Simi’s Duduke is a classic win for expectant mothers – Dami Ajayi
Simi’s ‘Duduke’ is arguably the biggest song in Nigeria and her diaspora.
Sitting atop Nigerian charts on apps like Apple Music, Deezer and Spotify, if you venture to look further down these charts, you may catch a glimpse of ‘Know You’, a Ladipoe ditty also featuring your favourite chanteuse, Simi.
Call it a big win for Ladipoe (his biggest so far) and you won’t be far from the truth. A distinguished but under-appreciated rapper finally snags the coveted top shelf of charts with a love song duet. But back to Simi, who is neither a stranger to love songs nor duets, ‘Duduke’ has caught more than just aural traction.
The onomatopoeic ‘Duduke’ with its crisp video exists in the happy continuum of both Simi’s personal and professional life. In the music video, she wears a yellow chiffon dress and cradles her gravid belly. It is another ode to Osun (see Beyoncé) when you reflect on Simi’s gaze into the body of water. Osun, for the uninitiated, is the Yoruba god of fertility, who persists as the titular Osun river.
As with cyber-trends and challenges, pregnant lovers of the song have taken to cradling their bellies in the dance of anticipatory motherhood on Instagram and it is such a visceral thing to look at; in fact, it creates a kind of uterus envy among men exempted from this public commune between mothers and their unborn children.
It is a special kind of love, the bond between a mother and her child. And for this meteoric rise of ‘Duduke’ to coincide nicely with the American Mothering Sunday meant that there were sons attempting to return to their aging mother’s flabby bellies with ‘Duduke’ playing in the background—all happening on social media.
But before the personal moved into the realm of the popular, there was Simi and her first baby. Simi, again, is no stranger to the love song. It is her shtick and forte. Her career began with love songs to God, inched sideways to heterosexual love, and after she snagged Adekunle Gold and husbanded him, her love is now inching away again to her unborn child.
Recruiting usual suspect, Oscar Heman-Ackah, at the helms per production, ‘Duduke’ is conceived as a neo-juju-highlife song in the mould of many of Simi’s memorable tunes. The opening sound is airy with an insistent percussion as clutch. The bassline is arguably borrowed from Chief Commander Obey’s ‘Gbebe Mi’. But the lyrics are all Simi’s.
She takes that visual anticipation of seeing one’s child to a whole new visceral level. The palpitation of a heart, its lop-dop sound amplified into a percussive and persuasive scat, becomes a ubiquitous response to the imagined moment. Again, it is a beautiful thing not only because it is couched in love and tenderness, but in older musical traditions.
The birth of a child is seen within the Yoruba culture as an important accomplishment and mothers, who facilitate this auspicious event, are seen as gods. There is no genre of music that reflects this better than juju music. If I.K Dairo’s ‘Ijo Olomo’ is an irresistible onomatopoeic chant about lulling babies to sleep, King Sunny Ade’s ‘The Child’ is a masterclass on the entire perinatal experience from the missed coitus interruptus to breastfeeding.
Juju music is not the only antecedence with which to explore ‘Duduke’. Listen closely to J’odie’s up-tempo, groovy reggae and rhumba-inflected ‘Kuchi Kuchi’—and you will find another powerful but more modern ode to one’s child.
The difference with ‘Duduke’ is that it thrives on both tension and anticipation. A mother can’t wait to meet her child in the way two lovers trapped in a time before technology also anticipated seeing each other. The edge of maternal love is that the impending union is indelible and the love is unwavering.
In writing, producing and releasing such a powerful song, Simi gifts women new ways to express that important milestone. Be it cradling a gravid belly on an Instagram challenge or in private, ‘Duduke’ is that song with which to encode nostalgia.