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Asa’s “Bamidele”: A Narrative Lyrical Analysis

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When Bukola Elemide (a.k.a. Asa) released the song, Bamidele, which would become a bonus track on Beautiful Imperfection, her 13-track album, I wonder where in the world I was. I never heard of the song until I stumbled on the MP3 last week and I must have listened to it well over a hundred times by now. Truth is: I love really good songs (and who doesn’t?), but it’s been a while since I fell totally in love (obsessed, even) with a song to this magnitude. In this masterpiece, Asa has proven herself again as a force to be reckoned with in the world of music!

Bamidele is a piano-and-other-strings-driven, jaunty jazz ballad that satirizes a recurrent story of love, lies, betrayal, and family values, from the point of view of an impressionable and naïve young girl; in this case, she could easily be a secondary school girl from the inner city of Ibadan, Oyo State, as Asa deftly infuses the native dialect, mimicking the poor girl. Asa invokes feelings of pain, frustration and regret as she repeats the villain’s name – Akinyele, a native Oyo name. I particularly find the chord progression (7-3-6-2-5-1) at the refrain quite alluring and soul piercing even as she sings on the pentatonic scale. This song, like any other work of art, is subject to a variety of interpretations, so here goes my lyrical analysis:

Bi’nu e ba dun, bi’nu e o ba dun (Whether you are happy, or not)
On’ lati bami dele (You need to follow me home)
Bi o ba fe, bi o ba ko ye (Whether you like it, or you refuse to)
On’ lati bami dele ba’mi (You must follow me to my father’s house)

Akinyele wants to marry wife/ He don’t want to pay some bride price/ You better find it
Akinyele omo Jinadu (Akinyele Jinadu)
He don’t want to pay some bride price/ You better find it
Akinyele o… (x8)

So this girl, in her late teens (perhaps, earlier twenties), is wooed tirelessly and strategically by one young lawyer from out of town. She initially refuses, but soon finds herself having strong feelings for this young ‘educated’ man. She is impressed by his diction, his comportment, and even with the fact that he tells her he’s a Law graduate from the University of Ibadan. Out of naivety and inexperience, she soon agrees to his proposition. Some weeks into the ‘secret’ affair, he begins to pester her…

Otutu mu mi/ eyin nro mi o (Cold has taken hold of me/my back aches)
Wa bamidele ba’mi (Come, follow me to my father’s house)
Sebi the same thing lo so fun mi l’ana (Wasn’t it the same thing you told me yesterday?)
Mo tun de/ wa tele mi mo’le (I’m here again/ come, follow me home!)

Lawyer alagidi (Stubborn Lawyer!)
First class liar
Alakori sanwo k’o to j’obe (Headstrong fellow, pay before you ‘chop’ soup)
Iya mi l’o bi mi, l’o bi mi (My mother gave birth to me)
Baba mi lo to mi (My father trained me)
Mi o ki’n s’omo registry (I’m not for registry wedding)
Alakowe lawyer (learned lawyer)
Akinyele o….. (x8)

Eventually, she gives in to his persistent demands for sex, and she ends up pregnant. Every night, Akinyele’s on her mind as she endures the inconveniences of the pregnancy all alone. She’s probably living with an aunt now or she endures her parents’ vituperations and constant demand for the man responsible for the pregnancy to come claim her and the unborn. She cannot abort because she still has her family values intact. She wants him to put a ring on it! Yes, she already made a grave mistake by going to bed with him, but she still loves him and wants him to make the relationship formal. In the darkness of her room at night, she longs for the strong arms of her man around her; those soothing words to encourage her. She feels cold and her back aches – she’s heavy, but Akinyele has refused to be ‘the man’.

Every day, she goes to his window and knocks at his door, but he repeats the same excuse and empty promises. He tries to shirk his responsibility of arranging for the proper traditional wedding, but attempts to sell her the ‘cheap’ option of a court wedding. She can only but sob into the early morning, hanging to the refrain “Akinyele o!”.

