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BrymO, the wizard of Awe

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Brymo


In the video for his latest single “Heya!”, BrymO appropriated Lagos mad man culture as he gallivanted under Third Mainland Bridge in the finest of loincloth couture. Even the black piano he pretended to play had better covering at first. The free-spirited singer was probably one strong gust of wind away from showing all his carpenter father gave him.

Within a few hours of the video being released, BrymO’s bare bottom became an online trending topic. Male singers like Charlie Boy, Darey, Selebobo and Orezi have all stripped down for the camera in the past but none of them actually had the balls to show the world their nether regions (pun intended)- BrymO did.

Understandably, snapshots from “Heya!” broke the Nigerian Internet and produced one of the most memm’d moments in March.The message of the song – a mild critic of people not paying enough attention to the things that really matter -was ironically overlooked. But at least in the conversations that followed, BrymO was afforded an opportunity that most of his female counterparts aren’t given, and that’s for his near-naked body to be viewed through a non-sexual lens. Instead, the debates around “Heya!” were about whether BrymO was being a true avant-garde and art disruptor or whether his self-exposure was just a publicity stunt to promote a new album or, worse still, whether the singer had simply gone stark raving mad.

The truth is, like most complicated artists, there’s a degree of truth in all three.There is arguably no singer pushing the boundaries of art from within the country more than BrymO is right now. The amount of thought that goes into the singer’s music is self- evident. From the titles, to the art direction, to the content and the eventual performances on stage, every piece fits into the bigger BrymO jigsaw puzzle that is being put together in front of our very eyes.

His newest studio album is titled Oso,Yoruba for wizard, which is less provocative than his previous album title, Klitoris, but is eyebrow-raising nonetheless. The new album is BrymO’s sixth and will be followed by a fictional novel, as the singer continues to explore new frontiers of self-expression.

The cover for Oso was designed by the legendary Lemi Ghariokwu, who was responsible for illustrating 26 album covers for Fela. It features one of the most revered mascots of black magic in Africa, a black cat, with its big, bold yellow eyes staring eerily into the open. The artwork for Klitoris (2016) was similarly grim. It was designed by US-based illustrator Georgi Georgiev and featured the haunting image of a creature which appears to be a mutation of a half-naked woman, a decaying bird and a beast with wide-ranging antlers. The art direction for these covers is a significant step up from the simplistic approach taken on previous albums: Merchants, Dealers and Slaves(2013) and Tabula Rasa (2014). But regardless of the packaging, the quality of music on offer has always been consistently high.

In his post-Choc boi days, BrymO has taken a more deliberate and deeply introspective approach to making music. The synergy between him and longtime producer Mikky Me Joses has blossomed. Together, they experiment with different worldly sounds – from US Pop, to Soul, to Alternative Soul and Rock music. The final product is given an indigenous tilt by retaining sensibilities from Yoruba folk music, and by infusing pidgin and Yoruba language in the songwriting. BrymO is an A1 songwriter.

However, even though his immense talent has found a devoted audience, the indie artist could still do with a little help.Leaving Chocolate City in 2013, may have unshackled BrymO’s inner creative genius but it also cost him a platform to use and express that brilliance. Without the resources of a record label, and opportunities to cross-market, the “Ara” crooner has had to be resourceful in order to promote his art. He now seems to have turned shocking and aweing into a tool to augment slim promo budgets. The very fact that the public is still intrigued by BrymO several years after he went indie is proof that the strategy is working.

And it seems to have worked again.“Heya!” has racked up nearly 200,000 YouTube views in under two weeks and is currently BrymO’s 5th most streamed music video. Oso, the album, was released on the same day, and soaked some of that attention. It has already become one of the most streamed albums released on MTN Music+ last month.

The final tactic that has brought notoriety for BrymO is his bold, outlandish statements; the types that make him sound like a futuristic genius or a bumbling lunatic, depending on the given day. The maverick singer has taken unpopular, antisocial positions on things like higher education and drug use, and prematurely described himself as ‘the best thing’ to ever happen to the Nigerian music industry.

Given these streams of consciousness, it is easy to dismiss the “Heya!” visuals as another product of a looney mind. But BrymO has made that cliché thin line between genius and insanity his comfort zone. And from there, he’s continued to make art and say things that make people very uncomfortable.


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