Surrounded By Wizards, What Does One Become?
By 'Joba Ojelabi
A review of Olawale “Brymo” Asimi’s Oso Album
“Depth is a function of a listener’s individual interpretation” The half true words of the one of the many friends with whom I have had a conversation over the depth of Brymo’s latest piece of art. Interestingly, my friend belongs to the school of thought that believes that Brymo is not as deep as he sounds. Trying to quote him, “Brymo only takes advantage of the slow typical rhythm that by default gives any listener the first impression that embedded within such rhythm is quality”.
Certainly my friend is not the only peddler of this perspective to Brymo’s art and interestingly, Oso is an album that tempts any true fan of the Carpenter’s son to explore this opinion. The album which is about 38 minutes long like others before it contains 11 tracks and although the similarity in tempo and rhythm make it all seem like one very long song, the dissimilarities in themes allows a listener a means to distinguish each track from others and even some previous of his previous work. The album explores a number of themes; from the basic characteristics of the human nature to the usual Brymo’s style of preaching virtues and sending messages to past, present and posterity.
Oso is the Yoruba word for “Wizard” and while the controversy continues to exist on the depth of Brymo’s lyrics, Oso might just have certified the Band; The Lagos Touts, as wizards of their craft. Good enough lyrics or not, the acclaimed touts manage to give every track a vehicle that by itself gives the average listener goosebumps, gaining enough attention to allow Brymo wow (or not) such listener. Of course, Brymo also gracefully takes full advantage his natural Baritone to even further hold that attention, and indeed, while this might be good enough for some, especially first timers, for fans who have followed the albums of Brymo, appreciating the improving depth of the artist and his art over the years, there is that tendency to expect more from Oso.
Another interesting thing about Oso is its nomenclature. At the mention of a “Wizard”, magic is expected and while this nomenclature might be Brymo’s way of declaring his latest work as magic, the only seeming relationship between the name of the album and its content comes in “Olumo”, the tenth track of the album. In Olumo, Brymo sings fondly of the literary icon Wole Soyinka, whose surname translates to “Surrounded By Wizards” and just might be the source of the name of the album. Even though Brymo goes on in the song to pay homage to former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo; the acclaimed gnome of Owu and in the final moments of the song; the Royal father of the home of the famous Olumo rock. In anyway, the mystery of the name “Oso” is certainly one of the selling points of the album.
The album opens with “No Be Me”, a song that reminds us of the limitations of man in the control of his circumstances and perhaps the frustration that might accompany these limitations. The beauty of “No Be Me” lies in the way Brymo is able to relate sub-themes like love and corruption amongst others to sell the larger theme of the song. “Mama” comes immediately after and lasts for about 1 minute within which Brymo quickly sneaks a message to his mother on how things have really not changed since his birth. “Heya”, which as at the time of this review is the only song with a video comes in third on the album and as much as the video of the song did cause controversy, the song is a testament to the above average songwriting abilities of Brymo. The words embedded in Heya, like its video send a message that requires some mental effort from an interested listener to discern. And it only gets better in “Patience and Goodluck” as the artist plays with the names of the former first couple of the country but yet manages to make serious music from his pun.
“God Is In Your Mind” takes the listener on a journey that is certainly deeper than the superficial. Somehow, the track puts the magic in your mind and allows you to find it. “Time is so kind” and “Entropy” then give way to “Money Launderers and Heart Breakers” which does its best to remind us of our immediate society and our roles in bringing it to its current state. The last three tracks of the album; “Olanrewaju”, “Olumo” and “Ba’nuso”, which unsurprisingly seem to rank as most listeners favorite come in Yoruba language with “Olanrewaju” seemingly preaching virtues to posterity, “Olumo” praising the past (the ones closest to the past) and Ba’nuso advising the present.
Oso, due to its unique brevity, is the kind of album that is conveniently put on repeat. Although some of the songs on the album share similar themes and delivery methods that came on the Klitoris album, the less content of the Oso album which is becoming a trademark of Brymo prevents the overload that often gives a listener an excuse to not fully absorb one song before moving onto another. And as much the argument of depth exists, I believe that the major basis of comparing the depth of Brymo’s art is Brymo’s art. To say Oso is not deep is to say Merchants, Dealers and Slaves or Klitoris or Tabula Rasa is deeper. For indeed, only a few other Nigerian musicians peddle art at that depth!
Exploring the alternative postulation of the nomenclature of the album, perhaps the album did get its name from the sage: “Oso yinka”. Or in another adventurous attempt at seeing where the name comes from, perhaps it’s a testimony of the wizardry of the Lagos touts: Brymo’s acknowledgement of the wizardry that surrounds him and its effects on him because really, when surrounded by wizards, what else can one become?