Beautiful Nubia’s Sound Bender: All Things Bright and Beautiful
is the apt title for Beautiful Nubia and his 14-man Root Renaissance Band’s
eleventh studio album. Mastery comes through rigorous repetition and genius is
just one rank away. What Beautiful Nubia achieves in Soundbender is akin to
what a professor strives for with an inaugural lecture, where to a general
public, an idea is broken to its composite rudiments for the main purpose of
not just adding to the body of knowledge but for the public to come away armed
with some basic information, however useless it may be.
Beautiful Nubia and his steadfast band are not providing anything useless: they
are making not just music, but excellent music filed under that interesting
genre, Roots and Folk music. Beautiful Nubia is no newcomer into the music
scene. In understanding the many parts of this wonderful creature, the
bothersome question is which of his laurels came first? Was he first a veterinary
doctor before he became a musician or was he first a poet or last a writer? Segun
Akinlolu is truly a man of many parts and beyond dabbling into different
creative ventures; he strives for mastery and touches stone with prolificacy
lay claim to sound-bending is a miraculous thing and perhaps BN knows this, but
he offers an alternative explanation at the very beginning of his latest
oeuvre: ‘Ara’, at the introit of this experience, talks about the various
receptions listeners give to music by way of bending their bodies to confirm
with their dance. ‘Ara’ is the Yoruba word for Wonder and the term leads to
another song by Fela Anikulapo Kuti, ‘Just Like That’, where the late maestro
characterizes a phenomenon he called Wonderfulment. Whilst Fela’s wonderfulment
and Nubia’s Ara are worlds and decade apart, they invest their description in
swathes of beautiful music.
Nubia, beyond being a competent poet, is an extraordinary writer; in every song
on this album there is a brilliant flash of moving couplets, triplets and
quartets that sometimes deal with philosophy, with Yoruba idioms and tenets
amongst other things. Lyrical content apart, his code-switching is seamless so
that a song that begins in English changes mid-way into Yoruba. And the Yoruba
lyrics in question is marinated in authentic sayings whilst the root music he
melds with cannot be more cosmopolitan.
the third song, roughly translates to the one who rests his hand on his belly.
This song describes the Yoruba version of the thinking man with Segun
Akinduro’s accompanying violin; at the rate of being hyperbolic, this song is
thoroughly bliss. Segun Akinlolu’s music beyond interfacing between mastery and
genius ferries a message with it. His message, without being boggy on the
product, is a simple one: be at peace with self, with friends, with society,
the message moves into the realm of hope, like in ‘Ireti-Ogo’, where he
admonishes that tomorrow will be bring better tidings, or delves into Yoruba
folklore in ‘Abukeoshin’, where the snail is personified as a flawed character,
or ‘Yo’wo’ where he rebukes evil-doing. The message truly is a simple one
without being simplistic but the sterling music that carries it is
the lyrical statement is downright absurd, like in ‘One Good Soul’, where he
addresses our society’s fate and says, “As life currently goes, one-night
stands might end in marriage”. But whilst all the travails he describes are not
cautionary, they are all reflective. ‘Lights of Spain’ is a reggae-tinge somber
song that describes migration by land. ‘Leke-Leke’ is a personal favourite:
incantatory, poetic and fast-paced, it is a masterpiece prototype of
soundbending and perhaps the song Nubia himself responds to on the pictures
that grace the cover of the album.
this album bends towards its imminent ending at ‘Akojade’, a song that talks at
the same time about retribution and the parable of the sower, the earnest
listener is convinced that this is will be his first amongst many more listens.
me: the problem with Beautiful Nubia’s Soundbender album is that there is no
problem at all.