Lawyer, alagidi (Stubborn Lawyer!)
First class liar
Alakori sanwo (Stupid fellow, pay up!)
K’oma mumu, K’oma jeun, K’oma s’omo ol’omo (You indulge in drinking, feeding and flirting)
Akinyele o….. (x8) [x2]

She is now fed up of Akinyele because he seems to be unstable as the sea tides. He continues to prove a very difficult riddle to solve. She still finds no other way to deal with this irony of a man than to call him names and wail his name. Unfortunately, Akinyele increasingly indulges in cheap liquor, gluttony and even begins to flirt with other girls in the neighbourhood. He wouldn’t bulge, so our narrator continues to bite her fingers, tears all over her face.

Then a skittish and gallop-y finale draws the curtain on an altogether very wholesome work. Brilliant work of art!

Listen to “Bamidele” by Asa
[audio:https://www.bellanaija.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Asa-Bamidele.mp3]
Photo Credit: Asa (c) Nicolas Esposito http://bit.ly/whycantweacoustic
__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Gbenga Awomodu is an Editorial Assistant at Bainstone Ltd./BellaNaija.com. When he is not reading or writing, Gbenga is listening to good music or playing the piano. He believes in the inspirational power of words and pictures, which he explores in helping to make the world a better place. He blogs at Gbenga’s Notebook (www.gbengaawomodu.com).

Digital Content Strategist | Creative Writer. Copy Editor. Storyteller. Vocalist. Amateur Pianist. Spoken Word Poetry recording artiste. Lover of Words & Images. #ArsenalFC. Twitter: @gbengaawomodu

67 Comments

  1. minini

    February 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I loved the song before i read the write up, and this write up just put a nail in the coffin. Nice analysis

  2. Chef Fregz

    February 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Gbenga…. You have done what can only be described as sheer genius!!!!
    I’m saving this in my notes. I think this is just plain fantastic… you gave even more life to the already amazing vocal illustration done by Asa….
    Thanks for giving more colour and grace to an artist i love and respect so much!
    Great Work!!

    • Kloi

      February 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      Ditto 🙂

  3. a mon avis

    February 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    WOW thanks for this analysis. I can almost ‘see’ each line vividly played out in my head. Asa’s songs touch the very core of my soul <3

  4. Name (required)

    February 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    loves the analysis…story of many girls!Empty promises and broken dreams!

  5. Miss ATL

    February 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    In a word, wow.

  6. fokasibe

    February 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Never understood the yoruba part although I have the song as well and listen to it frequently. Thanks for taking the time to interprete….Deep, deep, lyrics…well executed by Asa!

    • fokasibe

      February 10, 2011 at 11:59 am

      Meanwhile can anyone do a similar analysis of Bimpe? Please Gbenga, please?

    • Tosin

      February 11, 2011 at 3:11 am

      Bimpe is a sweet song. I’m sure Gbenga will be kind enough 🙂

  7. BC

    February 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I have the albulm. I am not Yoruba and never understood the lyrics.Thanks cause I love the song.

  8. Brittle Paper

    February 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Please more Asa analysis. More more more. This is so cool.

  9. Oyimi

    February 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Ditto!! 🙂

  10. partyrider

    February 9, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    brilliant analysis

  11. Nene

    February 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    I’m going to get my copy of beautiful imperfection just because of this amazing analysis….I’m Yoruba but I never really understood the song as well as I do now….pls more of such analysis.

  12. indomie

    February 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    This is easily the best piece i have read on BN and i have read A LOT!
    The little yoruba i picked up in secondary school was not sufficient to analyze this song, yet i fell in love the first time I heard it.
    I think its crazy how you can love a song and have no clue what it means! All in all this was a great write up!

  13. ms peters

    February 9, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    asa can take a simple song and make it platinum! naija’s best!!!!

  14. iya2

    February 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Dat song is not on my cd?????

