In a world where the single has gained traction and upset the music industry’s devotion to the long playing album, the extended play album is fast becoming more fashionable, given its duration, timing and range.
Omawumi, arguably Nigerian’s most accomplished Afro-Soul singer, has blessed us yet again with new material, her first EP.
Coming behind her classic Jazz-inspired third album, “Timeless”, “In Her Feelings” seems to riff off the Drake song for its title, although this is where similarities end.
With seven tracks cumulatively lasting four seconds short of a quarter of an hour, this album is a shimmering thing, beaming into our consciousness to leave an indelible mark in such a short space of time. The success of an EP is pointedly not how much is said about it, but how inexhaustible it is with every listen.
Omawumi is not a young hand, obviously. She has always been deliberate about what she intended to do with her sound. Hers is an obsession with the big bass sound reminiscent of the highlife era and a mellifluous singing that harks back to soul and jazz and afrobeat while still paying attention to contemporary phrasing, slangs and words that stamp her work with that Nigerian-ness that we all love. It is refreshing how she shifts between tradition, contemporaneity and relevance.
What is remarkable with this EP is how serious and playful it is. Its ability to hold both tendencies is a marvel and part of that magic may just be the form of the extended play album. On the previous “Timeless”, Omawumi reached for New Orleans style Jazz; here she flirts with easy listening, middle-age affection and that shuffling percussion that has defined the zeitgeist of new school Nigerian music.
Produced almost entirely by Fome Peters and Omawumi (save ‘True Loving’ by Sizzle Pro), the album’s energy lies in its mid-tempo and Afrobeats flair.
Most songs are paeans to romantic love and its challenges. Hence the mood of each song is dictated by its situation. While the song persona dotes rather abundantly on ‘For My Baby’, the mood on ‘Tabansi’ is rueful in accordance with the mystique our society still attaches to abusive relationship that can trigger issues. Clearly, the song presupposes a redemption for this abusive relationship and while reviewers are not moralists, one must call attention to the ambiguity Omawumi brings into sketchy relationships that are not quite simple or simplistic.
A personal favourite is ‘Away’, a highlife song about vibes, the song in its confident chorus dismisses bad vibes, in a manner that is both church and street all at once. Omawumi knows how to make these things: songs that are so refreshingly contemporary and varied.
The wondrous EP ends with ‘Green Grass’, a song that reflects upon the egress of Nigeria’s middleclass to greener pastures. A cautionary song that doesn’t foist nationalistic tendencies, Omawumi is plain persuasive in her gesture of weighing options. If the woes of land migration through Northern Africa and instructive films like Netflix’s Joy is anything to go by, migration is not without worries. Add this to institutional racism in a capitalist world and you have an abundance of green snakes.
Omawumi keeps pushing the envelope. What has changed is a kind of confidence that age and experience brings.
Omawumi may be incapable of doing wrong when she is truly in her feelings.