Music Review: Who Remembers J’odie?

Joy Odiete Eseoghene is the name that has dropped by the wayside.

Those who remember West African Idols, the 2007 edition, will remember the finalists: Timi Dakolo, the eventual winner; Omawumi Megbele, first runnerup and J’odie, the second runnerup.

Well, J’odie is Joy Odiete Eseoghene.

Even if fans of that pioneer edition of reality TV talent hunt on West African soil felt J’odie was cheated out of being the eventual winner, time, in retrospect, has told the story differently.

When her fellow finalists leapt out into the music industry at the strength of still being recent darlings of primetime television, J’odie was more measured with her output. To some, this was some kind of hesitation that quickly dissolved when she released, ‘Kuchi Kuchi’.

‘Kuchi Kuchi’ (or Oh Baby) is a smooth and groovy cabaret-styled love song that fused reggae, rhumba, rhythm and blues as well as hints of gospel. The product was a tender and affectionate ode to motherhood. In her own way, J’odie had taken babytalk—’Kuchi Kuchi’—to weave a love song between a mother and her child, but the song took off on its own terms, on the basis of the universality of affection.

Again, in retrospect, J’odie made it a matter of policy to correct notions that she had written a love song with amorous notes. ‘Kuchi Kuchi’, as a love song, was stuck with the lullaby narrative as J’odie was stuck with ‘Kuchi Kuchi’, and  even a special breakout single has a shelf life.

In 2012, J’odie gifted us with her first album.  Calling it African Woman today sounds somewhere between generic and grandiose, if you ask me. Of course, this was before Yemi Alade cut ‘Johnny’ and cornered that coveted African market for herself.

A dazzling 10 track LP album produced entirely by Wale Oni, a prolific producer with gospel affiliations, African Woman seemed to have come way ahead of its time. The music was a smorgasbord of influences: rhythm and blues to tecno dance music to soul to gospel—no genre was spared in the creation of this shape-shifting genre-blending piece of work.

J’odie came with strong vocals and those long years of being in the church choir were put to good use. Her song-writing game was top-notch and she also paid attention to local influences, including her Urhobo roots.

The songs carried varying themes. Independence was a strong one, as well as love. Although there was always a note of melancholia against a backdrop of gospel mindedness, this did not deter gems of songs like ‘Akpona Igbunu’, ‘Biko’, and ‘Sugar Coconut’.

It has been eight years since these songs made their debut to a listening audience, even though they did not garner the attention they deserved, they remain memorable amongst those who listened.

African Woman did not only come ahead of its time, it would seem J’odie has also not been lucky. It is quite possible to have all the necessary skill set for immense success and to receive it in measured rations.

However, African Woman will remain a strong and solid debut that was followed with J’odie’s signature silence.

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