I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E 14-MAN BAND, 11 BLIND
Listening to the Pains and Pleasure Band perform, one cannot but mistake them for one of these established musical bands around.
Ironically, as they play their musical instruments with dexterity and sing in characteristic deftness, hardly could an observer resist the jolly mood to nod and swerve like luxuriating leaves in the evening breeze.
But the singers themselves, curiously, remained almost motionless, as though they were alien to the whole set up.
Yet their fan at De Sleek Hotel, Ikorodu, could not resist wriggling their waists in response to the melodies.
Why was it so? As was later to be revealed, these chap are actually blind. In fact, 11 of the 14-member band are visually impaired. Simply put, they are blind!
As someone suggested last week, “they avoid dancing so that they don't collide into either their instruments or one another.”
The group, according to Opeoluwa Akinola, the leader, started like a child's play during his National Youth Service Corps days at Ministry of Women Affairs, Ikeja, Lagos. Then, he and three others, because of their knowledge of music, were asked by fellow corps members and churches to entertain them. From there, the quartet discovered they could make something out of music and consequently co-opted more talented people of their kind.
Akinola who holds B.A in History from the University of Lagos recalled that it was not a bed of roses at the earlier stage of forming the band, which today, has toured virtually all the states in the country.
“It was difficult at the beginning. Three of the pioneer members left the band in search of greener pastures. We started with two box guitars and had to hire other instruments. People really exploited us. Sometimes in the middle of show the owners of some of the instruments would come and grab their instruments. The show would just end abruptly.
“At a stage, I had no accommodation, I squatted from one place to another and lived from hand to mouth for four years.”
Gift of instruments
Despite the difficulties, Akinola remained focused, believing that he would weather the storm. His jolly sail out of the murky waters started when he met Professor Abiola Ojo of Unilag who bought some instruments for his band.
“It was those assisted by Professor Ojo that told me about him. When I went to him, he gave us money to purchase some instruments. When we performed at his 40th wedding anniversary, he introduced us to one of his relations who gave us the bus we are using. Samir Ajami, Chairman of New One Industry among others also assisted us.”
Besides music, some of the band members pursue other careers.
The band leader, apart from working with an NGO where he teaches visually impaired persons the use of computers, is also an IT technician.
Some members of the band are however teachers in special education while others are technicians, computer operators among other professions. He added that the band would release its debut album in the last quarter of the year.
Olomoniyi Ebenezer and Akintayo Erubake, the band manager and engineer respectively are two of the sighted members of the band. They remarked that it is a challenge working with such talented men. They rebuffed any fear of being labeled exploiters or stigmatized for associating with them.
As a way of giving back to society, the bandleader said he has plans to empower not just the physically challenged but also all that comes his way.
Although he observed that the society is not doing enough to help the physically challenged, he advised that everyone should look in-wards and discover his talent and use it.
“Everyone has innate gift with which he can carve a niche for himself…”