Album review: 9ice, from Bariga boy to Bashorun Gaa

by Wilfred Okiche

“Once you hit the play button, you keep going as every track is a potential favourite.”

 

‘Bashorun Gaa’ is one half of the double albums released by folk singer, 9ice- the other half is ‘Versus’ where he does battle with some of the biggest names in the music industry. Together they constitute his fourth album and first since his 2009 ‘Tradition’ release. Not bad for a boy who grew up on the streets of Bariga.

‘Tradition’ produced hits like ‘No be mistake’, ‘Energy’ and on it, 9ice had collaborations with two of Africa’s finest soul divas, Asa and Nneka but yet some critics dismissed it as featherweight just because it did not achieve the commercial success of it’s predecessor, his breakout album, ‘Gongo Aso’.

I believe an artist can go their whole career and never replicate the success of one particular monster record but that does not take anything away from their achievements. Whitney Houston did not put out another record as iconic as her signature tune, ‘I will always love you’ but it does not make her any less of the legend that she is. She had dozens of mega hits after. 2face cannot claim to have had another ‘African queen’ but he is still ‘the’ 2face and we love him just the same.

Which brings us back to ‘Bashorun Gaa.’ It begins with the super confident ‘Pace Setter’ where he establishes the fact that he is still around and any thoughts of doom you entertained are just in your head. He enlists rapper, Vector (the sole musical guest on the album) who drops a tantalizing verse, ‘’I’m not insane when I’m the sickest/but rap is ill so keep your well wishes.’’ This one has broad appeal!

There were enough producers on this record to make it happen , from TY Mix and Ceepho to  Spellz, and Sossick, these were just some of the henchmen recruited and it is to their credit- as well as the artiste’s that they came up with such a strong cohesive unit.

Once you hit the play button, you keep going as every track is a potential favourite. A budding DJ could make an entire playlist out of the album for his street party. Which is not suggesting this is one for the locals only. Even though you might not understand what he is talking when he switches into his dialect, his rough husky voice ropes you in and you find comfort in the traditional instruments  and idioms he employs generously. And for those who actually understand him, it is double the pleasure as the gift of an artiste like 9ice goes beyond a particular genre.

We understand enough to know that ‘Everyday’ is a smooth love letter to a girl, while ‘’33 10’ relates his resilience to the classic Nokia phone which in his words: ‘O jabo, ko fo’. ‘Simple Strategy’ is a stand out track that invokes legends like Fela and Ayinde Barrister, his next single; ‘Adigun Ojunwo’ lo’ is a groovy melodious tune that will keep you on you feet.

All of these tracks are up-tempo, highlife infused numbers and when he slows things down a bit in ‘Don’t go’, he delivers a standout that is at once simple in arrangement and complex in meaning.

But the record is far from perfect. At eighteen tracks, it is way too long and would have made more impact if he left it at 13. The last few tracks begin to bore and the closing track, ‘Buje Budanu’ a praise- chant to the money men has no place in the arrangement. He drops lines like: ‘’Dangote you are the only rich farmer I know’’ much to the listener’s dismay.

History teaches that ‘Bashorun Gaa’ was the most powerful Prime Minister of the old Oyo Empire. He dethroned four consecutive Alaafins before surrendering to the fifth. The title is at once apt and misleading. While 9ice is not dethroning any king soon (indeed, he is not in competition with the reigning pop acts), he is coming into his own as a powerful prime minister, quiet but effective, with the potential of surviving longer than most artists around today. His is a talent to be supported and as long as he makes music as good as this, we’ll always pledge allegiance.

 

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