Listen to Efe Oraka’s solemn new single “Live Rounds In The Dark”

a stunning tribute to victims of SARS brutality

A year ago today, the nation watched with horror as the Nigerian Army opened fire and shot live rounds at peaceful protesters waving the Nigerian flag at the Lekki toll gate, Mushin and other parts of Lagos state. A devastating occurrence that’s now gone on to popularise conversations about last October’s EndSARS protests which shook and reverberated across the country and the wider diaspora, the memorial day passed with little to no change from the inept government and law enforcement institutions.

Instead, young Nigerians coming out in throes were once again greeted with unfettered use of force and violence to disperse them from memorial grounds across the country. With many still reeling in horror and fear from the grave crimes committed against private citizens on our own soil, Abuja-based singer, Efe Oraka is memorialising the lives of the dead through song.


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Released yesterday, the singer’s latest single “Live Rounds In The Dark” is a solemn and stunning tribute to the lives lost on October 20, 2020, but also to the countless lives lost year in and out to police brutality here in Nigeria. Opening up with mellow keys, Efe paints a picture that visualises the feeling of dread and doom that many young Nigerians felt that fateful day. The sorrowful ballad was composed by the singer during last October’s protests to make sense of the emotional turmoil felt by many at the time.

Singing “Everybody sinking, where do we run/I see fires everytime I wake,” Efe sings about the current lived reality of many young Nigerians. With a resigned voice, she sings solemnly about the lives lost in the past and those that we’re currently still losing, as she squarely addresses our leaders whose years of corruption and ineptitude have led to the rot that we have now descended into. In the accompanying video shot by Nvthy, we see clips of Efe solemnly performing her verse acapella against a monochrome backdrop that indicates the graveness of the song’s subject matter.

While we continue to honour the lives of those lost last year, we caught up with Efe on her new release “Live Rounds In The Dark.” Her answers which follow below have been lightly edited for clarity.

NATIVE: Hi Efe, could you please tell us more about the inspiration for “Live Rounds In The Dark?”

EFE: In a nutshell, live Rounds in the dark was inspired by the wake of collective emotional turmoil suffered after the killing at the Lekki toll gate. That night was very harrowing. I remember feeling so distressed and literally seeing thoughts in my head being shared by mutuals on my timeline. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced collective grief like that before. It was a lot and being aware of the fact that I was not the only one feeling that way was something else entirely. I fully realized the duality of feeling a sense of community. Comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one who’s going through the pain but the sheer horror of knowing the exact same thing. I felt very heavy and the only way I could attempt to balance the weight was by writing. It was one of those moments where because the feelings were so potent and real, the words just came along. It felt spiritual.

NATIVE: What significance does this date hold for you as an artist and a young person in Nigeria?

EFE: I think it’s a very significant date for me as an artist because it shows me how art is a herald of the times. I look back at music created by Nigerian artists in the 70s and 80s and it’s almost like they foreshadowed the events of today. It makes me understand just how important it is to make art that reflects what is presently going on and show the very essence of the present moment. I believe that the art created can be used to as a tool of social cohesion and change, aiding us to reflect, learn and heal. As a young Nigerian, this date is significant because it reminds me of just how much has been lost and how much needs to be done to get to space safe enough for everyone to move forward. I’m being reminded that the events at the toll gate were real and orchestrated by the government — a crime against humanity that someone needs to answer for.

NATIVE: Looking back a year from the events at the Lekki tollgate and the End SARS protests, what are some of the things that still need to change for our country to recognise the plight of its young people?

EFE: A functioning mechanism for transparency and accountability is still yet to be put in place. Every day there’s one security challenge or the other, police are still harassing young people in Nigeria and generally, the whole atmosphere feels pretty unstable. There are so many idiosyncrasies with the way political power is conceptualized and furthermore, administered here that always leads to injustice. These injustices keep going on without being tackled and the situation worsens by the day. It’s almost like there’s no one who cares or is honest enough to make sure that checks and balances are adhered to.

NATIVE: What do you hope for listeners to take away from your new single?

EFE: I wrote the song because I needed release but I’m finding that release may not necessarily mean ‘letting go’ in that sense but rather transformation. In that light, I hope the song helps people to transform all the pain they feel into something more and it gives them a way to put things into perspective, pushing collective healing forward. I hope that it also reignites that sense of total community and unity, devoid of exclusion of any kind. I hope it serves as a way to remind everyone that what we witnessed at the toll gate was not a figment of our imagination. It is my way of documenting what we saw happen in real time so we can keep pushing our own narratives.

Watch the video for “Live Rounds In The Dark” below.

Featured image credits/EfeOraka