My Music, My Words, My Fists
By Geoffy G
Theophilus Onyenaturuchi George was born in the village of Akwete, Nigeria on the 2nd of October in 1984. Theophilus later became known as Geoffy G – the name he is known as now that he has started his career as a Music Artist. After a regular childhood with warm and fond memories of life and family in Nigeria, Geoffy’s positive impression of the world was soon due to change as he made the migrant, language, culture and climate change through puberty in The Netherlands. The transition from adolescence to manhood was extremely hectic – and the circumstances and experiences which sequentially unfolded in numerous dramatic and emotional events has scaffolded this young man into the apathetic, talented and inspiring musical artist he is today.
This is his story.
For the first of his life, Geoffy lived in a small village in Akwete with his mother Catherine (Nane), his grandmother Constance and his two younger brothers – Emos and Daniel, and two older brothers – Charles and Emanuell. Sleeping together in a hut made of clay, straw and wood; Geoffy felt privileged. He was able to go to school to get an education – and he enjoyed learning very much.
‘I can still remember walking everyday from my village to school with my best friend and some of the other school boys and girls. We had to walk a few miles together before reaching the school, which meant we walked the same distance again back home after school – but we never complained. We knew we were very lucky to have the opportunity to go to school’.
When Geoffy’s grandmother Constance passed away, Nane – Geoffy’s mother decided to move to The Netherlands for a better life with her sons. She wanted to be close to her younger sister Rita, who had already been living there for some time. Since their mother had passed away, Rita was strong and keeping the family together. Sisters Catherine and Rita had always been very close, as they were the only daughters of Constance. In Holland, Rita and her husband Bart lived with her son from Africa – Ngozi. Rita, Bart and Ngozi have a special relationship where Bart has embraced him as his own child.
Life continued as per usual, but then all of a sudden, on what was an ordinary day, ‘I can remember my mother calling my brothers and I into the hut so that she could talk with us. She asked us if we would like to go and live in Holland. My brothers and I were stuck for words – we were unanimously quieted. I had been waiting for this day for so long, but now that it was here I had second thoughts. I felt sad about leaving Nigeria – my home, my culture and my country. But maybe it was because of the thought of that moving to Holland would bring us less pain – Holland would be a fresh start without death.
For the destined family that had lived in a small village in Nigeria for their whole lives, the journey by airplane to Holland seemed forever endless. This was the first time they had flown up into the sky, away from Africa, and away from everything they knew. As their ears popped with the change of pressure in the air upon taking off and then again when landing, they knew that life would be very different in The Netherlands. After 9-long-nervous hours flight, the George family landed at Schiphol airport, Amsterdam. In the Arrival hall, Rita, Bart and Ngozi (who were dressed in t-shirts and shorts like they had just come back from the Bahamas) greeted us with much joy. I was tired and shocked at how they could be standing there with no jacket – but then as I breathed in more of Dutch air – I realized that it was summer – and that we were the ones out of place in our thick winter clothing. Rita dressed me in the jacket that she wasn’t wearing which was a relief… but even then, I was still cold!! What had we come to? The air felt different here.
Trying to ignore the goose bumps, next came an unexpectedly emotional moment – my mother and my aunt hugged each other – so very tight – and that moment was incomprehensively priceless. With a little warmth in my cheeks now, this was the reason we travelled so far – and having embraced in a teary reunion – it finally felt like we had arrived.
Upon arriving in Amsterdam, the Dutch Government decides that George family will reside in a refugee house in Eindhoven. It was here where Geoffy made friends with a special girl. Ria lived next door, and as his neighbor she was the one who showed Geoffy around the neighborhood and school. They played a lot together and hung out together all the time. In this, his first year in Holland, Geoffy found it difficult to speak the Dutch language, so he and Ria spoke together in English. However, he wasn’t too enthusiastic about learning the Dutch language either – which rendered him an easy prey for racist bullies.
