Dami Ajayi finds a way to fuse being a writer into his busy doctor schedule. Known as Jolly Papa (JP for short) by his friends—a sobriquet he took from a song by Rex Lawson—the poet cum doctor cum music critic makes seamless transitions between these orbits around which his life rotates.
In his chapbook, Daybreak and Other Poems, Dami Ajayi gives a foretaste of how music and poetry fuses in his mind. When he remarks ‘poetry is a recourse to soft music’, he is correct.
For someone steeped in the music of the likes of King Sunny Ade (KSA), Rex Lawson, Fatai Rolling Dollar, Orlando Owoh, Oriental Brothers and the likes, it is only understandable that he finds poetry in what they sing. It is not surprising to encounter this in his poetry:
Poetry is the broken words of a stutterer’s essay.
Clip, clip, clip, bang.
Dami Ajayi is enchanted by two things found in both his poetry and fiction: Lagos and Fela. To understand Dami Ajayi’s musical influences is to understand his poetry. Subtitles like Ikoyi Blindness, Go Slow, Johnny Just Drop found under the title poem Lagos Bunnies is evidence of the relationship between the poet and his city.
In Clinical Blues his first poetry book, the medical part of the writer come to the fore. The book’s title is suggestive of its content, but it doesn’t betray the deep imageries and thoughts this book expresses.
The delicate balance between Dami Ajayi’s poetry, essays and fiction is one that shows a writer with an impressive work ethic. From his sometimes brash but always insightful music reviews, to his long essay pieces on Highlife and Juju music, there is no missing the fact that he has a deep understanding of his subjects.
Better known for his poetry and for being a doctor than for his fiction, it is surprising how his fiction has an uncanny feel of clarity. Not that his poems are obscure, in fact his volume of poems has been lauded for making more people interested in poetry. To write fiction in a way that looks easy and reads easy and yet is not easy is a level of mastery. With short stories here and there, Dami’s fiction is one that seems not to have come under the same intense scrutiny his music reviews and poetry have come under.
Writers explore different parts of their writing interests at different points in time. For Ben Okri, it is poetry now after a long period of writing fiction. For Dami Ajayi, his muse seems to have caught up with his childhood love of music. His fiction, still relatively unexplored, could come to the fore later on. With an expected follow up of his poetry book Clinical Blues, Dami doesn’t want to be boxed into being a particular kind of writer, quite a difficult thing to do because writers create labels and end up fighting to get out of those labels.
© Victor Ehikamenor