    • viv

      February 10, 2011 at 10:59 am

      yep this ‘bamidele’ song is not on my own CD! where do we get it? kinldy translate bimpe cos i love that song too.

  15. Jess

    February 9, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Omg thank you for this!! I understand some of the yoruba in Asa’s songs but I usually can’t put the lyrics together to form the story she’s trying to tell. Could you do this for “bimpe”? Please..thank you 🙂

  16. sammysnow

    February 9, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    cool

  17. friend of zara

    February 9, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Mehn. Av been begging my yoruba compadres to translate this song for me. Ur write up is brilliant. The song is beautiful, haunting. Asa has a way of making u feel the lyrics even if u dont understand them. The most perfect(and only) yoruba i speak is done when i’m singing an Asa song (and i am an ibo girl!) She’s magnificent and this write up has done both her and the song justice.

  18. Pizzazz

    February 9, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I like that song and its my best on the album but i sorta disagree with this analysis and where did it say that she got pregnant cause the song is playing over and over in my head and i can’t remember that part

    • Gbenga Awomodu

      February 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm

      “Otutu mu mi/ eyin nro mi o (Cold has taken hold of me/my back aches)”

      Hi Pizzazz, The songwriter does not state explicitly in the text that the narrator is pregnant, but implies it with the expression I have reposted above (in quote). It is used in the Yoruba language to describe/connote the feelings of a pregnant woman… A good writer uses such elements to confer some intelligence on the readers/audience… They make you feel intelligent by allowing you make your inferences and not necessarily ‘spoon-feed’ you all through; and, like I mentioned in the post, art is subject to a variety of interpretations, so not all readers/consumers see a work of art from exactly the same point of view… I have only attempted to put some perspective to Asa’s beautiful work here and I’m glad you enjoy the song too [it’s also my best on the album!] 🙂

      http://gbengaawomodu.wordpress.com

    • Pizzazz

      February 11, 2011 at 1:26 am

      Thanks for responding…I’m actually flattered, maybe my Yoruba isn’t as good as I thought it was… But I think Bimpe too is a bit confusing and how come the Bimpe girl has a child and yet she isn’t married yet and all,it’s almost contradicting?

  19. oyin

    February 9, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    to be sincere i never realized she was pregnant!!
    wow!! thank you! y’all should listen to bimpe! now that is my best song on the album!

  20. Yinka Ogunbajo

    February 9, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Lovely song!

  21. Kilonsparkles

    February 10, 2011 at 12:09 am

    This is nice. I’ve been in love with the song since I heard it too. My friend interpreted it for me. Very creative.

  22. Sarah

    February 10, 2011 at 2:53 am

    LOVE this song!! It should have been on the album and not a bonus

  23. This gurl

    February 10, 2011 at 8:48 am

    DEEP AND AMAZING!!! good analysis gbenga
    *screaming* akinyele oooooo

  24. Omogekofo

    February 10, 2011 at 10:25 am

    SO WHO COPIED FROM WHO?
    I SAW THIS POST ON THIS SITE
    http://www.olamildentertainment.com/2010/11/asa-bamidele-lyrics.html

    • BellaNaija.com

      BellaNaija.com

      February 10, 2011 at 11:37 am

      No one copied anyone.
      Gbenga (who in addition to being a writer is a pianist) loves the song and decided to do an analysis from his perspective while Olamild provided a description of the song and a translation of the lyrics.

      Shows the power of the song that two writers are attracted to it.

    • Omogekofo

      February 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      ok Bella, i was just asking.
      Thanks.

    • partyrider

      February 10, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      am sorry but u cant even compare the two..Gbenga nailed this analysis.he gives you a perfect picture/description of the song,that you can almost see the characters jump from ur screen

  25. pretty

    February 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Asa is too much.

  26. one naira

    February 10, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    …. and peeps tell me dat her music doesn’t deserve a Grammy… mschewww.

  27. Glory Edozien

    February 10, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Gbenga, you deserve a ‘grammy’ for this analysis! Fantastic!!!