They would call him names in Dutch, but he couldn’t understand them. Ria always stood up for him. Geoffy’s mother Nane wasn’t happy in Eindhoven so she decided to pack up the family and move in with her sister in Katwijk aan zee. But in this town too, Geoffy is also picked on by bullies. They called him names about his dark skin, but now Geoffy had succumbed to the Dutch language and could understand them. He often took it up with the bullies and learned how to defend his self with words. It was in this period that his relationship with his nephew Ngozi became tightly bound. After a little while, Nane had met a Dutch man named Sip from Bergen in North Holland and she decides to move in with him. Sip has two children as well of his own, Sipke and Jessica. Both the five sons of Nane and the son and daughter of Sip had to live together, so it was lucky that they got along like a symphony orchestra.
Not long after, I started at the junior high school in Bergen, at the Lucebertschool. I told myself that I would defend myself from the very beginning at my new school, instead of waiting for bullies to come to me. So I did just that. Too many memories of the negative experiences I had endured at the other school not so long ago had taught me that I never wanted to feel that way again. So when the bullies started teasing me, I would defend myself with words. I managed to do that for quite some time, however luckily for me – it turns out – I wasn’t much of a match for the older kids. They were bigger and stronger than me both physical as mentally. There was no way that I could stand up to them.
After comfortably settling into life in The Netherlands, life was to take another dip in the other direction. When Geoffy turned 8 years old, the George family receives a letter that states that the Dutch Government is now deporting his mother, he and his brothers back to Nigeria. Saying goodbye to the familiar faces who he was leaving so soon, it was very hard and melancholy for the George family. Holland had become their new home with family and nice friends and now.
Geoffy and his family had to leave almost immediately. They packed, and then they left. When they returned to Nigeria, Geoffy oddly kept on speaking the Dutch language that he was so resistant to learn in the first place. He didn’t want to forget the vocabulary. His friends in Nigeria are very curious about the Dutch language and Geoffy teaches them a few words.
Then of a sudden – the greatest tragedy of all – Geoffy’s second eldest brother Emanuel dies in Nigeria. Fueled by emotion, Geoffy grieves independently.. and writes a lot of lyrics for his music. The death left a deep mark and made a big impression on Geoffy G. ‘In my heart Emanuel was and is my beloved brother. He was a significant role model for me, because I never had met with my father. Emanuel loved music and used to sing with me . He enjoyed life and always took care of me. I wanted to be just like him! One of the reasons I aspired to be a musician. I cherish the warm thoughts I have about my brother. He inspires me still until this day.
Emanuell and Charles George
And then, another turn of events.
Not even 6 months after settling back down in Nigeria, Geoffy and his family are allowed to return to Holland. So happy that they can go back to The Netherlands, Nane and Sip got married and the two families are reunited once again.
Autumn came, followed by Winter. The leaves had just fallen from the trees, and the first snow started to fall delicately from the sky. It was here where puberty kicked in and decided to disagree with the adolescent Geoffy, taking control of his body. He had all kinds of questions that nobody around him could answer.
Besides that, the other Dutch children were still picking on me. I can recall coming back home after school one day, my eyes and throat filled with tears. As those stupid slimy tears of salt crept down the back of my throat, I told my mother that the children were calling me an ape. From that day on my mother too was fed up with all of these racist activities. She already went to school several times to talk with the teachers about it, but they didn’t take action. From that day on my mother told me that if my words couldn’t stop the children from picking on me, that I could use my fists to teach them a lesson the hard way. The next day, she took me to school and repeated every word she told me in front of the teachers.
This sparked a new and very different period of my life. Verbal fights turned into physical fights with my fists. I kept on winning these fights, and this was a great motivation for me. I had a new and for sure solution for the bullies when words didn’t help me – my fists! The other children found me very tough, which motivated me even more to continue with this behavior. I’m not proud of what I did, but they didn’t leave any choice. And of course, my mother said approvingly: ‘knock them out.’
