When people call Obongjayar “genre-defying” it’s not just a buzzword – it genuinely is impossible to put him in a box. Slipping in and out of a pidgin dialect to a more British twang, his voice can sit anywhere between a gravel-like rasp or a chant, to the clear falsetto tones of tracks like “Adjacent Heart” – but you’ll always know it when you hear it.
His visuals are just as recognisable. Frank Lebon directed a video for debut single “Creeping” and Duncan Loudon created the visually arresting, monochromatic clips in “Never Change”. His spoken word also punctuated Dazed’s recent film One Day Go Be One Day, directed by Akinola Davies Jr and made in collaboration with NTS and Carhartt, where he used his narration to bring the story of one of his musical heroes, Fela Kuti, to life.
Obongjayar’s work draws on his own dual nationality (evident in the flourishes of afrobeat in his tracks), politics, and love. He says that he has an “almost selfish” drive to create work that reflects the stories that shape us. For now, he’s also focussing on the more difficult task of making his mother, and his grandmother who raised him, proud. “They’re less worried about me,” he says. “This is easily my biggest achievement to date – I’ve always been a headache to them. Now, not so much.”