#Throwback: Orezi’s “Ghen Ghen” Effect – Dami Ajayi

Alhaji Orezi’s long-awaited album is here finally, after a series of postponement and name changes.

Albums often define their own journeys but while we waited for a robust body of work from the slight, punk-wearing artist who transformed Rihanna from an international diva to a local metaphor for sexy, singles, like homing birds, kept our company.

The airwave was agog every so often with new hits that demanded improvisational dance. One of such was the Shoki dance which, sixteen months later, is still catching fire from Nembe to Nairobi. With the Shoki dance, there was a controversy on ownership between Lil’ Kesh and Orezi. By far the more popular and clearly the poster song for Shoki is the Lil Kesh’s All Stars remix with a delectable black and white video. So persuasive is it as a cardinal point in African contemporary dance that a shirtless May-D-looking Orezi could hardly match up with his rather mid-tempo Shoki song. Truth be told, dance instructional songs have a mind of their own: you can bring a dance to the song or bring a song to dance, but you cannot be sure which will catch fire. Orezi is lucky. His attention to imminent patterns on the way to becoming trends almost paid off. For every successful Shoki and Alanta song, there is a heap of acoustic misfortunes in the graveyard of silence.

Understandably, the twenty-track Ghen Ghen album begins with assertions about perfect timing, takeovers and territorial markings with a pseudo-track, “Asiko”. It subsequently lurches into a medley of dance songs about big beats, wiggling big behinds and songwriting that tilt towards buffoonery. At the risk of peddling a single story, the defining quality of contemporary Nigerian music is that it is dance-oriented, night-club profiteering and self-praise indulging. In the course of this album, Orezi anoints himself as a major force, anoints beautiful women with a generous spread of buttocks to respond to his music while the listener becomes the onlooker.

Perhaps when our musicians become less egotistical in the entire span of their albums and more absorbed in the rudiments of their music, they may foster headway in energizing their sounds. This egotism does not even diminish on songs with featured acts. Orezi’s album features a slew of bigwigs—Davido, Flavour, MI, Wizkid, Timaya, 9ice and Iceprince. This qualifies this album as one of the most anticipated albums of the year, alongside albums by Wande Coal, Wizkid as well as Iyanya.

Orezi’s humour in songs like “Maserati” is double-edged. It is unclear whether he is channeling the Ace Hood’s Bugatti song or the Adult Film darling. Either way, his influence is bearably American. “Shuperu” echoes 90s dance music, but slightly adapted to a contemporary Nigerian mode. A trope that runs through all these songs is dance. If Sean Tizzle’s debut album was the dance album of last year, Orezi’s Ghen Ghen is putting in an early application for this year.

“Double Your Hustle” enjoys melodious percussions reminiscent of Juju music. It is noteworthy that though Orezi from Delta-state (Isoko tribe) he uses Yoruba language proficiently and his album is unmistakably South-western in its cultural aesthetics. To define Orezi’s genre is yet another conundrum: his sound oscillates between Dancehall ragga and Afrobeats, whilst being energized by a battery of influences that varies from hip-hop to highlife to soukous. In some ways, it is a Wayne Wonder meets an overman archetype of D’Banj.

Orezi’s victory is best contextualized within the frame of music industry’s status quo.

Do you want to move? Yes.

Do you want to move to Orezi’s music? Most definitely.

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