by Wilfred Okiche
Bez Idakula wowed the world with Supersun, his Cobhams Asuquo produced 2011 debut disc that made the case at the time for a wider embrace of broader musical tastes and at the same time, supplied proof that a different kind of alternative music exists, one that is rooted in home culture and created to be performed live.
Five years later and Bez is back with Gbagyi Chid, an eloquently expressed product of musical introspection that reveals the growth of both the man and the musician at the centre of the project. In the years in between his albums, Bez has hit the road touring and performing in spaces around the globe, gotten married and started a family, and he brings to bear all of these experiences in crafting Gbagyi Child.
Swirling, expressive, poetic, lush and bursting to the seams with its influences, Gbagyi Child is that record you didn’t know you needed, a warm embrace and homage to growing up. The disc houses some of Bez’s most impressive song writing and he stretches himself, perhaps in the ever conscious bid to stake out more fans for himself.
On You suppose know, a groovy, doo-woopy jubilant letter of reiteration to an insecure loved one that was earlier serviced to radio, Bez records in Pidgin English and for the remix, he invites Yemi Alade to brush up his street credentials and help him make the cross over more effectively. This is a move that is understandable but not exactly necessary. If to say starts out with melodious drums and Bez starts out with English before launching into Pidgin for the chorus. In structure, If to say plays like a companion piece to You suppose know, and has Bez pining for a love interest instead.
For the loyal ones who have stuck by his side the last half decade, there is the lukewarm but catchy My Baby, the album’s lead single and the slow burn of There’s a fire, a high water mark that surely represents some of the best recording the Gbagyi child has ever had the honour of doing.
So much is being made of Bez’s pilgrimage to his roots, Karu in Nasarawa state precisely, where he and his producer, Cobhams Asuquo documented live musicians at work in their attempt to capture the sound and spirit of the region.
Proof of these journeys are littered all over the album, but never more so than on the closer, Home to Gbagyi. Here Bez cannot quite help himself as he conjures up a world of sand and dust and paints an indelible portrait of what home must be like for him. The lyrics may veer into poetic sap (everybody has a smile/and crying is for the little child) as he appreciates the lure of rural communities but the instrumentation on the song is top notch. The sounds of drums, flutes and piano strings complement Bez’s clear, affecting vocal presence. Zamuce is fun, fast and just a bit schizophrenic as it switches gears gradually, till Bez is stretching his voice to its limit while keeping up with the ever rising fever pitch of the recording.
What isn’t advertised as much is that the record is really an alternative/soft rock confection that pays homage to the oughties, a period when the genre was in full bloom. Breathe, the duet with fast rising Simi is a soothing, guitar heavy breath of fresh air that blows so gently, it feel like home. Hold you down quietly recalls The Lumineers’ Grammy winning Ho Hey and is expected to elicit positive responses at live performances.
Speaking of live performances, Eternity is as stadium arena rock as can be done in these parts, with its marching band drums, background chants and refrains of Eternity be mine. Just for Mary is recorded in the style of jazz standards of old and Bez is in terrific form as he situates himself comfortably in the material and excels easily.
The influences that Gbagyi Child borrows from are pretty obvious but what the record lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in terms of execution, faithfulness to source material and Bez’s burning, compulsive desire to express himself in the most professional of terms. There are no half measures here and with Cobhams Asuquo masterminding the creative process, this comes as no surprise. Gbagyi Child is music done the way it should be, the way you’d forgotten it could be done.