Shout out to Imrana Bambale, a guy with a fine taste of music. ‘Listen to this album, it’s amazing’, he said to me in one of his many music recommendations entreat. There began my journey into theosoproject. The project is one of the many daring escapades of Olawale Ashimo Olofo’ro, popularly known as Brymo. It consists of an album, a concert and a book; the album is out-which is the subject of this piece, while we still await the book and concert.
“Oso” is a Yoruba word that loosely translates as “The Wizard”. It is indeed some sort of black magic, what Brymo has done with this album. It is unconventional and eccentric and unknown in the Nigerian Music sphere.
To put up a swift disclaimer, this is not one of those attempts to dictate to people the kind of music they should listen to. Every kind of music has a role to play in the profound field we know as “the music industry”. While sometimes we want to dance aimlessly and have a free madness (shout out to Terry G) other times we want to bundle up with our other, while we cuddle and listen to Adele or The Weekend on weekends (I know, don’t mention it).
But, the bifurcation between conscious and unconscious music is a reality. In the consumerist society we live, it is overly daunting to decide to go into the grim task of writing conscious music. This is because, when you write a conscious music, you appease to a meager class of audience in an ocean of an unthinking majority. It is suicidal and self-destructive. Unless you are Kendrick Lamar, then you defy the laws of nature and go platinum.
What will pass for conscious music in Nigeria are mostly gospel music and music that criticised government of the day by the likes of Fela Kuti (the father of Afro beats), African China, Eedris Abdulkareem, and Oritse Femi to mention a few.
Oso is in all ramifications, a conscious music album. In addition to the textbookish themes of gospel and politics, and oh, love (how could I forget that), Brymo in this album raises both existential and ontological questions. The album is laden with philosophy and radicalism, and it walks us through what it means to be an anti-establishment. For example, in “Time is so kind “, Brymo gives us a tidbit of insight into his fundamental unconventional nature:
“I know I don’t make sense to you
How I just rain like a cloud, it’s true
And everyone is asking me to slow down, it’s a cruise.”
Time as the Most Prevalent Theme in Oso
Brymo seems to have indulged himself into the age long debate of time and space in this album. In several songs, he makes important pronouncements on the concept of time, knowingly or unknowingly, he keeps assuring his listeners of the existence of time and how it is central to the cosmos. He sounded like the ancient Egyptian thinker Ptahhotep, who said:
“Follow your desire as long as you live, and do not perform more than is ordered, do not lessen the time of following desire, for the wasting of time is an abomination to the spirits.”
In “Time is so Kind”, Brymo kept chanting, like an evangelical script:
“We are all blind blind blind
Time is so kind kind kind
And everyone is lost, nobody is found
Time is so kind kind kind”
This personification of time continues in “Heya” where he made time ambulatory, painting a pictorial image of time walking by us, as if, sighing at our sheer disregard of it’s essence.:
“I just dey fall, I just dey rise and time just dey pass us by”
Brymo made continuous mention of time in various contexts in several of the 11 songs in this album. One will be tempted to ask, what is Brymo’s obsession with time. This clarion call to time-consciousness is akin to the saying, “make hay while the sun shines.” He seems to suggest that time is an opportunity that doesn’t linger for long, and failure to carpe diem, might be fatal to man. It is indeed true that man is bound by time and space.
Love as Entropy
There is a gloomy and pessimistic tone with which Brymo engages the idea of love. There is a silent tragedy that is associated with an overt seeking of love at all costs. There is also a blindness and inevitability that overwhelms, eventually. In “Heya”, he blames heartbreaks on ignorance. In ” God is in your mind”, he made a powerful caveat to loving:
“I love to be all that you want me to be
But I am not the same man I used to be ”
He even goes on to tell us that “love is illegal, love is a drug”, ” you love me now and you judge me later”, “we are money launderers and Heartbreakers”, ” but our heart don turn to stone.” Brymo with this tone, reminds us of Shakespeare’s tone with his love dramas and we can see his characters wrestling against all odds for love. In Romeo and Juliet, right before Juliet drank the poison, she lamented:
“Farewell! – God knows when we shall meet again
I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins
That almost freezes up the heat of life ”
But when all hopes seem to have been lost, Brymo seems to submit, in a way that reminds us of the beautiful text of the bible, 1 Corinthians 13:7:
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
It is on this note that Shakespeare and Brymo, conclude their journey of love, Shakespeare in his poem “Carpe diem” writes beautifully:
“O mistress mine, why are you roaming
O stay and hear, your true-love is coming”
“What’s to come is still unsure
In delay there lies no plenty”
And Brymo also seems to have found his love in “Entropy”, where he sang; after all his flights from love, and though his pessimism lingers still:
“And you are always buzzing like neon
I can remember now as the song plays
You became everything I stayed away from “.
Existential Questions in Oso
Soren Kierkegaard is generally considered to have been the first existentialist philosopher. He proposed that each individual- not society or religion- is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely or “authentically”.
Brymo calls us out for always blaming politicians for our woes, or “pointing fingers at each other”. He reminds us that we didn’t create ourselves neither did we create the world. He went on to suggest in “No be me”, that each individual is responsible for his every action. And that our actions shape our reality.
This is what I guess Brymo meant when he said, “God is in your mind”. He calls for a more individualistic approach in our philosophies. Brymo calls on us to take responsibility for our actions. He sang:
“For the first time, God shall be without a face
For the first time, God shall be without a name
Will no longer, look for self in every mirror
For the first time, God is in your mind”
“You are that someone you are looking for”
These raise deep questions of who we really are and what it is we seek to achieve in this world. This introspection that Brymo calls us to, is similar to that of Tariq Ramadan in his book, “Quest for meaning”, which as humans, is an unending plight.
Humble Beginnings and Meditation:
Another lover of good music I know, a hoarder of Music albums, classic and contemporary, is a High School classmate, Tobi Ojo; he has a twitter trend #daddyojorecommends, where he recommends amazing songs to his verse followers. Reviewing some of Brymo’s songs, particularly, “Olanrewaju”, ” Olumo” and “Ba nuso”, he gave an incite into Brymo’s call for meditation as a means for us to reconnect with our spirituality. Also, how much Brymo appreciates his roots by declaring a song praising his home town ogun state, where lies the great “Olumo rock “.
Tobi Ojo writes: “Patience, persistence, goodwill and honesty are some of the messages highlighted by Brymo in these works.”
On 28th March 2018, Brymo released the video of the lead single to this album, “Heya”, in which he appeared in a G-string like loincloth that exposed his buttocks but hid his genitals, which got him a lot of flacks and umbrages form Nigerians on social media and other platforms. Commenting on his decision, Brymo in an e-mail said: “I decided to appear how my forbearers dressed before the arrival of civilization to Nubian continent”.
This whole saga gives you a glimpse of what it means to be unconventional or dare to be creative in this part of the world. It makes it more plausible that Oso is a rare gem, and has set the pace for similar breakthrough innovations in the creative industry.