basis and decisions to be made which in turn weaves the plot of one’s life. So also in Taduno’s song, Taduno is constantly faced with the options of electing feelings or reason, personal good or public good. The suspense is such that we at times do not know which he will elect. At some points, he is on the verge of betraying the struggle and then; he doesn’t. More often than not, he first has to win a struggle within a struggle- first the struggle for acceptance and re-integration back into his own society, then the bigger struggle against the dictatorship. Thus the book is not just about the struggle against oppression and tyranny, but more importantly about the struggle we face daily, the eternal struggle between good and evil, the struggle to make a rational decision at all times, the struggle between personal or temporary good and general or public good and eternal happiness. Just as the people waited on Taduno, the question is posed daily: what’s it going to be?
The book also draws on the importance of hope. Taduno loses all but not hope, the hope of victory against tyranny and he consequebtly bequeaths same to the people. Hope they say, is life’s elixir. Taduno’s Song is a call to sacrifice, courage and dedication.
As beautiful a piece of story Taduno’s Song is, one cannot however miss the effortless verbosity with which Atogun recounts his tale, doing more of telling than showing. Also, I find it hard to reconcile Taduno’s distressed state with his spending prowess throughout the story. For example, we’re told he goes to the store in exile and shops. The question one would then ask is, where did he get money? And consequently, where does he get all the money he spends on food, music instrument and all especially since we’re told his bank accounts were closed and he was not earning an income?
Nevertheless, here’s one goodread, anyday. A hit, to say the least.
By the way, my short story got published here https://kalaharireview.com/khafila-a53ae75fdc03#.1650ypcey?_e_pi_=7%2CPAGE_ID10%2C7892653189. Enjoy!