Shola Emmanuel’s “Ododo”

The sun rises. The determination fuels the grit, the passion to get where you want to go that day is waiting for you to scoop it up. Now, imagine a soundtrack to your morning, a caffeinated jazz sound swirling with angelic voices, smooth saxophone, pristine piano and flavorful percussion. Shola Emmanuel’s “Ododo” is a song for the ages. It’s wide swath of rich tones and arm raising triumphs.

Born in Nigeria, and now based in Atlanta, Georgia, Emmanuel’s musical heroes include Quincy Jones, Sting, Herbie Hancock and more. He names his influences as Yanni, Hugh Masekela, Kirk Whalum, Beyoncé and more. He’s toured in Canada, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and United States. Emmanuel’s debut EP, Yoruba Project hit in 2018; “Ododo” is from the album Kind of Music.


I would have liked Emmanuel to be a bit more generous with the saxophone in the track. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to go around, a dazzling display of harmony. “Ododo” is more of a team effort. The piano, especially, takes the spotlight in several occasions. The music bed ripe with embolden embers from the organic vocals, dances through rhythmic percussion. The movement in the song continues, with angelic-like vocals, smoldered out by the instrumentation. As the lead vocalist sings, the light continues to shine, all is well in the world. Like wildfire, the instrumentation and vocalist strike, with tidbits of emeralds and generations of storytelling embossed in spirit.

What are they saying and singing about? I’m not sure. Music is the universal language and this song speaks to the soul. The percussion moments can be like little taps on the shoulder, triggering the listener to zip up and zip out. Like a butterfly, parading around the sky carefree, “Ododo” seems to give glimpses of natural beauty and nods at the miracle of human life. Yes, all this and more in a smooth-Afro-jazz song. I wish I were more astute at the Nigerian language and culture, but going into this song a bit blindsided actually didn’t hinder my experience. I think listeners will find that their sonic encounter will hold their hand (and heart) in a completely different way. Kudos for the musicians in this band realizing this and not putting us in a confined box. As we’re left to our devices, the lyrics change meaning as much as our experiences change our interpretations.


Toe-tapping along, I found my way down Alice’s rabbit hole. I closed my eyes and just let the music drift me towards dreamland. Exotic tones, vibrating drums and the spark of the saxophone came at me like a Disney animation. It’s also an overwhelming sense of regrowth and rebirth. Like a Phoenix rising, “Ododo” champions the insecurities and confidences someone has and just bottles it up, only to explode or burst like a ticker tape parade. As the listener shakes off the cobwebs and plugs into this track, the moment turns bigger, brighter and you seem to become your best self. “Ododo” is a musical celebration.

Michael Rand

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