We like to complain.
Pop music is in a rut. Everything on the radio sounds the same. Bland, monotonous, repetitive. Pop stars don’t know how to make any music that isn’t shoki laced- Shoki of course, standing in for whatever is hot at the moment. The people that promote these artistes and their songs do not know enough to boil water and the radio jockeys that encourage them by providing generous airplay cannot see past their collective greed.
Maybe we are right, maybe not.
Whatever the case, it is not all doom and gloom. There is still good music to be found out there. Maybe not on Top 20 urban radio but somewhere out there. One only needs to know where to look. In need of direction? Try the New Nigerian Boys (NNB), an ensemble fusion band fronted by Oluwadamilare Akinyede, a sound engineer/producer and Michael Oloyede, a drummer.
The music of NNB is at once a pleasant surprise and welcome departure from the madding crowd of pop music. The band’s debut album Ise ise mu kan is a furious blend of jazz, gospel and afro-soul with a dash of modern hip hop. At 11 tracks long, it knows exactly where to quit and does not overstay its welcome for a single moment.
Akinyede and Oloyede may be the frontmen of the group (a picture of the duo is on the disc’s back cover), but they are no jack of all trades. They embrace their role as show runners and stick to the instrumental and producing aspects while a variety of guest stars do the vocal heavy lifting on tracks that require such.
Gospel singer Titi Oloyede serves as lead vocalist on the title track and album’s lead single. With her thin, breathy delivery, she warns of the errors that lie in procrastinating. Like the finest jazz records, the thrust of the record lies not so much in the singing as does in the arrangement of the production, highlighted finely in the final minutes by a stellar guitar turn by Philip Uzo.
Oloyede lends her voice to other tracks like the love song, Grin grin, the life affirming, You can make it, an up tempo number that swells into marching drums and chants as well as the stunning Leke leke, a swirly contemplation in moody, indigenous folklore. Akinsola brings earnest affection to Lion’s gladness while Reigny Franklin leads the team that delivers the pride song, I’m from Africa. A popular kiddies chant is even revisited on the playful, My name is.
Affirming its genre status, some of the record’s best entries (So good, Morning star) require almost no singing at all and where there is singing, consists only a bit part of the overall song. But there is hardly a dull moment on Ise ise mu kan as the superb blend of intoxicating instrumentation- all bass drums, guitars and saxophone- from a band that appears to be in sync at every waking moment marries seamlessly with a hardworking production team that delivers the thrills on every level.
Ise ise mu kan is the kind of record that you listen to and wonder why more of this kind of music isn’t being made. It is music that goes down smoothly and can easily be brought alive on stage as it can be played on car stereos and home studios. If there is a demerit of the album, it is probably that it fires at a slow burn the entire running time and does not quite explode into white hot supernova.
But not all records have to explode in such a way. With its sweet, innocent blend of fine indigenous African sounds with western inclinations, Ise ise mukan celebrates the beauty of team work over individual display and elevates it to a subtle, bubbly art form.
Who says there isn’t good music out there? Now you know where to look.
– Wilfred Okiche (@drwill20)