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ALBUM REVIEW (9: Harmattan and Winter by Brymo)

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An overwhelmingly dark body of work, presented with poetic lyrics and highly vivid imageries, not without some moments of reliefs and pleasures though…

Harmattan and Winter is a part of the 9 album where dark issues are uncovered and illustrated. This is why the cover of this part of the 9 album is black in color, unlike Èsan, the first part which is red. Raising issues that revolve around self-worth, wishes, frustration, a perpetual search for one self, hedonism, irreligiosity, heartbreak, sex, societal rots, hope, advice, complaints, wars, tyranny, freedom etc, Brymo has no choice other than to make the songs that form this part of 9 slow, a lot slower than the whole of Èsan, the first part.

The dark but serious themes of this project are also the reason why the piano is used extensively on every song that comprises 9: Harmattan and Winter. However, after a world-class artistry on Èsan, Brymo sets the ladder of Harmattan and Winter with F**king Awesome, the first rung on the nine-stepped ladder.

Lyrically, F**cking Awesome is based on sequence. The first verse is borne out of frustration as Brymo demands “clarity” and “brevity” regarding “everything” he thinks he has been doing “wrong all along”. The second verse revolves around the singer’s wishes of “a lot of money, and a yacht and a love like yours”. The demand and wishes are immeasurable, thus, they go “on and on” and “pour and pour”.

Both sonically and lyrically, Brymo switches things up quickly on the bridge of the song as he declares himself “awesome”, making reference to the undying love of his woman which “thrives and thrives”.

Harmattan and Winter, track 2, named after the album itself, maps the juncture where one strongly begins to contemplate Brymo’s reasoning. On some instrumentals built on xylophonic sounds and some minimal traditional percussions, Brymo recounts the “story of my life”. This story is significant!

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A picture of Brymo taken at the video shoot of the song Harmattan and Winter.

This is because it captures Brymo’s ideas about life, and directly plays down on religious beliefs. Brymo sings “when I was in hell, I worked for the devil/And heaven was for zombies who feel”. Zombies are portrayed by the American movie industry known as Hollywood as the walking dead who feel no pain or pleasure. Heaven itself has been described as a place without pain but pleasure. But can there be pleasure without pain?

Brymo continues to play down on this age-long religious belief when he sings in the third and fourth line of the first verse of the song again—”on the way to Nirvana, I poured me a double”. Nirvana, as believed by the humans practicing Buddhism, is a place where there is no pain but pleasure. This is the same place Christians call “Heaven”. Brymo pouring himself “a double” is him “drinking alcohol” or seeking pleasure on his way to Nirvana. Something that is considered a sin in some religions.

As beautiful as the idea of a place without pain feels, it may not be idealistic for Brymo because “heaven was for zombies”. It however “took a while to find I’m the key”—to find my goal is more important than that of a religion established by man. Brymo once “fall for a picture”—he fell victim to the idea of heaven as described by the religious. No wonder this is “the story of my life”.

Brymo had shown his hedonistic attributes on Yellow some sixteen months ago, and this part of him reflects again on Harmattan and Winter. Brymo is a pleasure-seeker, and this is why he fell for the idea of heaven in the first place. However, in the second verse of the song, Brymo states categorically that he never regrets seeking pleasure—”on my way to pleasure, I find no evil/The energies they fill and they feed me”.

Harmattan and Winter themselves are two similar seasons peculiar to two different places of the world—Harmattan is a season of dry wind in West Africa while Winter is a season of snowfall in some parts of Europe, America and Asia. Though, both are characterized by cold (pleasure), one (seeking pleasure on earth) is native (African) to Brymo, the other (the idea of heaven) is alien or foreign to him.

The video of the song itself shows a man running shirtless and barefooted from a long distance with the hope that he would finally find his woman—the man could be described as seeking pleasure. When he finally gets to see his woman, two guys, a black man (Harmattan) and a white man (Winter) seize the man.

The black takes the man away and orders his white compatriot to shoot the woman. The woman is killed and the man is taken away. This representation as seen in this video lends a strong support to the fact that life is futile. The man runs all the way from a very long distance to catch up with his happiness, all for the happiness (the pleasure he seeks) to be snatched away from him before his eyes by the evils of life.

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Brymo dripping of water.

The Dark toes almost the same path with Harmattan and Winter; it tilts towards the Yorùbá indigenous beliefs that life is a journey. However, Brymo suspects “from the dark we came, from the dark we return”—this statement directly opposes the idea of heaven and hell. Notwithstanding, Brymo highlights the importance of love in all of these realities that his lover thinks he is “hiding”. He gets too drowned in these sad realities that he is heard crying at the end of the song. The Dark is the English version of Òkùnkùn, the sixth track of Èsan, the first part of the 9 album written in Yorùbá.

I Don’t Have A Heart too is the Yorùbá version of Okàn Mi Ti Fó Wéwé, track 4 on Èsan. The song exposes the indigenous belief of Yorùbá polygamists that “real men keep two to three” women. Brymo keeps one, and he is tagged a coward who runs “and cower to fear” by the society.

This is too much for a man who is still battling heartbreak from a woman whom “I give enough for”. This woman herself experienced heartbreak from someone before meeting the singer and causing him heartbreak too. No wonder it is necessary one heals from a previous heartbreak before considering a new relationship.

The dark themes of this project continues even more strongly on Beast. Brymo’s irreligiosity is declared here, finally. He recounts how religion “made a beast of me”. Brymo represents a lot of people like him who are regarded as “a moron” for losing their “way to pleasure”. Pleasure seekers are “too callous to be religious”, Brymo thinks, but that thought itself is too “crazy to picture”.

