Who’s the king of soul music?

by Demi Ibaro

Over the years, the fledgling Nigerian mainstream music front has witnessed numerous forms of metamorphosis. Starting from days when sampling acclaimed numbers by foreign acts was the in-thing in the late 90s to having Nigerian acts win international awards for original works and collaborating with global acts within a perceived short time frame of about a decade. Within this relatively short period, not only have different acts dominated at short intervals, more surprisingly different genres of music have also championed the airwaves at different times. Music enthusiasts have been forced to have an all-time favorite Nigerian mainstream music playlist to include artists that are many notes apart. Fans that were all out for Daddy Showkey’s Galala sound in the 90s now have Banky W’s ‘Strong Thing’ as their ringtones.

The apparent genre attention deficit amongst majority of music lovers have not only caused that most Nigerian artists now prefer to record cross genre albums, it has caused music pundits to argue that music is scientific.

A growing genre

This can be credited for the new kind of music that appears to be warming its way into the hearts of Nigerian music lovers. Although not a particularly new type of music in the country as singer Asa has pulled through twice, Neo Soul or Alternative Soul music continue to get impressive acceptance and garner more fans. Two earlier identified talents in this genre, Timi and Bez, recently debuted with full bodies of works, ‘Beautiful Noise’ and ‘Super Sun’ respectively, to rave reviews.

Born Timi Dakolo, Timi, as he’s simply known, sets an enviable record in the maiden edition of the musical reality talent hunt television show, Idols West Africa, in 2007, after spending 13 weeks without getting into the bottom three and emerging winner with an Idol franchise record of 63 percent votes.

Competing closely with Timi in the genre is the Nasarawa State born singer from the Cobams Asuquo Music Productions imprint, Bez Idakula. Working his way gradually into public consciousness since his relocation to Lagos in 2007 playing regularly at the open-mic show Taruwa organized by his sister Lydia Idakula.

Different sides of a coin

Although both Timi and Bez appear to be gunning in the same direction musically, they almost appear to have nothing in common. While the 2007 Idols West Africa winner’s strength lies mostly in his sometimes husky and captivating voice, Bez embodies a total fusion of artistic delivery with an emotional personality that rides perfectly with his girly look. It is absolutely interesting to hear both artists carve out different sounds within the same genre of music while lacing beats produced by the same genius, Cobams Asuquo. While Bez mostly ply the Ballard route telling stories emotionally with silky and smooth delivery, Timi opted to adopt a more urbane panache to his sounds with a little bit of attitude.

Furthermore, Timi’s sound is better infused with percussions that are relatively more indigenous and familiar within the Nigerian mainstream circle than Bez whose Soul sound appears to be unadulterated. Also, while the feel good elements of Timi’s sound are emphasized, Bez’s music tends to soak up listeners more, drawing them into a subconscious imaginative state while probably only bumping their heads.

The God in the detail

Also the Bez story is always told with a touch of strong determination, hard work and extraordinary dexterity at wielding his guitar, while Timi is believed to have been plagued by complacency, attitude and a little bit of ill luck. Timi appears to have made very little of the opportunity he was presented coming from one of the biggest musical platform, Idols, while Bez seems to have made the most of a lesser platform of the Hennessy Artistry stage in the 2009 installment of the show.

In 2010 as Bez appears to pushing the pedal to the floor on his career, and opening shows for big acts while creating a perfect storybook image of “from grass to grace”, Timi was busy ‘throwing the toys out of the pram’ and sulking for not getting the promised recording contract with Sony BMG for winning the Idols in 2007.

Another point worthy of note in the careers of both singers is their reported level of professionalism and attitude to work. Lola Okusami wrote about Bez, “The 28-year-old performer from Karu, Nasarawa State, is possibly one of the hardest working artists in the music industry” while the story has been of Timi jumping from different management companies to another. In early 2010, tales of a fallout with his manger Abimbola Ayorinde is credited for further delay in the release of his debut album which was now released recently under the supervision of Now Music.

With both albums currently enjoying rave reviews critically and the genre of music already proven to be acceptable within the Nigerian entertainment circle as seen in Asa’s LPs, it is now only a matter of time before music enthusiast can tell who will reign at the zenith with Asa as the crowned king of Nigerian neo soul music front.


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