Afrohighlife: A Review of “Culture” by Umu Obiligbo Featuring Flavour And Phyno

By Ikenga Chronicles June 28, 2019

Afrohighlife: A Review of “Culture” by Umu Obiligbo Featuring Flavour And Phyno

— ThankGod Ukachukwu

It is the biggest song in South East Nigeria and a big hit in the Nigerian music industry. Highlife music stars Umu Obiligbo’s (Akunwafor jnr and Okpuozor) latest single “Culture” featuring industry giants Phyno and Flavour (A-list artistes in the Nigerian music industry) is an infusion of highlife, Igbo rap and afrobeat. Despite the rendition of the song in Igbo language, it has the trappings of a song, which brings highlife music to the mainstream.

Big time Nigerian music producer Masterkraft conjured what is the best tune from the east of the River Niger so far in 2019. Take a listen and you will be enthralled in the combination of esoteric and eclectic sound of drums, ogene instrument, plosive aerophone and slit drum; a mix of urbane and modern Afrobeat blended with African high life music. Acoustic sounds of guitar and flutes gives off euphoric feelings which sends downs chills down the spine; eclectic, facile and danceable. That song reflects the true meaning of native Nigerian music. The song is so smooth in the ears that it echos suavity.

Non-Igbos speakers may have a hard time recognising or paying attention to Umu Obiligbo. Afrobeat enthusiasts may not be interested in their highlife music, which is rendered in Igbo language. However featuring Phyno and Flavour and the inculcation of other genres gave it the singe some traction to appeal to a wider audience. Music aficionados would liken this collaboration to that of Lil Nas X featuring Billy Cyrus in “Old Town Road”, where country music and hip hop came together to deliver a song which has broken streaming records and reduced the chasm between traditional American genres and mainstream music genres.

Between, there has been a rise of Afrobeat and rap music, which is the dominant tune in Nigeria in the South East which are rendered in Igbo language. Phyno is an Igbo rapper and a hip-hop artist. One of his latest hit, “Obiagu” a soundtrack used in Lionheart movie brings to fore the rising dominance of Nigerian languages in mainstream genres. In the South West, the Yoruba language is the default medium for delivering Afrobeat by the likes of Olamide and Burna Boy. Afrobeat in Igbo language has been gaining popularity with artistes like Phyno, Flavour, Zoro and Tekno among others preferring their mother tongue to English.

This evolution were the foundations on which highlife artistes like Umu Obiligbo utilized to mesmerize fans with their eclectic and danceable song. Previously, they were featured by Flavour in the song, “Awele” in which Flavour’s Igbo highlife isn’t as deep rooted as the duo who are the progeny to popular highlife musicians like Sir Osita Osadebe, Oliver De Coque, Rex Lawson et cetera, a brand of music that seem to be fading away.

The innovation of Umu Obiligbo in producing a tune, which criss-crosses many genres – highlife, Igbo rap, Afrobeat, hip-hop – is a genius feat. Everyone involved in the production of the song should be applauded, from the writer(s) to the producer to instrumentalists. Phyno delivered a grade one Igbo rap. Flavour’s beautiful high life voice blessed the track with his brilliance. A critic of the lyrics did not reveal explicit use of words because highlife music teaches people about life matters.  An avenue to deliver wise sayings to listeners and this is what makes songs in the genre loved by mature audiences. However, the infusion of various genres in “Culture” cuts across all age brackets and gives the song an allure that is hard to resist.

The success of the song, which has racked over one million views on their combined on Youtube Vevo and over 8m combined (when you include views on Flavour’s and Phyno’s popular pages, is a pointer to the brilliance of Nigerian artistes who are reinventing themselves and asserting the Nigerian music industry as the numero uno in Africa.

  • ThankGod Ukachukwu tweets with @kcnaija