On '9: Esan,’ Brymo makes his listeners think [Pulse Album Review]

‘Esan’ is mostly filled with Alternative, Folk or Sentimental Ballads, tied together by traditional Yoruba Folk essence

Brymo - 9: Esan. (TBD)

Whether you want to accept it or not; believe it or not; celebrate it or not; Brymo has been elevated into the hall of fame of Nigerian music. His last album, Yellow is one of the best albums that this writer has ever played. The flawless work of art was an examination of self, society and decadences in three parts, divided by language.

He followed it up with Libel EP, a conceptual response to sexual harassment accusations levelled against him by concerned women. On September 9, 2021, he released his ninth and tenth studio albums respectively; a two-part album, once again divided by language and united by their 9-track concept.

‘Esan’ is mostly filled with Alternative, Folk or Sentimental Ballads, tied together by traditional Yoruba Folk essence, while ‘Harmattan and Winter’ is also filled with Alternative, Folk and Sentimental Ballad, tied together by a more traditionalist European Folk essence.

In line with the number of tracks on both albums, 9: Esan is delivered in Yoruba while 9: Harmattan and Winter is delivered in English. ‘Esan’ is Yoruba for revenge.

With the album, Brymo seems to track the root cause, decadence and the aftermath of EndSARS in Nigeria while placing himself, and possibly his love life at the centre of it all. He also seemed to address masculinity and exuberance.

First, it started off as #EndSARS. Then, narcissistic governmental forces with hubris made it fester with ‘Nigerian daddy syndrome.’ They aggravated the situation and annoyed the youth, who then took to Nigerian streets to express their anger through lawful protests.

At breaking points, the youth took to the streets, damaging property and looting shops, which led to the infamous October 20, 2020 massacre, which the Nigerian government still denies.

Concept: Theory one

On one hand, ‘Esan’ feels like allegorical satire, told from the perspective of Brymo, as a strong, narcissistic man with limitless ability on ‘Akoko’ - possibly, as a satirical representation of an - aspiring politician. This theory is supported by the celebratory tendencies of ‘Meji Meji,’ a track about duality.

‘Meji Meji’ literally means ‘Double Double.’ While the track could have simply been the result of a giddy celebration of love, it also feels like an appraisal of duality; good or bad; love and hate; two, bound by love, becoming one; or even conscience.

In English, ‘Akoko’ means first, while ‘Okunrin Meta’ is a Yoruba colloquialism for a ‘strong man.’ Yoruba people usually sarcastically or genuinely use ‘Okunrin Meta’ as a colloquial panegyric to elevate a man’s masculinity. Literally, ‘Okunrin Meta’ means ‘Three men.’

Obviously, nobody can be three men in one. The completion is ‘Okunrin meta ati abo,’ which means ‘Three men and a half.’ With this explanation, a listener can understand why it’s used to elevate a man’s masculinity. ‘Akoko’ is what Brymo used to declare himself as number one or the first or the leader.

The possible result of masculine exuberance and society’s expectations of the man.

But later on ‘Aleluya Meje,’ Brymo appears to critique masculinity by singing that, “Oko lo n mu aye okunrin le…

In English, that means, “An erection is why man's life is hard…

It feels like Brymo is saying an erection places massive responsibilities and expectations on the man - even from himself.

Okunrin Meta’ then has a subtitle, ‘Edun Okan.’ In English, that means ‘pains from the heart’ or ‘angst.’ On the track, Brymo sings that, “Ogo ta, ogo ota, Olopa gba riba kasa…

In English, that means, “Whatever happens, the police will collect bribes…”

The record appears to be made from the perspective of the oppressed Nigerian youth, with an angst against the government.

While ‘Okan Mi Ti Fo Wewe’ [which means my heart is shattered into pieces] and ‘Temi Ni Temi’ [which means what’s mine is mine] sound like love songs, ‘Temi Ni Temi’ has subtle socio-political takes, especially with the subtle empirical gaze of verse one.

“Awa lo, awa bo/Oun a ni, ni a n nani…” has subtle nationalist tendencies. The same thing goes for ‘Okunkun,’ which means ‘darkness’ in English.

The line, “Okunkun lati wa, okunkun la n lo,” means “We come from darkness, we are going back to darkness…

Two of the final three tracks, ‘Aleluya Meje’ and ‘Aare’ are heavily political. ‘Aleluya Meje,’ which means ‘Seven Halleluyah,’ seems to takes a shot at the default Nigerian response to problems like bad governance. This default response is what Nigerian youth rejected during the EndSARS protests.

‘Aare’ then ends the album, with a satirical presidential address on a classic Yoruba news channel, complete with the satirical display, preceding the address. ‘Aare’ is Yoruba for President.

On the track, Brymo seems to create a satire of the presidential address we received from President Buhari during the EndSARS protests. With humour and like Buhari, who claimed protesters wanted to remove him, Brymo warned the general public that the protesters he referenced on ‘Aleluya Meje’ are coming to loot.

That track also seems to lend credence to the album title, ‘Esan.’ What happened on ‘Aleluya Meje’ and ‘Aare’ seemed to reference how Nigerians got their revenge on a failing government. And how the president gained his revenge by painting protesters in a bad light.

Perhaps, that is the ‘Esan.’

Concept: Theory two

Based on the breakdowns of tracks on ‘Theory One,’ one can equally assume that throughout ‘Esan,’ - aside from ‘Aare,’ which is a presidential address, Brymo tells the story of regular narcissistic and ‘limitless’ Nigerian youth; a man, dealing with the decadent effects of a crooked police system [Okunrin Meta and Aleluya Meje], bad governance and a troubled love life [Fura Sara and Okunkun].

The stories on ‘Akoko,’ are very personal. And so are the love stories, told on ‘Okan Mi Ti Fo Wewe,’ ‘Temi Ni Temi,’ ‘Okunkun’ and ‘Fura Sara.

For that reason and to create his own catharsis, he takes his frustrations out through protests, to gain his revenge [Esan] on a system that has failed him. However, the president then turns around and gains his own revenge on people who tried to question his ways by declaring them as problematic troublemakers on ‘Aare.’

Final Thoughts

While Brymo will never make a remotely average body of work, and the songs stand out individually, something seems off about them as a body of work. Especially, as it relates to execution.

Ratings: /10

• 0-1.9: Flop

• 2.0-3.9: Near fall

• 4.0-5.9: Average

• 6.0-7.9: Victory

• 8.0-10: Champion

Pulse Rating: /10

Album Sequencing: 1.6/2

Themes and Delivery: 1.7/2

Production: 1.7/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.9/2

Execution: 1.0/2

Total:

7.9 - Victory

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