Already for one young boy, who had not even reached the age of double didgets – Geoffy had experienced so much. But this rollercoaster of emotions and events was not a ride for Geoffy – with every rise and dip he just wanted to get off – and live a normal life for a change.
At the age of 10, music became a passion in Geoffy’s life. He began to listen to Reggae and Rap music. He became enthralled with this influential infatuation, and Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur become his big heroes. Inspired by his mother, who sang in a church choir back in Nigeria with his older brother Charles; Geoffy decides to make his own music. He taped video clips he saw on MTV and TMF, and later on came The Box. He imitated the artists and researched their lyrics on the internet. He really took this serious and began to perform at school parties, School Festivals and even Fashion Shows as he grew older. Everybody loved his performances; even the teachers at the Bergen School community, where he was a student. ‘I selected aggressive lyrics from Tupac – purposely directing them at boys who were bullying me, and even at the teachers whom I didn’t like. Ha-ha! The best part of it was, that the people that I was paying out with my performance, even loved the performance most – I wonder if they noticed it.’
Just before Geoffy turned 17, his mother and Sip divorced. This became another obstacle in his life and they had to move again. Life at home was tough, but they managed to stayin Bergen (NH). The tough life was bearable, but for Geoffy, his life turned more grim: Geoffy begins to fight more often with his peers. He usually wins these fights, but that wasn’t the reason why he did it: ‘I fought for my honor and my name. To the ones who used discrimination as their weapon against me. I had my music, my words and my fists to defend me. If one of them wasn’t effective I used the other. And if that wasn’t effective, I would use the other. But it really got out of control. I turned from a lovely, gentle and quite boy into an intensely aggressive fuel pumped young man. People were afraid of me, but that’s how I made a lot of ‘friends’. It depends on what you call friends really, because fear isn’t a good basis for a friendship if you ask me’.
At this critical stage of his life Geoffy begins to smoke marijuana to ease the pain. Whenever he was high, the world seemed peaceful and he can communicate with his deceased brother Emanuel. Life was numb.
After quite some time alone with his green friend, Geoffy spends a lot of time with his notebook – hoping to transfer the raw emotion he felt into songs of the soul. The sorrow that had implanted itself in every nook and corner had released itself, and he finds happiness in the new friends he made in his home town of Bergen NH. These three friends became very close to him in a very short time: Joost, Omar and Laurens. Initially, Willy was his best friend.. They share the same emotions they’ve hidden deep inside and the intense passion for music. They perform together and Willy introduces him to Twan a.k.a. Big 2. Twan is the one who makes the beats while Willy is a lyricist. Together they form a duo that later one would become the famous collaboration called The Opposites. Geoffy, Willy and Twan often came together to make music. But they rarely performed together. Twan produces beats for Geoffy, but performing together was not a regular gig. Geoffy uses the beats layed down by Twan for his own repertoire and made an album.
Things are looking good, and with his reflection and experience, he now had a powerful library of lyrics to use in his music.
This album is his first of a few finished and Geoffy distributes copies of these amongst friends and family. In that same year he meets a man named Pabl Pablo. Hitting it off instantly they can got along very well and decide to work together making Music. Geoffy looks at the wall and sees a signs stuck up on there – for Holland’s Great Price, a national contest for independent and unsigned artists to win a record deal accompanied by national exposure. He shared the stage with D-Menn Entertainment, who later on became the famous duo Lange Frans (Tall Frans) en Baas B. But Geoffy wasn’t really ready musically to be compared with the ‘big boys’. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it to the final – but what an experience it was!
In the offset from the sudden influx of big gigs and big boys, Geoffy seemed to have found a good space to be in. On the surface, Geoffy was calm, cool and positive within himself., But deep inside, a little bird was pecking at me: déjàvu – and from there he fell back into the dull of life. So he switched focus from Music, and maintained his development as a street fighter. At home he became even more aggressive.
