When Odunsi’s “Desire” aired on radio, it would become one of the first interactions majority of Nigerians will have with the musician whose sounds and vocals have come to reshape the understanding of Nigerian sounds. Despite being labelled as an outsider in the music industry with songs like Stay, Don’t from his War EP which featured strong bass-lines, and songs like “In The Morning” appealing to a niche group, the artist’s “Alte” vibe is surely garnering an even larger audience.
Odunsi Bowo, best known as Odunsi, The Engine, is a budding recording artiste, songwriter and producer whose style he describes as Afro-fusion—a combination of genres, mixed with his roots and influences. With the recent release of his debut album, ‘rare.’, which features a distinctively retro-inspired aesthetic infused with “Nigerianisms”, Odunsi says, “It’s my time and nobody can tell me nothing.”
‘rare.’ leverages on a guest list that boasts of features from Runtown, Davido, Nasty C, Amaa Rae, Tay Iwar and international pop stars like Hamzaa and Deundita, among others, weaving tracks drawn from various life experiences ranging from love to disappointment to depression. On rare. Odunsi (The Engine) acts as the bridge that connects today’s Nigerian music industry to the vintage, immortal sounds of the ’80s, his skillful modern artistry, songwriting and vocals, reflecting the blues of romance in short bite-sized samples.
Off ‘rare.’, here are five songs you should listen to:
- “Falling”: Here, Odunsi sings to Ifunanya, “can’t you see I’m falling in love?” The bop with the 80’s feel tells of the times where people bathed in disco lights, and its soft and sweetly melodic synthesized beat meshed with upbeat, funky feels and sultry vibes would get anyone pledging their love with this songs on the background.
2. In wanted you, Odunsi brings back the hypnotic, funk-soaked love songs which speak to the times of ’80’s Madonna and the times when Whitney Houston just wanted to dance. “Jowo,” Odunsi pleads to his lover in Yoruba, while additional synth bass
3. On angel, featuring Duendita, Odunsi is more introspective and reassuring. Don’t worry/I gat you babe/In my other life I’m thinking of you, he sings against a backdrop comprising textured synthesized keys, easy guitar chords which provide support to Odunsi’s lush vocals
4. dance floor will be a favourite for late night dates and drives as it is sure to get you off your feet and “dance to the rhythm of the basslines
5. On the album’s standout track, “star signs”, Odunsi and Runtown sing on a high-life infused track about the kind of girls they love.
All 14 tracks on the album show Odunsi’s willingness to incorporate several styles of music to stimulate more musical experimentation. Songs like hectic and divine featuring Nigeria’s popular afropop artist Davido offer even further hint to the nostalgic direction of the album.
‘rare.’ leans on the past for inspiration, and this gives the overall sound creating an innovative and indispensible feel. Odunsi may well be on his way to being an international artiste able to transcend the boxes of what is known as Nigerian music.