With “Esan”, Brymo proves he is a sage and sophist – Adeola Juwon
When you hear the name Brymo, what comes to mind is music that is reflective, that reaches for philosophical heights, questioning all there is to question, be it life, love, society or politics.
On the surface, this sounds like music that would be boring. But this is exactly what makes Brymo a distinct artist and what gives him the kind of cult following that he enjoys. People who love his music love it for their thematic leanings and his explication of existential thoughts in beautiful melodies.
Brymo wasn’t always like this. He first came to limelight through his hook on Ice Prince’s debut song and biggest hit so far, Oleku. Then he announced himself as a master of melodies with Ara and Good Morning. We caught glimpses of today’s Brymo in his sophomore album, Son of a Kapenta, released under Chocolate City Records, where he divided the offering into three thematic chapters: Birth, Dealer and Lover. But it wasn’t until his re-emergence after his split with Chocolate City under controversial circumstances that we began to see Brymo the sophist. It is as though he went to re-assess himself and the kind of music he wants to make. And ever since then, the self-proclaimed student of Fela has been consistent on that path.
On the 9th of September, Brymo released a twin album, Esan, and Harmattan &Winter.
Before the unannounced release of the albums, there was no hint on the part of the artist that he would be releasing any project. Away on a social media hiatus,one wouldn’t be surprised if this is Brymo wanting to give his fans a surprise—the man is effortlessly unconventional.
Brymo believes that good music will announce itself one way or the other. And so far, Esan, and Harmattan & Winter have announced themselves, although it seems that it is Esan that has been enjoying the most attention.
Brymo’s last two projects were critically acclaimed. His 2020 album, Yellow, which I am still revelling in, is an existential evaluation of self and society. Rich in metaphors, symbolism and contrast, Brymo asserts himself in that album as both a sage and a skilled lyricist.
Yellow was followed by Libel, a sonic response to the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him on Twitter.
Released on the ninth day of the ninth month, Esan, Yoruba for the number 9, is a nine tracker rendered entirely in Yoruba language. The album plays with numbers and their significance. The first three tracks are arranged chronologically, while the seventh track is titled Aleluya Meje.
On the first track, Akoko, which means the first or number one, the singer projects a character drunk in self-adulation and narcissism. Creativity has been said to be an outlet for narcissistic tensions, a medium for the elevation of self and positive external mirroring. And this is what Akoko does. Here, the singer baptises himself in encomiastic odes. He is the first, the best, a man of limitless capabilities.
What enchants me in Akoko is the perfect harmonisation of the backup singers. Brymo guns for perfection here and achieves it.
The singer has too many things to sing about in Meji Meji. It is a love ballad; an exploration of life’s dualities; the voice of a preacher calling for balance in our doings on earth— yara gboro, lora fesi (be swift to hear, be slow to speak); a take on life’s paradoxes— esin o gbani, iwo o lani (religion does not save; good character is not an assurance of wealth).
You see contrasts at play in Okunrin Meta, where in the first verse, Brymo owns his ordinariness and vulnerability as a man—eniyan lasan ni moje, mo fuye bi paper (I am but a man, I am weightless like paper). However, in the second verse, the singer declares himself light that chases away darkness and defeats it. He is no longer an ordinary man; he is not weightless, instead, he is heavy like revenge; he is a whirlwind.
Contrasts and paradoxes are not new in Brymo’s songs. In Yellow, he sang of a love that ages like fine wine but is of little use at the moment. And this is why his fans love his music, for how rich they are in spices that elevate lyrical storytelling.
Okan Mi Ti Fo Wewe mourns a love that is impossible. The song is heavy with pain. In it, the singer gives his all for his object of affection but the love just wouldn’t be.
The artist himself declares the song as pro-monogamy. It is no wonder his heart keeps yearning for a love that is elusive.
Temi Ni Temi is another love song. Here, the singer begs for his lover’s forgiveness whilst declaring his dedication to her.
Okunkun begins as a love ballad, a yearning for a love that keeps eluding him. The artist declares love as the only force that can save him; then suddenly he switchs, singing about how life is a journey, his ignorance of the origin of man and then in the same breath, he sings with certainty that we came from darkness—a metaphor of emptiness—and to it, we shall return. He ends the song on a sober tone.
Aleluya Meje is a satiric commentary on society. The title itself is a sarcastic aim at religion. In Aleluya Meje, Brymo critiques politics and the decadence of political leaders, their politicking and false promises. He also comments on masculinity, bemoaning the curse between men’s legs, the thing that makes life hard for men. Aleluya Meje also condemns promiscuity, throwing a jibe at third parties that destroy matrimony. In this album, Brymo seems to be heavy on morality.
Fura Sara is an appeal to a lover to shun naysayers and to be suspicious of them.
Aare resurrects memories of the #endsars protests, while also presenting a parody of the President’s speech during the protest.
In Esan, Brymo explores alternative rock, afrosoul, folk and ballad— territories he is not unfamiliar with. Mikky Me Joses has done excellent work in the production.
On some of the tracks, the singer seems to have a lot to say and so what we get are songs guilty of thematic promiscuity. Nonetheless, tracks like Akoko, Okunrin Meta and Okan Mi To Fo Wewe are standout songs from the album.
Esan is a beautiful body of work that deserves all the praise that is coming its way.