Best new music: Sarz & Lojay fuse Afropop and R&B for deceptively addictive “Tonongo”
Best new music: Sarz & Lojay fuse Afropop and R&B for deceptively addictive “Tonongo”

Best new music: Sarz & Lojay fuse Afropop and R&B for deceptively addictive “Tonongo”

A stunning teaser from the duo's upcoming collaborative EP

A little over two years ago, a trove of mood-shifting electro-tinged instrumentals appeared on streaming apps credited to Sarz. Within the expanse of the suitably-named ‘Sarz Is Not Your Mate’, the producer sauntered between the cheery carefreeness of “Good Morning Riddim” and the whizzing hums of “Celetronic Riddim”, displaying the knack for crafting euphonious sounds and sense of pacing that made him perhaps the most important Nigerian producer of the 2010s. With the barest minimum vocals, the beat merchant made a body of work that could soundtrack – and ease – the endemic traffic congestions that crowd out the roads of Lagos, day on day, while the inviting pulse of “Legwork Riddim” tapped into the dominant trend ruling the 2019 zeitgeist. At the end of that year, he followed up with ‘I Love Girls With Trobul’, a joint project with WurlD that paired the electro thrumming of ‘SINYM’ with WurlD’s poignant lyricism. 

In the two years since then, Sarz has taken a backseat from music drops to focus on tweaking his formula to reflect the ever-expanding multiplicity of sonics in the ecosystem. On “Tonongo”, a new collaboration between Sarz and newcomer Lojay, we are served notice of a new era in the producer’s career and a sign of a brewing partnership with another artist. While WurlD’s music reflected the American influence that shaped his art, Lojay’s voice reflects the Nigerian experience in immersive fashion with 2017’s ‘Midnight Vibes’ boasting jolting production and caulking writing on songs like “Atarodo” and “10k Splaw”.

Four years after, and collaborating with Sarz, the pace of Lojay’s music is less languorous and the sound is cleaner, the staggered flows on “Tonongo” are deceptively addictive, complementing Sarz’s pivot to an Afropop-soul fusion sound. Stretching out his vocals over a sensual instrumental, Lojay makes a lascivious tribute to a dancer that he’s not sure he likes or he’s just lusting after. His writing wonderfully swerves between the grungy staple of Afropop and a more ambitious style of rhyming that makes the gloomy, dark soundscape he was aiming at visible. One memorable line, “You win the ass cheek Ballon D’Or”, lands on the right side of the beat drop, providing an almost visceral imagery to his emotive chitter. 

One of Sarz’s greatest gift has always been his intuitive ability to match the sonic leanings of his creative partners and present their music in new and exciting ways; here, he strips the dour reverbs that have characterised some of Lojay’s recent works (“Ogogoro” and “Ariel”), allowing his music retain the anxiety of his messaging without distractions. The first single off a proposed joint project between the producer and artist, “Tonongo” represents a superb effort in imagining the turmoil and uncertainties of romance over forward thinking beats, as tension-soaked, angst-filled neo-soul music attempts to position itself at the center of Nigerian pop. It also teases the wonderful possibilities ahead of the duo’s joint EP, setting an enviable opening standard for the project’s eventual full release in coming weeks.

Listen to “Tonongo” here.

@walenchi Is A Lagos-Based Writer Interested In The Intersection Of Popular Culture, Music, And Youth Lifestyle.