WurlD’s Afrosoul EP, to a Ghanaian ear

WurlD knows a thing or two about soul. It’s apparent throughout his catalogue which now stands at seven EPs. A sonic hypnotist, the Lagos native, born Sadiq Onifade, has...

WurlD knows a thing or two about soul. It’s apparent throughout his catalogue which now stands at seven EPs. A sonic hypnotist, the Lagos native, born Sadiq Onifade, has habitually offered a technique built on tailored calm, enhanced immersion, and inner awareness that results in effectual healing. 

Afrosoul, his latest collection, listens as an expansive, fiercely original statement piece demonstrating that he also knows a thing or two about dance, for he shows exceptional competence at the delicate process of blending plural influences into a cogent aural performance; one that works for the Afrobeats ear as much as it does for fresh audiences of his craft. At the same time, the project finds him untangling a mess of musical threads into a distilled product. That is the duty of “WurlD (read as ‘world’) music” after all.

Among his peers, the man perhaps best known for 2016’s “Show You Off,” (which guests Shizzi and Walshy Fire), as well as collaborations with everyone from Davido to Mario to Akon now enjoys untouched repute as fusionist-in-chief. On a continent, and in a sub-region renowned for copious rhythmic treasures and fearless experimentation, WurlD has steadily asserted himself as an essential voice whose singular style is key to expanding the Afrobeats discussion. A master of the EP, he has not even needed exhaust the duration of a full-length album to prove his mettle. 

On Afrosoul, WurlD inhabits his usual eccentric stratosphere, and is uninhibited in range, dispensing a jolly pace with the collection’s opener, “National Anthem (Growing Wings,” flowy reggae that also hosts the emphatic drum patterns that can be interpreted as hip-hop, the ethnic, electronic energy on “Love Nobody,” the contemporary Afrobeats feel of “Story,” “Wayo,” and “Can’t Come Outside,” and an excellent update of nostalgic, guitar-filled highlife as heard on “Birthday Song and Palmwine Riddim” (featuring Ghana’s Zeal). And of course, what is a WurlD song without a touch of psychedelia?

When a Ghanaian ear listens to the project–preferably starting with the last track, and then working one’s way up track one, it feels instantly familiar, for he hears the sounds of his heritage. The exchange between WurlD and Zeal over melody that calls up Yamoah’s Guitar Band’s classic “Serwaa Akoto” (which inspired VIP’s “Obaa Sweetie“) listens like cousins reunited at a family function. In more ways than one, it also captures an intimate musical relationship that exists between Ghana and Nigeria. Because the two nations currently occupy the forefront of the Afrobeats movement, the sounds explored on the rest of the project are also a contagious celebration of a mutual melodic nurturing.

If you’ve followed his evolution (which professionally kicked off in 2013 with, well, Evolution), the themes WurlD grapples with on his latest offering are hardly new: at his core, the man is preoccupied with the notions of love and freedom. The EP’s intense diction, comprising a potpourri of English, Yoruba, and pidgin is carried in the fervid pitch that often characterizes the expressions of spiritual beings. It unfurls in two sets of adjectives: melancholic, nervous, afraid, hopeless, but also honest, proud, joyful, searching, confident, and determined.

Overall, Afrosoul is underlined by urgent desire — something that has constantly fueled his frequent output (it is his third EP in a duration of one year). It also arrives as a lavish mine sprawling with gems to discover or rediscover with every listen. Judging by the rate at which WurlD publishes bodies of work lately, a new LP may yet land while we’re still breaking down his subtle harmonic achievements on track seven, the symbolic messaging hidden in track four, or the astonishing incisiveness of his songwriting.

Stream Afrosoul here.

Pop writer from Accra.