Book Review: Wicked Agadapidi and Other Songs

Cover and blurb of Wicked Agadipidi and Other Songs by Bonface Otieno. COVER DESIGN/The Striidas Publishing House.

Title: Wicked Agadapidi and Other Songs

Author: Bonface Otieno

Reviewer: Meshack Wafula

Publisher and Year: The Striidas Publication House, 2021

Cost: KSh 500

Get Your Copy:, +254746955316

First published in 2021 by The Striidas Publication House, Wicked Agadapidi is an anthology of songs with a Luo rural setting. 

From the beginning of the very first part, “Welcome my people,” of the song Wicked Agadapidi, an avid reader of poetic works can easily detect the voice of the famous Ugandan poet Okot p’Bitek in it. 

It’s evident that since Okot introduced the song tradition in the late 1960s, many budding writers who came after him started to attempt his stylistic form of writing, and Boniface Otieno, the author of this book, has not been an exception.

Wicked Agadapidi is a collection of poems representing some of the best works done before that have beautifully contextualized African arts and culture. 

Just like Lawino in the famous Bitek’s “Song of Lawino,” wicked Agadapidi is a story of this guy who is lamenting about his wife. 

Broken into different parts, the songs take the reader’s senses through a journey of regrets and sorrows experienced by the husband of Agadapidi. 

As the title testifies, Agadapidi is wicked. Wicked in everything. 

She is a mannerless woman who possesses every character that can make an African husband exasperated.

The story starts when the speaking voice invites Agadapidi’s in-laws to have a seat. 

The introductory lines read, 

Esteemed citizens of our nation, please take a seat 

And my esteemed in-laws: make yourself at home. 

As you journey through the story, you come to meet a number of themes that the author has portrayed in the singer’s voice. 

First and foremost, the book portrays the image of life before and after marriage. 

The author easily plays with creativity to bring the message home. The message of regret that many marriage partners have whenever they step into marriage. 

From afar, the same theme was once depicted in Muthoni Likimani’s poetic book, What Does A Man Want? where those in marriage regret stepping into them. 

They wish they wouldn’t have married their current partners. 

Part of the song goes, 

My in-laws, listen:

Before I married my wife, I was a man

Mightier than a decent deity. 

As you continue further, we see the changes that come soon after he marries Agadapidi, the evil woman. 

The theme of change has also been depicted in the song “Brokenness.”

Secondly, the poet in the singer’s voice shows us how family members always force their sons to marry particular girls without investigating them. 

A reader can easily detect the contemporary life in the story. 

Many people marry due to family pressures. One is fooled not to have time to see the authentic image of their life partner.

 Many marry to impress their family members, only to come to suffer alone in the future. This is what befell the narrator, who is painfully singing. 

He sings, 

My in-laws assured me  

They said she was ‘silili’ 

My father-in-law persuaded me 

I believed it my people even though 

I doubted her charming idiosyncrasy. 

The husband is made to see that Agadapidi is a nice partner found in the song “My Confidant.”

Thirdly, set in African Luo culture, one way in which he can show his rule and power as the head of the family is by beating his wife. 

Well, what happens when this doesn’t happen? The reverse is true. 

Agadapidi is now trying to overrule her husband because he doesn’t beat her. 

A part reads, 

Agadapidi says am not a man 

She thinks I am weak or ignorant 

For I do not punch her nose. 

It seems the husband is a modern man, and he believes in positive masculinity. No wonder he doesn’t beat her. 

This theme has well been depicted in the song of “Boneless Masculinity.”

Additionally, just like any other woman who looks “stronger” than her husband, she will, at some point, try to act and become the head of the family. 

Men persevere in such like marriages because of one thing; the promises and covenants they made during weddings.  

Many married partners live desperately and want to divorce, but because of the rings, they still endure each other. 

The song continues, 

Yet I’d promised when we walked down the aisle   

Love her in good and bad, life or death. 

Then what comes after such is infidelity? Couples start to cheat. Agadapidi takes pride in cheating. 

She wears too much makeup to impress her office colleagues and bosses. She abandons her house role as a wife. She no longer cooks as she starts to abuse drugs. 

Towards the end of this song, the reader realizes that despite her being a Satan, Agadapidi is also a Christian, in fact, a leader of the praise and worship team. 

Closer to hypocrisy, the reader is brought to the theme of sexual immorality in church. Agadapidi’s church pastor is hypocritical and lustful. He sexually touches women in his church. 

Some lines in Part X read, 

The pastor sees the demon in her large breasts 

He touches her voluptuous breasts 

Prays with one eye closed. 

The singer continues to lament in front of his in-laws that his wife Agadapidi is cheating with her pastor. They conduct private prayers in the pastor’s office. 

Agadapidi is hardly home because of the pastor. 

Well, that’s not surprising because it’s rampant in our current churches in this 21st century. The same theme has been portrayed in the song “Senseless Religion.”

As the reader delves deep into the different parts that form this big song, he will come to meet many more themes that are no longer new in this contemporary society. 

Ranging from the effects of Climate change in the songs “The sun is mad,” “Freshness by the Shore,” “Brewing Hurricane,” and others, the beauty of bearing children in the song, “A Child of Fate,” love in the songs, “Love did not Bless Me,” “My Heart in the Cage,” and others to other diverse themes.

 In the book, the author has applied a variety of African local dialect diction in dholuo, which has enriched and authentically made the song very sweet.

The local dialect makes the reader feel the Africanism in it, hence feeling part and parcel of the poem. 

Not far from that, many have been translated, making any reader from any tribe get the meaning with ease. 

Otieno has also used other stylistic devices that make his work a choice art of literature. 

To start with vivid images and symbols, we can see the in-laws having a seat, we can see the narrator’s life before and after marrying Agadapidi, and the reader can form images of the pastor touching church members’ breasts. 

Similes, dialogues, metaphors, personification, rhyme, and many other stylistic devices have not been left out as well; hence, they have largely contributed to appeals to all senses of the reader.

A reader can easily decipher that it’s a book that took time before reaching its final stages of being on bookshelves. 

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It’s a literature book that can be used for reference purposes and read by all demographics in society.

The reviewer is a journalism student at Rongo University.

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