For a long time he and his mother would fight about the little things, pointless things that in the end didn’t even really matter. Lacking any motivation or enthusiasm, when his mother finally got fed up with him, she sends him to live with her sister Rita – Geoffy’s aunt – on the other side of town. ‘In the beginning I didn’t like it there, because my aunty was very strict in her expectation of behavior. But I didn’t have any choice – , I had to go and live with her without my mother, and without my brothers.”. This was real punishment.
Geoffy moves to Leiden with his aunt, and completes his senior high school years easily. Having remedied his problems through a new medium: meditation; intelligent rational and with a sense of inner peace – there was nothing left to distract himself from writing great volumes of lyrics. That year became very important to Geoffy – without using excuses, he redeemed his erratic bad habits. His new class mates were completely unaware of his history and they like him for the person he has now become. In their company he can be who he always wanted to be: himself… finally.
The drastic change of environment – sudden independence – calms him down and gives him the opportunity to think about life. It took a lot of time and effort, but he eventually gained the courage to put the evoked sudden switch of raw emotion that was spreading like a disease in his mind and body away, and consider what he was doing, before taking any action that was usually misguided by an impulse. Rarely, but on occasion, he found that some of the aggression would tease him from the inside. In these times, he channeled his energy into positive outcomes – by writing it all down – this time for his lyrics.
From this day forward, Theophilus was no longer confused, and also no longer answered to that name. Theophilus was the boy he was leaving behind, and he changed his name to the name that which his friends had bestowed upon him in Bergen, NH, Geoffy G.
After high school graduation Geoffy moved back to Bergen. There he attempts further Study Rights for 6 months, but discontinued as he became disinterested in the course. Autonomously using his new found problem solving skills and with firm motivation, he moved away from Bergen NH again to Nijmegen to pursue serious study in Social Work. He feels at home very quick in Nijmegen. The Social Work study suits him perfectly, and he enjoys his time here. So comfortable, he even had spare time to work on his music.
In Nijmegen he meets Mosqio – a band that plays a mixture of rock, funk, reggae and hip hop. They hit it of instantly and make plans to collaborate in a musical Endeavour. After a short time Geoffy became the front man for Mosqio. They play gigs through several states with highlights in 013 Tilburg and Doornroosje in Nijmegen. Later that year, Geoffy meets Firewoodz – African rappers from Angola and Sera Leon. He also keeps in touch with his close friends from the rap group The Opposites and he then also joined them to record a remix version of their chart hit track ‘Oew Oew’. Thankfully this all happened near towards the end of his Social Work study, which allowed him to warm up Holland for Geoffy G.
After I complete my study I would like to concentrate once more on my music.
Maintain Yourself is only the beginning.
Maintain Yourself is the official debut mini album from Geoffy G which features the lead track of the same name. Geoffy G uses hip hop and reggae to tell his story about a boy who came from a small village in Nigeria to urban Holland, where he was having difficulties to maintain himself from the physical and verbal aggression of his peers and the local community. His stories are those of whose fists became his best friends, and who eventually got the revelation that his strength is developed in is lyrics. ‘I found myself in time.’
Geoffy G pays homage to the influential artists who motivated him to maintain himself. Looking up to the artistic talent of Tupac, Geoffy G makes aggressive references in his hip hop tracks while the whispers of Bob Marley compliment Geoffy G’s more contemporary reggae tracks.
The music of Geoffy G is best described as diverse: ‘I call it African Music influenced by many underlying elements of Holland. I am, and always will be an African, even now having lived over 17 years now in Holland. Maintain Yourself tells those listening a true and honest story of the person I was once, and the person I prefer to be now. It examines the raw struggle with my demons – whom instead of letting it stand in the way, used them to push me down the appropriate path. …That is the path of ONE LOVE.’
Written by Sjoerd Kuijper.
1st translation by Geoffy George.
Supplement by Tammy van Rossum