Jayzik Azikiwe, Jayz as she was fondly called was born in London on the 12th May 1958 by a British Mother and did you know that she was the daughter of the father of Independent and former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Nnandi Azikiwe? Well, it is not a surprise at all, she was. Jayzik was a lifetime poet and was known as the phenomenal woman, attributed from one of Maya Angelous poetic expressions.
She lived at full speed, in full colour, full of energy and always brought joy into many peoples lives. Whether you know her or not, she was most likely to all. She was a philanthropist and marvelous designer with fierce dreadlocks decorated with silver rings and seashells and always dazzling with her vibrant colour Greens, Oranges, Yellows and Black or Red, Gold and Green. She was very much known for her broad cheek smiling that always made her look like a perpetual sixteen year old.
She sponsored a basic School in her locality (Kololi area) with many pupils, she provided uniforms and fees for some of the pupils and even pay some teachers. If, by some chance, her smile didn’t grab your attention then her voice would, a lively and sweet, East London accent calling out loud and boisterous greetings, as she flew by in her open top jeep. Hi, (never hello) and Nanga def? (In wolloff- meaning how are you? Jayzik made a point of knowing people and even those who didn’t have the chance to meet her personally, most likely have heard her voice on the radio, singing the song that she wrote and performed, and that became her trademark, Everyone Loves The Gambia.In her professional career, Jayzik was a performance poet, songstress and song writer.
She worked closely with The Mad Professor and his Ariwa sound system and performed internationally with the Reggae Collective Sistas, and in support of various internationally renowned artists including Beenie Man, Luciano, Soul II Soul, Chaka Khan, Levi Roots, Black Uhuru, Burning Spear, Sizzla, Lucky Dube, Maxi Priest, Yammie Bolo and Lee Scratch Perry. She loved touring and performed in many countries, too many to list. Particular highlights included appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in San Francisco, Geel in Belgium, Summer Jam in Germany, Reggae on the River of California USA. Jayzik Azikiwe, the UKs simple poet was featured in a Levi Roots soundtrack Imagination which was nominated for MOBO for the Reggae Performer.
On stage, Jayzik called herself The Simple Poet.In many ways, this is exactly what she was, with her broad cheek smiles beautifully simple. Jayzik enjoyed the simple life, took simple pleasures, had no need for expensive things and whatever she did have, she used to help and bring happiness to others. She wasn’t interested in status and could sit with simple people as easily as she could the big stars with whom she performed.
Jayzik’s artistry speaks for itself. She was a prolific poet. Not only the dub poems she recorded, Problem Child, Burn Down the Teachings, Snowman in Winter, No Hello, but also the constant flow of rhyme and wisdom that was her everyday life. She loved language and words and had, before she died, been developing her own translation song drawing from the Fula, Mandinka, Wolloff, Serehule, Jola, Serre and Manjago people she knew, whose language she was always learning and weaving into inspirational and educational poetry.
How I Come to know Jayzik Azikiwe? It was at the time she was about to do the song she wrote for The Gambia Tourist Authority, Everybody Loves The Gambia, the haven in Africa.
We met at the house of Abass Deen, a prolific professional guitarist, who did the strings in that music. I started off by asking her about her surname which everyone would guess it would be. I also told her about mine, also with that type of background from Nigeria. She wasn’t interested in status and could sit with simple people as easily as she could with the big stars with whom she performed. That was why she didn’t like talking about her fatherly background though she had to explain that to me one day at her restaurant at the Senegambia roundabout. I can recalled when I made several attempts to get the Nigerian Embassy in The Gambia and booked an appointment with the Deputy High Commissioner concerning her death, we both went to pay the usual condolence to the bereaved family at Luigis Complex.
After obtaining her information from the daughter Joleene, the Deputy High Commissioner said we have great respect for our leaders and been a daughter of our first President, we have to give her the respect.
Jayzik had much to say about many things and could be relied upon to deliver a line or two for any occasion. If ever anyone made the mistake of greeting her with the word hello; Hello? Don’t you know that hell is low? How low can you go? If you said you were depressed; Depressed? Get more depressed.Get really depressed. Get so depressed that you can’t get depressed any more. Then take a look at yourself in the mirror and see how ugly you look that’ll make you laugh.
On people giving her stress; this was what she had to say:
No one lives rent free in my brain. On Humpty Dumpty; He didn’t fall he was pushed! Jayzik loved to laugh and to have people laugh with her. Making people laugh and making music were two things for which she had a special talent. She surrounded herself with music and where there was none, she would create it herself. She loved listening and watching musicals on TV, because, she said, whenever anything happened, however trivial, to the people in the story, they’d sing about it. That was how she wanted to live and like many of the things she wanted out of life, Jayzik made it happen. She could and did, sing about anything and everything, anytime and anywhere.
Off stage (if there ever was such things for a natural born entertainer like Jayzik) she was a loving and much loved, mother, daughter, sister, aunty and friend. Many of her family and friends are here now, having traveled to The Gambia to pay their last respects and see her laid to rest. Family members suspect that she is watching and smiling, happy that they have come, some of them for the first time.
The Gambia was home to Jayzik, a place that she loved, and where she chose to live and raise her children, up until her death. Looking back on some of her poetry we might say that Africa had always been her destiny. In the poem, Snowmen in winter, she wants to;
Run free in the fields lush with green and I’d rest in the shade of the palms. Love to swim in the deep blue ocean, Lie back on gold warm sand, Drink coconut milk and eat fresh fruit, Whilst stepping the Motherland. Jayzik was very proud to be able to write a song celebrating The Gambia the country and people that she held as her own.
Life is tough sometimes. Jayzik, having faced many challenges in her own life, She did what she could to help, sponsoring a school in her local area in Kololi in The Gambia, helping to promote various Gambian artists and organising various networking events for those people of African heritage, like herself, who came from the diaspora to reconnect with their African roots. Over and above these efforts, during hard times, she herself was a unique medicine. Whatever the weather, no matter how bad the situation; Jayzik was always the same; guaranteed sunshine.
“It’s the unofficial national anthem” she said of Everyone Loves The Gambia. The song that she wrote and performed to publicise The Gambia worldwide as the ideal holiday destination. She was thrilled with the songs success and delighted by the fact that it was, and still is, played regularly, not only in the private and government radio stations within The Gambia, but also in Europe and America via CNN.
Everyone loves The Gambia. Jayzik loved The Gambia. The Gambia, like all of us, loved Jayzik. She was phenomenal, definitely one of a kind, and she will be deeply missed.Jayzik Azikiwe died in The Gambia on January 31st January 2008 and she was survived by her eldest daughter Joleene (30), son (26) and her twins male and female (7), her mother, younger sister, Mr. and Mrs. Luigi Maio of Luigi�s Complex and Restaurant, Madam Marina of Baobab Real Estate Ltd. Mrs. Rita Cole and family, The Department of State for Tourism and Culture, National Council for Arts and Culture and the Gambia Tourism Authority. May her soul rest in perfect peace and harmony. She was buried on Saturday 9th February 2008 in Banjul, The Gambia.
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