Sound journeys of the lost and found

Sound journeys of the lost and found

The 16-track debut
by U’mau, a female musician of Nigerian origin, offers a reflective
collection of songs buoyed up by effervescent instrumental sounds that
borrow boldly from folk, jazz, calypso, Afrobeat, makossa, country and

‘Sound Journeys of
the Lost and Found’ is a meticulously presented dose of refined talent
from this guitar-wielding, Goldsmith College University-trained
musician. Groovy percussion openings welcome one to sounds that,
according to the artist, “chronicle an internal journey most will
identify with.” And she is quite right, as with intuitive themes like
love, freedom, world peace, nature and spirituality, she provides music
that speaks directly to every idealist.

Soul fusion

Her message is
“There is a light!” Her music, according to her, is “an expression of
me,” made to encourage others in times of despair while also
celebrating “the good things in life and culture.” Songs like “This
Bird Has Flown”, “No Fear”, “Opportunity’s Call” and “Your Groove”
encourage a profound introspection only comparable to the soulful
lyrics of Asa.

But where Asa can
be labelled soul, U’mau is a bit of a conundrum, having created a
fusion of sounds from a melange of influences from Nigeria, Liberia,
Cameroun, Canada, Spain and Russia – places that she has called home at
different points in her life; as well as the heart of the Caribbean.
She however successfully betrays no particular identification with any
of these cultures, effectively promoting an identity of
“boundary-absent” universalist.

Her producer, Femi
Temowo, employs an array of contemporary, orchestral and native sounds
produced by a 15-member band to create vibes that bound along
energetically – contrasting interestingly with, while also keeping time
to and livening up her profound libretto.

More than the
vocal performances it carries, the instrumental sound engineering on
‘Sound Journeys’ is impeccable, an undeniable strength of this album.
And one is drawn in from the first vibrant calypso/highlife strains of
“Might as Well” until the last track, “My People”, on which U’mau
finally concedes a tribal influence, rendering some parts in Efik- a
doffing of her hat to the Efik highlife flavour of Inyang Henshaw,
which the singer says is an acquired taste from her father’s “broad
musical palette.”


Umau’s mellow
tones are a gentle accompaniment to the instrumental sounds, but as one
listens, one begins to hope for a stronger or more adventurous vocal
effort. The album instead draws to a close without this.

U’mau calls her
style ‘alternative fusion’. However, it could have benefitted from
collaborations with a few musicians or an employment of a greater
variety of vocal tones beyond only backup choruses. Also, while the
sound is engaging, the music seems, nonetheless, reigned-in and
tailored specifically to contemplative listenership. One or two
danceable tracks would have shaken things up and added much in terms of
style variety.

One hopes that
U’mau will employ more of the boldness she has exhibited with the
instrumental sounds of this debut in the style and vocal output of her
sophomore effort.

The album is available for purchase on iTunes

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