Two years earlier, she had been the sensational talent find of 1983. Her Sonny Okosuns-produced debut Child For Sale had been a smashing success--the toast of the primary school hit parade, the soundtrack to many a preteen birthday party and family roadtrip. She had blown into our lives like a whirlwind of adorableness and goshdarn it, the public was sucked in. Now two years had passed since anybody had seen or heard anything from her. Two years can feel like a mighty long time when you've been alive for just over a decade yourself, and people started to wonder and speculate as to why she hadn't come out with another album.
And then the news of her fate hit the national gossip network: Yvonne had gotten pregnant. Tried to have an abortion. Something went wrong. She died.
Now this puzzled the hell out of me at the time. "She was having an abortion? How old was she, thirteen?"
"Yes," my aunt replied sternly. "That's why she died. She was too young and her body could not withstand the pregnancy. And the moral of the story is: Don't have sex before marriage! You hear?"
Well, however well-meaning the moral may have been, the story itself was soon discredited as pure fabu(lism): Some people knew which secondary school Yvonne Maha went to and confirmed that she had never been pregnant and was certainly not dead. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief and went back to waiting for her follow-up to Child For Sale.
About two years later, the rumor mill once again reported again that Yvonne Maha had died.
"I thought they said she died two years ago!" I groaned.
"That was just a rumor," my aunt clucked. "She didn't die back then, but she's dead now. This time it's true."
"How did she die?"
"Complications from abortion."
"And that is why you should not have sex before marriage!"
After that, the "Yvonne Maha is dead" story would resurface anew every few years. And with each new iteration, its peddlers would firmly assure you that yes, this time she really was dead and that yes, she died during an abortion. As recently as 2005 I heard people telling that story.
Well, for the record: In 2007 Yvonne Maha is alive and well and living in Brazil. But the persistent reports of her demise do kind of beg an interesting question: Why did the public seem to so desperately want--almost need--Yvonne Maha dead? And from an abortion, of all things? And why is it that as years have gone by and Yvonne Maha has receded somewhat in the public's memory, the "death by abortion" story has been passed on to early-90s preteen singer Tosin Jegede? (For the record: Tosin Jegede is not dead, she's a sculptor.)
Could it be that these little girl singers represent purity and innocence, and so the thought of them growing up into womanhood and inevitably engaging in womanly activities such as sexual intercourse is so unacceptable that we must create these myths where their sexual precocity leads to their destruction?
> shrug < Shit, I dunno.
Anyway, if you were a kid in Nigeria in the 80s, you almost certainly know this album inside out. Listening to it now, I'm surprised at how well it holds up for me--I mean, even if twee cutesy-kiddie stuff like this makes your molars hurt, you can't completely front on the music itself, can you? This was the period when Sonny Okosuns could do no wrong and his Ozziddi band was on the way to becoming the Ozziddi brand. The tasteful instrumental performances and production on this album are very much on par with great Okosuns albums such as Fire in Soweto and 3rd World. I remember really loving the backing vox on this record, and they still sound pretty good to me, too.
The song "Don't Treat Me Like a Child" still makes me slightly uncomfortable, too. I used to love this song back in '83, when I first realized that I loved ballads, but even then I thought it was a bit on the creepy side. It was so obviously a ventriloquist number with a grownup putting these supposedly cute/coy words into a little girl's mouth, but what made it particularly discomfiting was the video: Yvonne and some boy sitting on a bench at Apapa Amusement Park, dressed in their best birthday party duds as she serenades him. Both of them look ungodly embarrassed by the whole affair, especially the end where she reluctantly slides over (you can actually see her blushing as she looks off camera at someone who is obviously goading her forward) and hugs him, singing "Wait for me to grow up... Then I will kiss you, too... Then I will kiss you... Wait for me to grow up, then I will love you... too."
And the worst thing about it was that rumor had it the boy was her brother!
YVONNE MAHA - CHILD FOR SALE (GOLD RECORDS, 1983, GR01)Download the ZIP , or track by track:
Keyboards - Johnny Woode & Tony Edmonds
Drums - Geoffrey Omadeboh
Bass - Willie Nfor
Lead guitar - Yakubu Daniel
Rhythm guitar - Nelson Tackie
Congas & percussion - Patrick Oziegbe
Trumpets - Big John & Robert Ngumu
Saxophone - Becks Abeke
Horn arrangements - Luke Tunney
All songs written by Sonny Okosuns with the exception of "Wings of a Dove" by Millie Small and "Layo Layo" which is traditional and arranged by Sonny Okosuns.
Album produced and directed by Sonny Okosuns.
Album arranged by Ozziddi led by Johnny Woode Olimah.
1. Wings of a Dove
2. Don't Treat Me Like a Child
1. Lagos Town
2. Going To School
3. Layo Layo