Meet Captain Rugged, the creation of Nigerian musician Keziah
Jones. He is the inspiration for Jones's latest "blufunk" album
release and, unusually, the subject of a graphic novel published
along with it.
The idea, Jones says, is to show off Nigeria's premier city to
the outside world - as a place that is as arresting as Paris or
London, yet also transformed by unshared oil wealth into a
blight of shanty towns and homelessness.
"Nigeria is one of the fastest growing economies but none of
that is trickling down," Jones told Reuters in a telephone
interview. "The Captain Rugged project was really an attempt to
put something on the map about Lagos in a way that could be
understood by non-Nigerians."
The captain of the novel and album is an army officer said to be
absent without leave from his patrol in the Niger Delta - the
hub of Nigeria's oil business. Now in Lagos, he fights with
almost super-human strength against corrupt police and
"He will look at all the pollution and death and say, 'What do I
do?'" Jones said.
Rugged's first intervention in the novel is to stop police
officers Godbless and Lucky from beating up a street urchin
pickpocket called Jetlag. Young Jetlag is so impressed that he
joins the local chapter of the Lagos Recovering Criminals
This and similar developments upset the powers that be - army
generals and rich politicians - who worry that the poor are
becoming so demanding "some of them are even asking for
The book, drawn by Lagos-based Native Maqari from Jones's story,
is graphically dark but witty. It will be released in Nigeria as
a series of comics, more in line with the country's tradition.
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Captain Rugged is more than just a graphic novel, however. He is
also the hero and title of Jones's album - an appropriate melange of
African, American and European roots that the musician dubs "blufunk".
"I play the guitar like percussion," he explains. "It's blues. It's
funk. It's rhythmic. It's Afro."
It is here that we learn in decidedly funky rifts about Rugged and
the society he lives in.
"From the stars I came/Don't know who you've been serving/Well, I've
been surviving/An Afro-superhero/The only one who knows how to
Other songs touch on Nollywood - the Nigerian film industry, on
laughter, on how traditionalism can be submerged by modernism, and
on how Nigeria's "utopia" has only the fleeting "life of a
Jones says his music style for these songs is dictated by the lyrics
or message that the songs hold. "I deliberately try to write as
broad as I can," he said. "If a song calls for rock, it is rock. If
it calls for folk it is folk."
Jones and Captain Rugged begin a European tour in March, with stops
in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Britain.
There are plans for U.S. concerts towards the end of the year.
(Editing by Michael Roddy/Mark Heinrich)
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