For her debut album ‘Odu’Mo’believe takes advantage of his mastery of the Yoruba language over a combination of genres that merges with an imposing traditional essence that runs through the project.
Odu Ifa it is Yoruba religious documentation similar to the holy books of other religions. Odù Ifa contains the moral and religious code that shapes the cult of Ifa. It also includes folklore, proverbs and stories that are used to transmit knowledge and are passed down orally from one generation to the next.
In ‘odu’, Mo’belive makes a move to tell different stories using the Odu Ifa narrative style along with rich Yoruba music to entertain.
Eulogy is poetry used to praise an individual, family, or group in Yoruba culture. In addition to serving their primary purpose of singing praises, Panegyrics are also used for entertainment, often used to open a show, serve as an interlude, and also to usher in the curtain. Additionally, Panegyrics are used to prepare and usher in an artist similar to how a hypeman warms up the crowd and prepares them for a performance. A praise singer warms up an entertainer, whether he’s an artist or a wrestler, and gets him pumped up for a stellar performance.
This rich cultural aspect of Yoruba culture is displayed by Mo’believe in ‘Odu’ whose introduction ‘Mobolaji Akanni’ it is an interpretation of his Oriki (personal eulogies).
In Yoruba culture, beyond entertainment, music is used to tell a story that is an essential part of oral tradition and history. Through music, an artist documents social realities, captures the zeitgeist of different eras, and offers didactics through satire while entertaining through praise, humor, and folklore.
In ‘Odu’ Mo’believe brought together the cultural essence of Yoruba music by traveling through time to offer the sounds of different eras while carefully infusing contemporary sound elements.
In emo, the Highlife album, uses folklore to tell a comical love story of a thief, a bum, a drunk, and a rich man’s daughter. The narration and the use of horns and percussion convey the cadence of the palm wine nightlife music of the Yoruba people. The call and response with the choirs is also a significant element in night music.
The joyous and cheerful nature of Yoruba Highlife that manifests in Afrobeat is captured in ‘Peter’ where he conveys the YOLO message and encourages listeners to “Get out the palm wine and dance.” This is similar to the way an artist performing live in front of good timekeepers entertains the audience through upbeat music that washes away their worries.
The use of proverbs and metaphors in ‘Asiere’ which loosely translates to ‘Crazy person’ where says “We are all crazy in my father’s house” is a surprising use of poetry to deliver a didactic number that captures the realities of Nigerian society. The heavy folk element along with his delivery is expected to draw a comparison to Brymo who is known for his use of folk and narrative style of music.
Mo’believe is a student of music and his knowledge of sound showed in bold and subtle elements. In ‘Jara Joro’ which is a Yoruba slang popularized by happy he switches between English and Yoruba on an Afrobeat record where he engages in self-flattery, which is a big part of Yoruba music. In the same way in ‘Faya’ which is a chest-pounding rendition of Highlife, said Mo’believe in Yoruba: “It is the musical instruments that were burned, the music was not lost in the fire”this line shows his rich knowledge of music as it goes back to the history of master Apala. Haruna island who is said to have lost his band’s instruments in a fire and to have inspired the song ‘shikobe’.
A common thread that runs through all Yoruba music is the act of singing praises. Yoruba musicians of different indigenous genres are skilled in the process of bestowing praise on high-ranking personalities in an attempt to get their pockets opened. In ‘My way’, Mo’believe rolls out the red carpet and greets friends and associates. She combines a heavy base with percussion for an Afrobeats cadence in what sounds remarkably like an Adekunle Gold song. While the song is great, the pacing doesn’t quite match the content and delivery. Such a hymn of praise could have used a smoother, simpler Highlife beat elevated by trumpets and backing vocalists instead of a pop composition. I would have replaced the rhythm of ‘Holy Buri’ with ‘My way’ to achieve the necessary musicality to elevate the track.
‘Nope’ which is the only English title on the project, had a perfect blend of Pop and Highlife. The writing that blends Yoruba, English, and pidgin, as well as the pop delivery combined with the Highlife-leaning riffs and percussion create a pop song that might be the best on the album. The song made Mo’believe sound like Adekunle Gold again in ‘Afropop 1’ through a rich combination of Highlife and Pop.
In the increasingly laissez-faire approach to romance in Afrobeats and the underlying “Yoruba Demon” theme that forms the theme of recently released songs, ‘Wadomi’ it works perfectly because of its vulgarity and subtle masculine toxicity that is perhaps very cultural. Reggae progression meets Mo’believe’s Pop delivery for another Highlife-Pop record.
In accordance with Yoruba custom, Mo’believe pays homage to the visible and invisible forces, as well as to the young and the old in ‘I was going’. He asks that he be allowed to succeed and that the sound travel far and wide. And that tribute and the very way he delivered the song brings Odu Ifa to mind.
General, ‘Odu’ it is a culturally rich project of an artist who uses his talent to elevate his culture and uses contemporary sounds to bring it closer to a new generation.
Thematically, the contents of folklore, self-flattery, praise songs, didactics and even lewdness are recurring themes of Highlife music.
The sequencing of the album is decent as the album achieves sonic coherence through a major Highlife cadence running through the different sounds explored.
As for the track layout, each track strives on its own merit and together they form a solid project. However, I think ‘I was going’ could have been a better outro and could have removed ‘oun’. Also, ‘My way’ should have been the penultimate track on the album that comes right before ‘I was going’.
In terms of sound, the album straddles both mainstream and niche sonic appeal. This can be good because pop lovers can enjoy selected songs in the project like ‘Nope’ Y ‘Wadomi’. However, most of the songs and projects as a whole will appeal to listeners who enjoy traditional music and are more deliberate about consumption.
With her talent and the quality of her compositions, Mo’believe can focus on building a strong following that appreciates her music and loves her for what she is similar to Brymo.
There’s a lot of talent where this project comes from and it’s such that you don’t even have to listen very closely to spot it.
Composition, themes and delivery: 1.6/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.6/2