Album: Gbagyi Child
Guests: Simi, Yemi Alade
Producers: Cobhams Asuquo
Duration: 52 Minutes
The sophomore album from the Nigerian alternative singer Bez is a triumph that more than justifies the five-year break since his last outing, 2011’s revelatory “Super Sun”.
These are serene and uplifting tunes, with bursts of rock and possessive inspiration. It’s hard to think of a 2016 album that’s more compact and crafted with such attention to detail. And too few are as much of a complete enjoyment as these 13 tracks.
Bez first found success almost 5 years ago, with 2011’s “Super Sun”, a collection of romantic and fusion ballads that boasted the killer single ‘Stupid Song’, which remains an alternative classic. Over the ensuing years, he has toured and released follow-up singles, which was made with similarly minute precision, but was more complex and seemed more likely to be played in mainstream radio.
So I went for a poetry gathering, and somebody said the white people come, they take our art, and then they create something amazing from it.” Bez said of the inspiration for the project. “That struck me. So I said, why don’t I go back to my village, listen to the local music being played, and then sample that music. Then put the music into what I normally would create.”
Bez later shared the inspiration with Cobhams Asuquo, his creator in chief, and together, they travelled to Karu, a quiet village on the outskirts of Abuja, where they gathered the best local instrumentalists for a three-hour session of pure magic. The sounds were taken across the Atlantic Ocean, to New York for recording with a band, and then on to Houston (Texas), and then to Nashville (Tennessee), where the guitars, horns, and finishing percussive touches were applied.
Here, then, the man is back to doing what he does best. Only ‘There’s a fire’, with its cascading keyboard riff, creeps back into Afrobeat territory. For the most part, though, “Gbagyi Child” sees Bez on a mission to move your feet via fused sounds.
Opening track ‘My Baby’ begins with repetitive lazy guitars, before it progresses into a joyful offering of buoyant horns. The entire album, recorded live in New York, sounds expensive and confident, summing up the project. ‘You Suppose Know’ follows a similar template with a more direct tone, while ‘Just For Mary’ demonstrates the album’s soulful persuasion, combining a earnest vocal delivery, with shimmering band notes. The latter, a standout, wouldn’t sound out of place if placed side by side with something from Frank Sinatra.
Bez’s trip to Karu and the sounds sampled is interwoven all through this work. You could taste it on the opening of Éternity’, but it directly inspires a track in the introspective and slightly haunting vista of ‘Home for Gbagyi’, where the scene is rural, and the flute is ubiquitous. Bez samples it sparingly, achieving a fine blend of the traditional, the urban, and the essential.
Ultimately “Gbagyi Child” is an ode to detail in the creative process as an art form, which has birthed a complete project, the likes of which 2016 is blessed to have.