  28. christopher orumah

    February 11, 2011 at 8:54 am

    i am a great fan of asa and her peson,her latest album is great and though will not get much patronage frm her home country nigeria becos thats not the genre the like and she did something of soul pop entirely different frm the usual music rote in nigeria and i love her for dat

  29. olalekanOwonikoko

    February 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    well i haven’t even read this article.but i am writing just because i saw the name of the song. i stumbled on the song last week and i have been glued to it since i heard it just the other song. it had been part of my daily activity………. oh God bless her.My mentor.

  30. CarolRumbi

    February 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    This is a a true class and absolute intensity. I love this song and I am not Nigerian. Thank you for the interpretation of the lyrics as well.

  31. Chokey

    February 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    wont believe,i’v not heard d song but after reading dis 1daful analysis,d song is already playing in my head..thanks Gbenga!..i lov Asa and her music(always sensational)

  32. Fairy Godsister

    March 5, 2011 at 3:49 am

    Thank you Gbenga for bringing life to an already fabulous song (that I love to bits but didn’t understand), you rock!!!! You absolutely rock!
    http://www.fairygodsister.wordpress.com

  33. Tunde1999

    March 6, 2011 at 6:23 am

    A friend gave me this Album on Friday morning. Now I am a big Asa fan already, but this Album blew my mind. Initially, I couldn’t get pass the Song questions where she asks questions like “why’s there so much religion and so little love?”, and “Why do we have to grow to be wise?”. I’m feeling her there. Eventually, I make it through to Bamidele….. wow!!! I was just telling a friend that Akinyele reminds me of Mr. Lakunle in Wole Soyinka’s “The Lion and the Jewell”, just that Asa portrays him in a different light. Tells that story from a different perspective; you just feel the pain of girl, someone’s daughter. I am not a Registry Bride she crys as she pleads with Akinyele to do the right thing come home with me, meet my family, meet my parents. To borrow the words of Roberta Flach; this lady was just “killing me softly with her song”.

  34. Tunde1999

    March 6, 2011 at 6:39 am

    Hi Gbenga, I realize your interpretation is just that; an artistic interpretation, or an opinion. However I have to say I think it’s rather off for one simple reason. Asa says “sanwo k’o to j’obe” (pay before you eat). Akinyele had not tasted the fruit yet; it wasn’t about her being pregnant. Also clearly Akinyele did want to marry the girl… he just did not want to pay the bride price. He was too much of a Modern Lawyer an “alakowe”.

    • Elejowewe

      July 23, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      I thought the same thing – Akinyele wants a quick ‘formal’ wedding (registry) while the girl wants a ‘proper’ traditional wedding.

  35. Dami

    March 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    lovely song…….

  36. abolarinwa abisoye

    March 24, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    i so much love d lyrics of dis song,ASA is truly a woman of virtue

  37. Jag

    March 25, 2011 at 3:32 am

    Wait a second… It is a great song, but it is not on my Beautiful Imprefection or included in any track listing I’ve seen online… How do I get one with a bonus track?

  38. ibukunbakare ibukun

    April 10, 2011 at 1:06 am

    i like her bukola elemide,i pray to God for a greater inspiration,even more that hers,
    she is a chalenge to all musician,
    shes her self,but our voice sound alike,
    even before i knw her,and am realy inspire trugh her angelic voice,
    i pray ill sing with her a day,
    verry soon AMEN

  39. olalekan owonikoko

    April 18, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    you are a crazy son of a truely good mother. pardon my words, but I use crazy for things that are out of the ordinary. the description and interpretation are just perfect.

  40. Simeom joshua

    April 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I was a fan of asa ever since i head his first album,i’m not suprise at all, cus i was expecting more.thanks asa.

  41. Adeyemi Adisa

    May 1, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Asa is my favourite …one of a kind!

