I still remember how we came to each other. At some point in 2007, a friend had invited me to a house party in one of those housing estates populated mostly with graduate students and undergrads who had cars and preferred grocery shopping to the student diet of Chick-fil-A and dining hall food. It was a party full of African students at the university. It was somebody’s birthday, but no one needed an excuse for a house party.

House parties in college apartments were always the same, but the ones thrown by African students always had some key characteristics: at some point, someone will turn off all the lights and we would dance under the cover of the darkness, while the few white people would feel all the more conscious of their being in a predominantly black space (“I feel like I’m glowing the dark, a white friend once said to me); whatever other music was on deck, someone would play DJ Arafat and Magique Systeme and everybody would get hype; there was always a pot of jollof rice on the stove or in the fridge, and if you asked nicely you could get a plate warmed up with a piece or two of chicken; there was store-brand cola and cheap alcohol and wine because we were broke college students and drunk people’s tastes buds aren’t worth a damn.

At this particular party, I remember locking my purse in my friend’s friend bedroom for safe keeping, and seeing him lock the door. It is hard to tell how much time passes when you’ve been on your feet dancing, but a few hours later we would learn that someone broke into the guy’s room and stole phones, cameras, and purses. My purses, no longer on his bed, was face down and empty. My camera was gone.

My sister felt so sorry for me that she insisted on buying me a gift — another camera, yes, but also a black, 80GB iPod thrown in for good measure. My iPod and I were inseparable for many years after.


I still cannot say whether I would have bought the iPod were it not a gift, but for a long time it was nearly the extension of my hand. It followed me on my long walk to class, played in my ears while I studied, shielded me from unwanted conversation on trains and buses. It was the best gym partner, faithfully playing from playlists and not judging me when I did not go as regularly as I should. Unlike most other people, itdid not eye me askance for my music tastes, not even in my third year when I did a deep dive into French pop and Brazilian bossa nova.

Music was integral for me, but I never committed to it. At the beginning of every semester, I would walk past the student radio station and stare longingly, wishing I could work there. I could, of course. I still cannot put a finger to why I never filled out an application to DJ there. It was one of many self-imposed deprivations I put myself through in order to prove my seriousness to some non-existent audience. I was a heat-seeking missile searching for things that were relevant and important, not pleasure-inducing. I did not know then that important need not always be at cross-purposes with important to me. So I absorbed music, went to shows on and outside campus, made playlists for friends, and argued passionately with friends about the best bands and artists in different genres. But nothing more. In deciding to be a writer, I had chosen my art. The time had come, I had thought to myself, to set aside all other childish things.

The year that I moved to DC, my iPod soundtracked midnight walks around Capitol Hill and Chinatown, weekend afternoons in used bookstores and cafes in Eastern Market, long walks from the train station to capoeira classes. I was fortunate to have some friends who lived in the area, but with the “real world” comes new concerns, and everything — from work to rent to even just making your way home after a night out — had a different weight. I was still learning what it meant to be far away from home and responsible for myself, and understanding the freedom and limits of that aloneness. Music, unlike pretty much everything else, was predictable and familiar. My headphones and iPod were both armour and frame, preserving my solitude while easing me into the daily hum of my adult life. There was, I learned, no need to choose between one or the other. Learning to be alone with one of my favorite things to share with people taught me how to be myself and made it clear to me that there as no need to choose my art. I learned how to love all things.

Over time, my iPod’s slick silver back roughened with scratches from spending too long in pockets or purses, being thrown in with sets of keys, being rubbed against the edges of debit cards or the surface of phones. I never bought a case for my beloved iPod, but that is no testament to my deep affection for it. No, you do not get to judge me for that. In my solemn defense, I offer this: Love is not love that does not trust in its loved one’s ability to weather the storm. There is a way you love something that you believe can chug along without your presence. It is the difference between love for a lover and love for, say, a child. And when you love someone — of even something — that needs you, it changes the quality of the entire thing. Yes, I will be responsible for charging my beloved iPod and, within reason, making sure he works. But that’s it. With the exception of a child, whatever you love should not need your constant attention and presence. It should be responsible, like a plant in the wild, for its own water and sunlight.

Come on. New Edition sang “Baby, can you stand the rain?” for this very reason. Don’t argue with New Edition.


Technology does not typically stir me in any particular way. I have never waited in line to buy anything. I know nothing of the rush to own something, even when it was possible to pay slowly by virtue of phone plans and installment payments. This has only worsened in Nigeria, where one pays full price for a new unlocked phone. There are, of course, still people who do this in Nigeria and I marvel at their commitment to newness and innovation.

But even for casual observers of the emerging tech world like myself, I get a sense of being passed by. My old Dell laptop crashed in 2012 when I moved back to Nigeria, and I lost all my old music, except what I had managed to put on iPod. I did not sync my iPod with my new computer at first because there was nothing to update my music with, but also because I did not want to lose what I had. I would eventually, of course, but there is really no need to rush the inevitable. I realized that my iPod held a musical record far deeper and richer that one that I could replicate, from the oldies to new-ish, and perhaps even a musical record of where I have been and am going. It’s “oldness” imbued it with an ability to transport me in a way the contemporariness of my current devices do not. Jazmin Sullivan’s Fear of Flying comes on, and I am transported to the morning rush to the train station in Hongdae in Seoul when that album was in constant rotation. An Ursula Rucker track with King Britt takes me back to conversations about hip-hop on a campus in Accra with a now-deceased friend from Philadelphia who couldn’t believe I had even heard of Ursula Rucker. Talib Kweli’s Reflection Eternal reminds me of a bus ride with friends from Akure to Lagos after a weekend at a wedding in Otukpo. I take deep pride in my music collection, and one could always download these wonderful albums again, but — and I know what this sounds like — it’s really not the same. Even the process of syncing music from a laptop to a device carried with it some anticipation that I simply do not get anymore. Among the electronic stacks of 64GB of music lies its personality; on shuffle, it gives both nostalgia and surprise. Sometimes a song plays that I may have forgotten I had ever heard, and I would wonder what song that was and how the hell it got in there. I might even get the name, find it on Apple Music and put it on my phone, closing the gap between my then and my now just a little.


The iPod has already died an earlier death, having been discontinued in 2014. Last week, I read that Apple had discontinued the iPod Nano and Shuffle. Both of these deaths were quiet, with no fanfare. Neither of these were as resonant an ending as playing my iPod in the market as I decide between sweet or Irish potatoes and it going dead in one ear. The volume had gotten markedly lower in the past few years so it was not inconceivable that perhaps the outside noise was simply louder than my music, or that that maybe the headphones were not properly plugged in. But that wasn’t it, of course.

I have now accepted the death of my musical record. I kiss my iPod’s cold metal like Rose kissed Jack Dawson’s hand in Titanic before letting him slip below the water. Goodbye, iPod. My musical journey continues on other platforms, with many a side-long glance to the past.

Occassional writer. Music lover. Book reader. Point-and-laugh-er. Doer of things.