Writer in Residence


By Yejide Kilanko

Welcome back. Today, I am talking about magic, soul-stirring musical magic.

My idea of a relaxing evening is these achy feet raised on my dependable ottoman, a big mug of hot milky tea nestled in my hands, while good, good music plays in the background. It is level ten bliss.

Depending on the night, what’s playing could be Afrobeat, jazz, the blues, rap, R&B, country music, or any song with the right combination of lyrics and chords to pluck the strings of my soul. I did mention in my previous post that I also write poetry.

Music is not just my safe space. It is the only constant in my writing process. The songs I usually have on repeat as I work on my outlines or write set the tone for my stories. They transport my characters and me to where we must be by evoking the necessary emotions.

For example, if the character I’m spending time with has to be in a joyful mood, I need an upbeat tune. For that, my Afrobeat songs haven’t failed me yet. You can’t listen to Afrobeat without wanting to shake a body part. Trust me.

When love’s shenanigans are brewing, bring on the ballads. And when my characters find themselves face down in the pit of despair, I need a song that inspires pathos. That list is endless.

I thought it would be lovely to share the writing soundtrack for my brand-new novel, A Good Name. From conception to publication, the book’s journey took eleven years.

“I’d Rather Go Blind” was the song on constant replay as I wrote. It’s a blessing I got a publishing deal when I did. By then, the inhabitants of Casa Kilanko, bless their patient hearts, were begging for a new song.

Some songs shaped certain scenes, while others helped with creating a vibe. The Igbo classic, “Love Nwantinti,” is the backdrop for a poignant scene between mother and child, while “With You I’m Born Again” aptly captures a deep ache. “Ada Nandini” showcases Igbo tradition. The official music video is a treat.

For those yet to read A Good Name, here’s the book description:

Twelve years in America, and Eziafa Okereke has nothing to show for it. Desperate to re-write his story, Eziafa returns to Nigeria to find a woman he can mould to his taste. Eighteen-year-old Zina has big dreams. An arranged marriage to a much older man isn’t one of them. Trapped by family expectations, Zina marries Eziafa, moves to Houston, and trains as a nurse. Buffeted by a series of disillusionments, the couple staggers through a turbulent marriage until Zina decides to change the rules of engagement.

• I’d Rather Go Blind by Etta James
• 911 by Wyclef Jean featuring Mary J. Blige
• Love Nwantinti by Nelly Uchendu
• All I Want Is You by Banky W & Chidinma
• I Gotta Feeling by The Black-Eyed Peas
• Life Is A Highway by Rascal Flatts
• Book of Job by Nneka
• Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars
• Can’t Help Falling In Love by Kina Grannis
• Biri Ka Mbiri by Oliver De Coque.
• With You I’m Born Again by Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright
• Ada Ada by Flavour
• Turn Your Lights Down Low by Bob Marley and Lauren Hill
• Shekere by Yemi Alada and Angelique Kidjo

You can access the playlist on YouTube by clicking on this link: A Good Name - Yejide's playlist - YouTube


The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Yejide Kilanko was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, and lives in Ontario, Canada, where she practices as a social worker. Kilanko’s debut novel, Daughters Who Walk This Path, is a Canadian national bestseller. The novel was longlisted for the 2016 Nigeria Literature Prize. Kilanko’s work includes a novella, Chasing Butterflies (2015), and two children’s picture books, There Is An Elephant in My Wardrobe (2019) and Juba and the Fireball (2020). You can find Kilanko’s short fiction on Brittle Paper, Joyland, New Orleans Review Issue 43, 2017: The African Literary Hustle, and Agbowó. Her latest novel, A Good Name, is out now. When she’s not busy with life, you’ll find Kilanko online playing simultaneous games of Scrabble.