Review: Bayanni Shines as Family Man in Debut EP

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An elderly woman’s voice, uttering a motherly prayer, opens Bayanni’s newly released self-named four-track EP. It is apt that this motherly solicitude appears in the first song, given it’s a song about familial responsibility. But while Bayanni starts out heeding an older woman, in the three songs that follow he turns his gaze towards women of a younger, tauter, and bouncier stock – the sort the older woman might warn him about – and this time it is not for prayer. Or is it?

Ta Ta Ta, which is the third song’s title, is an onomatopoeic rendering of the noise produced by the kind of youthful sex that prioritizes vengeful speed over gentle technique. But anyone who has been to a Nigerian pentecostal church would tell you that that title also sounds like the language of one praying in tongues. 

But then, the religious have a reputation for straying into the sexual. The religious forbids pre-marital sex, and as if protesting this divine fiat, fornicators are wont to invoke the spiritual whilst performing the forbidden act – “God”, “oh God”, and “goddamn” are expressions that often escape lips twisted in pleasure. But Bayanni probably never had this church-sex connection in mind. The 25-year-old new Mavin Records’ signee wants sex because it is what every 25-year-old wants. It is also what every Nigerian pop musician wants. That is no problem by itself. The question is: does Bayanni articulate this generic need in a unique way? 

He does not, his brand of lust tethered to clichés and unable to escape the usual lingo and sensibility of Nigerian pop music. He shines the most and sounds the most genuine, when he is autobiographical, as in the first song, Family. A slow-slinkering song marked by occasional Amapiano snorts, it does not stand out for any special melody, harmony or drum patterns. It stands out for the honesty ringing in Bayanni’s voice. Bayanni’s vulnerability is nearly palpable, and when he admits to being friendless and that he just wants to be left alone even while in a club, you want to give the man a hug and tell him everything will be fine. 

By using the ‘I’, rather than ‘you’, pronoun, Family also manages to hand down morality lessons without actually moralizing. Bayanni does not outrightly tell you to put family first; by singing that he does, he implies it and the message is less likely to meet resistance. In this sense, it is quite unlike that 2020 song by Sparkle Tee that tells you pointedly to “give to maale before you give Obianuju”. Sparkle Tee tells you what to do; Bayanni leads by example. 

At any rate, a debut EP is pop music’s equivalent of puberty. The artiste is at a stage where he’s still growing into an identity. Under the tutelage of record label owner Don Jazzy, Bayanni would try to find his voice, his sound.  As it stands, he commands attention when he is on about the familial and autobiographical. When his subject is lust, he sounds like everyone else.

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