As much as Brymo and his likes are condemned, these people still lose “sleep on me” because “I stampede through their feeling”—I run through their mind. He makes it clear that “love is the only religion” he believes in. He however hopes the religious would see “in the future” that pleasure seekers are “not the enemy”. The “pressure” is much, but “the drown is not for” someone like Brymo.

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Brymo performing at the Organized Chaos, a concert he organized after releasing the 9 album.

Winifred, track 6, is the first light in the tunnel of 9: Harmattan and Winter. Winifred is an ode dedicated to the appraisal of a woman whom Brymo acknowledges as being “stronger than defeat”, “stronger than you show”; a woman whose “heart is made of gold”.

A fan had taken to Twitter to ask Brymo about whom he is describing on the song Winifred. The singer had replied saying “Esse’s mother”. Esse Kakadaare is Brymo’s woman—the mother of his 6 years old son. The song Winifred is dedicated to Esse Kakadaare’s mother who happens to be Brymo’s mother in-law.

Brymo, for the second time, deviates from the darkness of this project, and creates a very picturesque representation of a passionate sexual moment between two lovers in a “room” that has “only one clock”, “the smell of the air” and “the scent of the perfume”. Emotions and Limbs reminds the male lover that his lover’s moan which may resemble a cry “is all in the moment”, therefore “go deep, go faster” and “go rough, go harder”—don’t stop.

The song still reminds the female to “choose the clawing now” because “when we come undone… I will heed no sound”. It is clear! When sexual pleasures become too overwhelming for a female, she may unconsciously press her nails into her lover’s back. This is what Brymo refers to as the “clawing”.

The sexual image even becomes clearer when Brymo sings “you stroke some, you ride some/She flops all over”. Stroking some refers to handjob, a foreplay, while riding some refers to penetrative sex. All these are a child of necessity because “you’ve been away for too long”.

Hence, the male cannot get enough. This is why “the pleasures laugh when you’re gone”. Emotions “tangle” when two people love, limbs (legs) too “tangle” when two people engage in sex, especially the missionary style—thus “emotions and limbs, they tangle together”.

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Brymo relishing the sight of his fans at the Organized Chaos on October 1st, 2021.

After a good sex on the previous track, Brymo assumes the position of an omniscient narrator who sees the frustration of the one whom We All Lose Sometimes, track 8, is addressed to. According to Brymo, losing comes with a plethora of bad feelings—including rage, heartbreak, violence and “regrets”. Regardless, “it’s alright” because “we all lose sometimes”.

Brymo shares the frustration of the addressee of his song as he sighs aloud four lines into the song. “You”, as addressed, never expected to succeed from the beginning because “you always knew you’re going down”. “Your razor mouth, your envy, and ill-temper” may be responsible for your failures too, as pointed out by Brymo.

Like raised arms above the head, two pieces of message stand out of Brymo’s lyrics on We All Lose Sometimes. The first is the claim that “you are who your friends are, always remember”. After all, a particular cliche states that “birds of the same feathers flock together”. Brymo is right! The second is the fact that when you are “gone” from a place, it is either “they don’t want you no more” or “you don’t need them no more”.

The mood of the album swiftly changes from individual disappointments to societal issues. On the last track, There is A Place, Brymo captures a society rotten in every aspect of its existence. This society is plagued by “wars and bombings everywhere”. There are “preachers” preaching what they themselves do not practice. There is “chaos”, “pains” and complaints of “I see no changes”. This society is “a lost cause” according to Brymo.

Rather than facilitate change, the leaders, especially the religious leaders and the political leaders, continue to sell “hope” to citizens for the latter’s “survival”. However, the second verse of the song initiates a bit of relief as Brymo sells more ideas of hedonism hinging it on “a perfect world, pleasure for all, and squabbles don’t belong”. To him, pleasure seekers are “the dreamers of the years to come/We live everywhere you turn/In villages and towns and cities/Without us they’d be gone”.

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Brymo singing passionately at the Organized Chaos in Victoria Island, Lagos.

More interestingly, Brymo gets more literary as he brings the song to a total halt, clearing his throat and allowing his own voice to metaphorically capture the tyranny that is evident in a particular government unmentioned. The character in this illustration is symbolically named “Bonehead”. This is to show how brainless the political leaders of this society are. Bonehead is so full of himself that he has no “respect” for anyone, with his “infamously golden rules”.

Bonehead invades the privacy of Brymo, the narrator, and he is not spared as the latter smashes the former’s head with a shotgun—hence “Bonehead is gone/And now the boys can play freely and think on their own/Tyranny is dead/Long lives freedom”. This is pure Literature on this song. Brymo’s assumption of the role of a griot and the illustration itself only point to a particular direction—that he, Brymo, is more than a singer.

Bonehead is used to represent the aged politicians who have never shown any signs of retiring from the politics of Nigeria, therefore when Bonehead dies and Brymo says “now the boys can play and think freely on their own,” he is talking about the younger generation that consists of people who will take up the responsibility of governing their country.

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Brymo: Oláwálé Ibrahim Ashimi.

9 is a creative mother that gave birth to a set of twins, Èsan and Harmattan and Winter. While Èsan is a child so conversant with indigenousness and the beautiful cultural heritage of his people, a child who knows his very own worth and is loudly out to make it known to everyone too, Harmattan and Winter is a sad boy always exuding darkness and its components like frustrations, anger, lamentations, a search for one self etc. The only thing not dark about him is his sexual inclination and his love for pleasure and the ideas of hedonism.

With a runtime of twenty seven minutes, Brymo vocally but beautifully captures realities and truths that may take a lifetime to write if it were to be written as a piece of Literature. Brymo is a big link between arts and life. Yeah! He represents the two so well that one begins to wonder what kind of books he reads and the kind of thoughts which run through his brain.

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