Ola Onabule – Point Less (2019)
On Point Less, singer/songwriter Ola Onabule makes music that is both timeless and timely. Point Less is timeless in the sense that Onabule embraces a sound that his defiantly analog. The tracks on the album fuse jazz, funk and elements of African, Caribbean and Brazilian bossa nova, just to name a few. He employs a top notch band on a project that takes listeners back to a time when musicians came together to create under one roof. The themes that Onabule addresses on this album, such as xenophobia, warfare, environmental degradation and political corruption, possess a timeless quality as well. Marvin Gaye addressed those themes in one of music’s most timeless works of art.
Of course, that’s what makes these themes timely. One only has to read the headlines from country, Great Britain, where Onabule lives, or Nigeria, his ancestral homeland, to understand that problems such as xenophobia and warfare are unwelcome guests seemingly occupying permanent space in our spiritual and physical homes. So, it is unsurprising that Onabule uses Point Less to further expound on themes that he addressed on his two most recent projects, Seven Shades Darker and It’s the Peace that Deafens.
If anything, the tone of the music, the passion that Onabule endows upon the lyrics, and the stories that he tells in these tunes reflect an understanding that the urgency of the times has increased while the world’s understanding of the challenges and willingness to meet them has not. That rage and sense of being perplexed comes through poignantly on the cut “Exit Wounds,” where Onabule sings from the standpoint of a mass shooting victim speaking to the us from the other side.
“Don’t send your thoughts and prayers/If they make it, they’ll be no use here” he sings in the song’s hook. As Onabule does on several of the tracks on Point Less, the song’s powerful message that rails against offering nothing but platitudes as gun violence wrecks and ends life constrast with a musical arrangement that is upbeat. The chants and hand claps that open the song lull the listener into believing they are in store for something that is different from what they end up getting.
Onabule offers no such juxtaposition on the title track, which is a mournful ballad that details humanity’s penchant for dispensing cruelty for cruelty’s sake.
“I Knew Your Father,” the lead single from Point Less, brings us face to face with dealing with the loss of a parent to gun violence. Onabule here talks to a child who lost a father to violence. We do not know if the man was a victim of random violence or if he was a soldier killed in war. We just know that he was trying to do the right thing in a world filled with wrong and that he lost his life. “I Knew Your Father” is another track that showcases, Onabule’s ability to slide from funk to jazz while also bringing in percussion from his African influences.
Tunes such as “So They Say” challenge on multiple levels. This is a complex track that features tempo changes from slow to upbeat while also fusing genres – moving from percussive funk, the rock to jazz. Onabule puts his band, as well as himself, through the paces on this one. Thematically, the song challenges those who use their position and privilege to stifle dissent or to force conformity.
Point Less is an album that calls the listener to action. You may want to dance, or you want to march. But Onabule’s latest will make it hard for folks to stay in their seats. Strongly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes