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Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

The real innovators of the Nigerian music scene are its producers.

They were slow to realise this but that has changed. Krizbeatz, who produced Tekno’s smash hit ‘Pana’, released his debut album ADM last year; Cobhams Asuquo, the man behind some of Timi Dakolo and Banky W's hits, released his album For You last year; Sess, the producer integral to Falz’s success, released his debut album Omo Muda last month. If putting out an album is the ultimate expression of a musician’s ego, then Nigerian producers might have egos as big as the country's performers in time.

The newest producer to make his album is Odunsi (the Engine), a peculiarly talented artist, who some consider the most prominent face of the so-called SoundCloud artists. With the loose group becoming somewhat famous over the past two years, Odunsi was thrust into the spotlight. He seems to have worked with everyone in the alternative music scene and earlier in the year turned up on MI Abaga’s Rendezvous.

Now that he has released his debut album Rare, it is no surprise that both sides of the music space appear. There is the unknown Duendita on ‘Angel’ and there is the ever-popular Davido on the groovy ‘Divine’. You get a verse from the enigmatic Tay Iwar and another from Afropop man Runtown. What this means is Rare can’t quite depend on its featured acts to give the listener a sense of an album’s ...

The real innovators of the Nigerian music scene are its producers.

They were slow to realise this but that has changed. Krizbeatz, who produced Tekno’s smash hit ‘Pana’, released his debut album ADM last year; Cobhams Asuquo, the man behind some of Timi Dakolo and Banky W’s hits, released his album For You last year; Sess, the producer integral to Falz’s success, released his debut album Omo Muda last month. If putting out an album is the ultimate expression of a musician’s ego, then Nigerian producers might have egos as big as the country’s performers in time.

The newest producer to make his album is Odunsi (the Engine), a peculiarly talented artist, who some consider the most prominent face of the so-called SoundCloud artists. With the loose group becoming somewhat famous over the past two years, Odunsi was thrust into the spotlight. He seems to have worked with everyone in the alternative music scene and earlier in the year turned up on MI Abaga’s Rendezvous.

Now that he has released his debut album Rare, it is no surprise that both sides of the music space appear. There is the unknown Duendita on ‘Angel’ and there is the ever-popular Davido on the groovy ‘Divine’. You get a verse from the enigmatic Tay Iwar and another from Afropop man Runtown. What this means is Rare can’t quite depend on its featured acts to give the listener a sense of an album’s cohesiveness.

Instead, what makes Rare an album rather than a collection of singles are three things: Odunsi’s half-awake vocals, a preoccupation with romance and the man’s peculiar sonic sensibility.

In other words, you know it’s the same Odunsi singing throughout Rare often about an idealised romantic situation through a potpourri of sounds. In more words: although the type of sounds deployed here is a rarity in Nigerian music, the themes are commonplace enough. And as with most Nigerian music, Rare ends up proving that producer Odunsi—with his wondrous disco, trap and soul leanings—is vastly superior to songwriter Odunsi—with his navel-gazing and lust. The former is memorable; the latter barely audible from time to time. And it’s worth wondering if an awareness of his limits is why this 14-tracker album has only three songs over three minutes. (In some regards, this is unfortunate: It’s better not to overstay one’s welcome but I could do with an extra minute or two of the under-two-minute song ‘Take Me There’, which features a honey-voiced act named Hamzaa.)

There will be a second Odunsi album. For now, what can be said about the man is that while his debut album doesn’t quite live up to its title, in terms of the bigger picture of Nigerian music, that doesn’t mean you can’t rock to his collection of sounds.

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