Beautiful Nubia, the alternative artiste and folk hero returns for his twelfth studio merry go round with 2016’s Taabaku, an engaging rich tapestry of sounds that mines the author’s roots in Apala, folklore, Jazz and storytelling.
Sung in (almost) equal parts Yoruba and English, Taabaku which Beautiful Nubia recorded with his long time Roots Renaissance band plays at times like a cautionary tale, an admonition to stay on the straight and narrow side of life no matter what comes.
Taabaku by Beautiful Nubia and the Roots Renaissance Band comes at you gently and tentatively, shorn of the catchy melodies that characterised last year’s Soundbender. The music is full of life, lush, swirls and encircles even the most unconvinced of listeners, drawing a silent surrender at the end of the record’s playing time.
Beautiful Nubia’s voice serves his kind of music suitably. His influences are steeped in poetry, tradition and oral methods of communicating. As such, he tries for spoken word at some moments and then breaks out vocally, stretching his soft baritone the next, before retreating into the comfort of the instrumentals from his tightly knit band.
The instrumentation on opening number, Eda plays for a full minute before Beautiful Nubia and his back up dancers deign to speak any words and even then, the song only has a brief refrain going for it in terms of vocal structure. It doesn’t matter, Eda is still as interesting as anything Beautiful Nubia has put out in the past. The title track takes a similar tack but this time goes all the way into soothing Afro jazz territory
Serene and deeply lyrical, Taabaku gets into your skin and crawls beneath. Not all love songs have to be silly as Beautiful Nubia proves on Lady of the Valley that a love song can be both relatable and meaningful. Part love letter, part travelogue, Lady of the Valley breathes with atmosphere, recalling a serene Moroccan holiday.
Life lessons are there to be learned on Colour of All Days, and timely too, as the whole world grapples with the potential nature of a Trump presidency in America. Mr Nubia uses the oral storytelling structure to preach about racial (in)equality and sings with a lot of power in his choice of words, Love is the colour of all days/all other colours are for occasions/somewhere just beyond the skin, everyone is the same. Bobbi’s way urges patience and the need to do the right thing never minding how appealing shortcuts may appear.
A great portion of the songs are done in folksy Yoruba dialects but it matters little as Taabaku easily crosses the language barrier and opens itself to multiple interpretations. Deceptively stark and rich in its modesty, a lot of effort and mastery of craft has been put into making this record. Beautiful Nubia’s genius lies in making it all seem effortless, like it all came together on a lazy, breezy evening.
For the newcomers, now is as good a time as any to be initiated into the immersive sounds of Beautiful Nubia and the Roots Renaissance Band. For the cult members, Taabaku represents another wondrous slice of real life.
Artist: Beautiful Nubia and the Roots Renaissance Band