Album: Timeless (2017)
More often than not, you attend a music-oriented show expecting live performances with instrumentation that’s not a part of the original release- so it feels like a new experience altogether- and well thought out and synchronized choreography but instead you are greeted by an artiste performing over their CD’s, hopping across the platform trying to serve up a fun time. Sometimes; they succeed, other times; they flat-line.
But one person you wouldn’t catch doing this in this life-time or the next is, Omawumi.
Just like the plethora of Nigerian artistes who do not perform live; Omawonder started to mime and mouth along to her songs until 2009, when she decided it was no longer a viable path for her but due to “hunger and greed,” she faltered and compromised for those who couldn’t afford her live band. Obviously conflicted, in 2010, she mustered enough courage to bulldoze that path and since then, it’s been one live performance after another, refusing to put up a quasi presentation of her music.
And it was in light of that, she decided to record a part-live album:
Since many years now, there are people who know I do not perform over CD’s but despite that, they insist I perform that way so I decided to a make it easier for all of us; I am going to record a live album so when you are enjoying the guitar, you will know that it is someone that is playing that guitar.
A live album is much more expensive to record but it was about putting her money where her mouth is, hence; Timeless.
Timeless is such an easy album to listen to. The sound is quite relatable, such that any youngster or adult could listen to any number of the songs and be very entertained/soothed. It’s a brand of versatility that’s not so easy to attain. It’s also a collection of non-pretentious life lessons, from a sage who has lived through different experiences.
As expected, Omawumi did not make an album that’s trying to cater to the times, or top the charts or rival with the booty-popping music that’s currently selling; she’s staying true to self and as good music always does, this will stand the passing of time. The best song on this album tows the line of the likes of Angelique Kidjo’s Agolo, which is still getting airplay 23 years later.
- From the initial rattle of the shekere and the first lines of Play Na Play (track 1), your interest is piqued. It’s filled with deep African proverbs and sings like folklore with a lot of worthy and unpretentious life nuggets. Omawumi starts on a gentle register, then without warning, from the 00:44 mark, she quits playing around and adds some force, in case we had not been paying attention to her initial admonition. Not long after, one of the greatest African singers, Angelique Kidjo, adds to the words of wisdom and the combination of both power voices is all grit and musical runs that’ll stand the musical test of any era; be it the past, present or future. The cultural inflections cannot be ignored; they’re bold, present and unapologetic in the lyrics, instrumentation and general presentation. Such a bold and amazing starter.
- Switching genres, Timeless segues into the Jazz-y Dolapo (track 2) which simultaneously sings like coffee house music and a perfect inspiration for salsa. It’s the kind of song that would play every day at earthy venues like TerraCulture, in Victoria Island. It’s also sophisticated enough to be the kind of music that would entertain CEO’s (of different nationalities and cultural orientation) at a networking event/brunch.
- Jazz and its attendant horns, continue to be the main stay on I No Sure (track 3); It’s the lament of a lover whose scorn has robbed her of whatever zeal she had for her lover’s touch or advances. It’s the mellow sibling to Dolapo but just as brilliant and much more sensual.
- Ololufe (track 4) starts in a soulful, near-hypnotic and enthralling low register then climbs a few notches to become a jazz-poppy tune aided by a deft play of live instruments, then repeats pattern till fade.
- E Don Loss (If God Does Not Will it– track 6) is a song every human should listen to and internalize. Because the life lesson of it is what we all have heard countless times but bears repeating; …no man can decide who should be elevating just like no man can decide who should be kept waiting, yet we deliberate and we calculate but man is just a man and it is frustrating when a man starts to plan and start orchestrating how to take over the world like it is just a play thing…
- Sometin (track 7) is reminiscent of Mary J Blige’s Just Fine, just not as fluid. It sings like there’s a missing piece that could have qualified it as ‘great’ as opposed to just ‘good.’ However, the message is very timely; don’t fall for the flash and razzmatazz of a person, live or die for the one with substance irrespective of their material haves or haves-not.
- Butterflies (track 8) is a ballad that towers. It’s mesmerizing. Omawumi lives up to her reputation of being a vocal powerhouse, proving her ability to reach and maintain enviable notes.
- Africa (track 10) is a huge cultural and euphoric delight. It features Salif Keita– singing parts of his 1996 hit, Africa, from which the song samples- and Uhuru. It’s Afro-pop at its best.
- The album comes to an end with a mellow and jazzy Through The Fire (track 11), singing like it was partly inspired by Sade Adu’s style of music.
Unlike her previous albums which consisted of very enjoyable pop ditties; Timeless is more jazz, soul and alternative. It’s more confident and not an attempt to please an audience, used to watered-down music in order to ‘sell.’ It’s so confident, Omawumi did not include the radio hits (Megbele, Somori, Finally) that were released after her second album as bonus tracks as it didn’t need to borrow any points from them. And the general song-writing is filled with actual Warri proverbs which is not surprising as Madame Megbele is the true embodiment of ‘Warri.’
Just as the name implies, this is timeless music.