Bez Idakula is a changed man.
In an Instagram post chronicling his humble beginnings and to herald his latest project, The Light, an 11-tracker, he wrote: “I realized that this journey was never just about me, but much more about others…I realized that the success of other people are [sic] tied to me. If I fail to reach the peak of my potential, I will deny many that would have come up through me. This changed my life…”
Such lofty aspirations, but why begrudge a man—and a great singer at that—what he sets his priorities as? And if tucked within the folds of those aspirations is good music, then all the better.
Bez’s last project was in 2016. The album, Gbagyi Child, though boasting a broader soundscape from 2011’s superb Super Sun, often floundered under the weight of its own ambitions. In the same Instagram post mentioned earlier, Bez made a startling confession: “I recorded ‘Gbagyi Child’ in 2013 but it took 3 years to release it. I had moved on from the music cos it didn’t connect with me…I was not inspired and I questioned the zeal to be and strive for more.”
That admission will resonate with most people: the dark, blurry days when all we see and know are problems, limitations, regrets, heart break, grief. When all we seek and crave is light.
On the album opener, ‘Better Days’, Bez preaches optimism whilst delivering his verses in an uncharacteristic patois; he urges the listener to not retreat and surrender.
‘High’, first released in 2017, follows in the same vein. It’s a jubilant tune of thumping drums and rousing singing.
On the nostalgic ‘Beauty’, Bez enlists the services of Lagos-based Highlife Fusion band The Cavemen to remind listeners that “beauty is coming our way.”
As regards the past and current issues that continue to bedevil the Nigerian polity, every artist has felt the pressing need to drop their two cents. Bez is no different. But what he does differently—and successfully—is to look inward and present a truer version of how we are all complicit in our quagmire.
“Guns are blazing in the day now/Bombs are blowing up the night/Children taken while they’re sleeping/While everybody looks away/I look away o/I look away,” he wails on ‘Look Away’. A reminder—or reprimand, if you like—that nothing changes unless we begin to do something, and most importantly, the right things.
Journeying through Bez’s discography, there’s always love, of the romantic kind, waiting to be bumped into. And on The Light, there are quite a few delicate and delightful ones.
‘Far Away’ channels Fela as Bez sings longingly about a loved one separated from him by distance. ‘Go Go Go’ is a playful, highlife-flavoured number. With his typical soothing voice, Bez promises lasting love on the earworm ‘Dey for You’.
The album comes to an end with a track that shares the same title as the album. It’s a lyric-less, only drums-and-electric-guitars groovy tune lasting four minutes and few seconds.
It’s fair to assume Bez wanted to make a statement with the track: He has sung enough words—pulled you gently through protest and love and optimism—and if still, you fail to get the message, he’d reiterate, this time eschewing words: he has gotten his groove back.
Artist: Bez Idakula
Album: The Light
Label, Year: Supersun, 2019