  42. Riliwandinho Hamzat

    May 13, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Thanx 2 d interpreter cos if not 4 u i will be just be crazy with asa cos i due ask my friend dat dis song has meaning if not 4 asa cannot do a song without a reason.kudos 2 Asa herself & 2 u too d interpreter & co-mate i pray may Allah give u more stright 2 do more pls i want more 4rm u luv u all.

  43. Riliwandinho Hamzat

    May 13, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Thanx 2 d interpreter cos if not 4 u i will be just be crazy with asa cos i due ask my friend dat dis song has meaning if not 4 asa cannot do a song without a reason.kudos 2 Asa herself & 2 u too d interpreter & co-mate i pray may Allah give u more stright 2 do more pls i want more 4rm u luv u all.

  44. Ayomide TruthHunter

    May 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Brilliant analysis, Gbenga. But even better than the line-by-line breakdown is how you manage to stir up a sense of the beauty and genius of Asa’s music. And I’m with the calls for “Bimpe” as the next song! 🙂 Keep ’em coming!

  45. deborah oluwabunmi

    May 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    nice jod,pls review more albums and songs.

  46. Bola

    July 2, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Nice analysis… really made me fall with ASA even more. Can you do an analysis on Jailer and Bibanke..

  47. Rebecca

    September 12, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Thanks for the analysis! I LOVE this song (and just bought the new album) … but couldn’t understand the lyrics.

  48. luzko

    September 13, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Oh my my my, what a beautiful song. thanks for the analysis, i didnt quite get the content of the song but I had the privilege of watching her perform it live in South Africa and I’m absolutely astounded by the way she could depict the story with emotions that oozed from her as she performed, oh and her soothing velvet voice invoked hidden feelings and emotions, I unwittingly held the lady next to me as assurance that i wont leave her or be like Akinyele 🙂

  49. thembi

    September 24, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I love this song! thank you for the analysis 🙂

  50. NELSON ORUGBO

    October 31, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Asa herself is a masterpiece cos i don’t know how she could sing so much songs in yoruba dialect and everybody both non Naijans are so in love with these songs. asa is a great inspiration. keep up the good work asa.

  51. chinwe

    February 7, 2012 at 8:07 am

    This is wat is described as music,it is meant to deduct its ideas 4rm da society,so as to inspire,educate and help the younger generation live in the present realities of their time.

  52. Solomon

    February 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Love d song more after learning d meaning of the lyrics!! I love her music sOo much

  53. T. Lacy

    August 22, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    I’ve only recently discovered ASA! I by chance stumbled across her album last week as I perused iTunes in search of good music. I’m attempting to widen my musical pallet. ASA’s music is amazing. She indeed has command of her craft. I downloaded the album and was immediately drawn to “Bamidele”. It is musically well written and recorded with care to capture all the nuances of her voice (kudos to the recording engineer). However, not able to fully understand the Yoruba language, I was at a loss for the meaning of this song. Your translation and analysis Gbenga was eye opening and made the song all the more poignant even though I’m a guy.
    I graciously thank you.
    P.S. I think it’s about time for a translation of either “Bimpe”, “Ore”, “Broda Ole”, and “Iba”.

  54. Lara

    June 26, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Where have I been all these years?!? I heard this song for the first time 2 days ago and I’m blown away already! This narrative is beautiful, well done sir.

  55. Gaopalelwe

    November 12, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    I heard this song just after it came out, but your analysis is by far the best I’ve seen since.

    I am a MoTswana from South Africa but have fallen completely in love with Yoruba since I got introduced to Asa.

    This is the sad story of so many young women and Asa tells it so beautifully.

    Thank you for this.

  56. Joseph

    January 4, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Gbenga has done a good job. Nevertheless he interpreted Alakori sanwo k’o to j’obe line literally but within the context of the song they would mean – Headstrong fellow, pay before you “sleep with me”

  57. Abdul

    October 23, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    it’s 2018 and I’m still crazy about bamidele and Asa..love your analysis going through them one by one

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