Offiong Bassey was born in Boston and her parents are from Nigeria. Working out of the city, her debut, self-titled album, made big inroads with East Coast soul tastemakers through 2013. Influential web site, Soul Tracks, had the set high on its end of year chart and now Moonlit Media Group is giving the elegant and varied 12 tracker a final push to bring it to a wider audience.
Pinning the album down is no easy task. The PR blurb describes Offiong’s music as a cross-cultural cornucopia. Fine words to describe a soundscape that mixes Afrobeat and Caribbean flavours with R&B, jazz, Gospel and funk. Add to all that complex lyrics often referencing Efik prayer rituals and sung and spoken in English, Nigerian and Pidgin English and you’ll soon realize that you’re signing up for a cultural roller coaster.
Soul folk will most easily accept the album’s big ballad ‘It Might Be Hard’. It’s a melancholic tune with simple piano accompaniment. The singing is masterful and though the lyric is Gospel-based, non-believers who’ve suffered loss will surely understand… that’s if they have soul. More “up” soul overtones on ‘Weatherman’ and the wonderfully-titled ‘Mistaking Chivalry For Chauvinism’. On both the template could’ve been Erykah Badu or Jill Scott, though the spoken passages will call to mind Floetry. Big dancers? Well try ‘Legitimate Child’ or ‘Conclusion’. Both are pacey and mix Afrobeat with just about every other respected black music genre. More complex are tunes like ‘Wild Oats’ and ‘Edidem’ which comes in two versions – “modern” and “traditional”.
Let’s finish by saying that Offiong Bassey’s LP isn’t an easy listen. In places it does feel like hard work but those who are bold enough to push their soul envelope more than a little will find adequate rewards.