Review: Let Us Dance Before The Sun Sets On Our Youth- Ogranya’s ‘Festival Of The Sun’

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Ogranya Jable Osai’s entry into mainstream music took its time coming, but for anyone who followed his progress, it was always a matter of time. For there is only so long that such massive talent can be suppressed, even in Nigeria’s saturated music market. Last year, seeking a catalytic drive for attention to his craft he launched #Project52 with a goal to release new music every Friday for an entire year. He was largely successful with that ambition, proving that quality need not be satisfied on the altar of quantity, but the commercial impact of that run left much to be desired. And so he’s back again. This attempt is more concise. He’s assembled some fairly heavy hitters, names big enough to draw recognition whilst not so mainstream that they stray too far from his musical range. Sonically, he’s expanded his scope so that sounds of African soul with lyrics rooted in love and humanity – his staple, appear side by side with Amapiano and Afropop takes on women and hustle. 

Festival of the Sun, his seventh proper body of work celebrates youth and its vibrancy, Ogranya encourages us to enjoy the beauty of youth – to live, to dance, to love, and be loved, before the sun sets. The EP opener posits a reason for this unexpected turn into danceable music, adlibbed by a voice note from his sister that suggested worry over the dark places his music has taken him in the past. “So tonight I wanna go to the dance floor/ Tonight I wanna take a different route,” he says, to explain to loyal fans the direction he was about to go in. And while that can probably be best described as facetious – with marketing and popular appeal the more likely reasons – and lacking in the emotional depth it intended to convey, it was a nice thought for Ogranya to acknowledge the novelty of his swerve into pop, and to properly delineate this project from his earlier work.

In the very next song, Abeg leads directly into the primary theme of this project, as Ogranya advises to “Cool it down for a minute/ Life is for the living”. He is joined by British-Nigerian singer and songwriter, Moelogo and Nviri the storyteller, the Kenyan singer for a blend of diverse personalities. This song is intended to encourage the listener to take a moment and enjoy life and not get so caught up in the pursuit of money. His guests chip in with perfectly adequate verses, Nviri in Swahili, Moelogo in a mix of pidgin and Yoruba, and though they do not do a perfect job of tying into the song’s philosophy, they are able to provide the track with a multilingual, multicultural feel.

His next guest, Johnny Drille is closer to him musically, so their song together, I’m Sorry sports much better chemistry. The singers, with voices barely discernible from each other, take turns apologizing – over and over again – for the little faults in a relationship. The track features heavy drums in mid-tempo, a contrast from the stripped-down production both artists usually utilize, and hints at a new home for vocally-inclined Nigerian artists in Afropop, a tangent CKay explored on Watawi and more recently, You

The EP’s next track, Brenda is Ogranya’s only solo performance and here he makes a return to the simpler days. This track could easily have been plucked from his 52-week run in 2021. His depiction of a loving boyfriend is groove worthy, and the mellow beat and calm vibes give him room to express himself vocally, even if not lyrically. “Brenda, Brendaa, Brendaaa” his simple chorus of repeating his lover’s name on a higher note each time is poignant proof of his singing prowess, and he doesn’t want you to miss that. 

Doings, with Gonzalo BlaQ maintains most of this mellow vibe with a single low-tempo drum set over which Ogranya displays some of his signature calm vocals. “Omo I dey feel your vibe,” he says before chorusing “Energy” with backup vocals. His guest remains on topic as he bemoans a lover’s combative attitude –  “She dangerous beware of the viper” –  but admits to not being able to let her go, as he asks for peace of mind in exchange. One thing the EP is clear about is its requirements from a partner – peace of mind, vibes, and energy.

Moliy echoes these sentiments on the closer. One half of the Ghanaian female duo responsible for the global hit, SAD GIRLS LOVE MONEY, the songstress brings her delicate vocals and sultry delivery to Ecstasy. They display incredible chemistry right off the bat, “I love it when you calling me/ You know your body calling me” she says, to which he responds “You say my body calling/ I’m all in”. It’s the shortest piece on the project, barely crossing the two-minute mark, but the acts are able to cram in enough lovey-doveyness to establish it as the romantic touchpoint of the EP.

Festival Of The Sun nudges you to laugh and dance, and Ogranya is able to make this work without sacrificing any part of who he is. This is his only release in 2022 so far, a sharp contrast to last year’s onerous #Project52 so it is probably right to think it’s been his sole focus for the year. As the project begins to rake in streams and popularity, it is left to see if this entry into the mainstream music market will prove permanent for Ogranya.

 


Patrick Ezema is  a creative writer with interests in music, film and pop culture, with bylines in Clout Mag and The NETng. When he’s not writing about these subjects, he’s a high functioning Twitter addict getting his daily fix. Catch him on @ezemapatrick.

 

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