I have been listening to Lagbaja’s new album, Africano. I had mentioned him in one of my previous post. His new work is the rave of the moment in Nigeria. He has, inter alia, consolidated his position as one of the most creative music genius Nigeria has seen since the days of Fela Kuti. He is consistently raising the standard of Nigerian music.
I have heard him talked about this album in an interview he gave few years ago. In which he claims to define his erstwhile unclassifiable style of music with this release. However, having listened to it several times, the style is still not without mystery similar to his characteristics facelessness.
From this work, Lagbaja confirmed lots of suspicion I have had of him. One of which is his feministic view. Through some of his earlier songs he had hinted on this. Although, he hasn’t sang in praise of womanhood, like Nico Mbarga’s popular ‘Sweet mother’, but he had used his lyrics to subtly fight against men’s domination over women. An example of such gentle but strong message is the line from the track Tokunbo; ‘ori e mama je o bawon foko tokunbo…….aloku okunrin’(From the album We, 2000), which indicates his sympathy for African women who are ostracised by the society (especially men) because the are divorced or widowed. Underlining these lyrics is Lagbaja’s deliberate attempt to indirectly hit at men’s ego in favour of women. Many Nigerian musicians would have gone the other way without blinking. In Africano, the track ‘Who Man?’ bluntly voiced his feminism philosophies in such a way and manner that will make organisations such as AWID proud of the song.
Also, Lagbaja confirmed in this album his strong Christian background. Despite being a top secular artiste in Nigeria, he unashamedly articulated his view about the Holy Spirit in the track ‘Emi Mimo Sokale’. The style in this track is very much like Nat ‘King’ Cole’s, yet with infusion of Yoruba culture. I love his use of the language, especially in expressions like….. ‘Be olojo o dekun kika, Ekolo iboji won nreti eran ara yi’. Superficially, one will think he was singing another gospel song; rather he was making a political statement about the nascent and unstable democracy in Nigeria. The marriage of style and culture in the track is breathtaking.
However the track putting his name on top of the chart, I presume, is ‘Never far away’. In my opinion, the quality of music that went into that track might take it to the Grammy. It’s a kind of song you want to continue to listen to on your ipod over and over again.
Although I agree with him that his music is more of African drums and ‘grooves’, but I think the sound of some of the drums are rather too heavy and almost over the top in some of the tracks. Songs like ‘shout’, which is a hip hop song had too much of ‘iya ilu’ (talking drum) on the background than necessary in my opinion. Apart from that, Lagbaja has used Africano to confirm his place in the heart of many Nigerians and his worldwide fans, as one of the best guy in Nigeria music scene.