Title: Lagos Pepper Soup
Artist: Michael Olatuja
Label: Whirlwind Recordings
Formats: LP, Digital
Release date: June 12, 2020
Bassist and composer Michael Olatuja has a unique musical background. Born in London, raised in Lagos, Nigeria, and currently based in New York, he has certainly traversed many continents and engaged with various musical genres across the African diaspora. Olatuja’s third album Lagos Pepper Soup, released eleven years after his Speak (2009) and nine years after The Promise (2011), maintains his unique musical style that blends West African Afrobeats and jazz with the addition of a cinematic touch. According to Olatuja, Lagos Pepper Soup was envisioned as an album that would “fuse this mix of Afrobeat and jazz as if it was a Hollywood film soundtrack.”
The album includes exuberant renderings on songs such as “Lagos Pepper Soup,” “Brighter Day,” “Soki,” “Ma Foya,” and “Leye’s Dance” with guest appearances by Angelique Kidjo, Laura Mvula, Dianne Reeves, Lionel Loueke, and Joe Lovano. Each composition offers rhythmic contours, rich timbres, woro styles, hi-life beat undertones, as well as other African diasporic popular music genres. To contrast these ebullient performances, Olajuja offers measured and mellifluous musical prose on songs such as “Shadows Fade” and “Grace.” Olatuja also takes a moment to honor his late mother, Comfort Bola, with two heartfelt and profound musical dedications on “The Hero’s Journey” and “Bola’s Song” featuring Regina Carter and Gregoire Maret.
Lagos Pepper Soup contains many brilliant musical renderings performed by a great supporting cast of internationally renowned artists. But ultimately, it serves as the soundtrack to the musical journey of Michael Olatuja.
Reviewed by Jamaal Baptiste