Thursday, 23 May 2024
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Wizard Chan Is A Pensive, Esoteric Oracle On ‘The Messenger’ EP [Review]

As transcendental and raw as music gets, Wizard Chan yields his debut EP and project, The Messenger. The project arrives nearly four years after the release of the Alternative artiste’s first single, ‘Halo Halo’ in 2020.

The Messenger Cover art.
The Messenger Cover art.

Spirituality, legacy, self-preservation and the human condition are central to Wizard Chan’s Message. The eight-track EP is supported by the singles ‘Demons & Angels’, ‘Earth Song’ and ‘Loner’, featuring Joeboy. In the wake of its release, it has notably earned co-signs from music journalist Joey Akan and rapper Illbliss.

Listeners wind up in a distant jungle on the project’s opener, ‘Mr. Sailor Man’, which features soothing pristine sounds. Wizard Chan casts a spotlight on the unseen but focal impact of the divine on the affairs of humans. He singles out two sets of everyday men, a sailor man and a tailor man, for symbolic and rhythmic purposes. He sings:

Oh Mr Sailor Man‘/’Pray to Jah to guide your hands‘/’Sail that boat to the promised land‘/’Father’s love is all we have

Each word is vital to Wizard Chan, who is more of a seasoned oracle and a griot than a musician. He speaks to the relentless spirit of his audience, appealing to their spiritual sensibilities.

A thrilling layer is unearthed in the next track, ‘Higher Powers’, which features Boma Nime. Emphatic Kalabari chants lunge at the listener as a fitting precursor to the wise words that follow. Upon a switch of sonic gears to a mid-tempo vibe, Wizard Chan continues his message thus:

No mountain is too high for a man to climb, just let your faith preside‘/’Don’t be shy of all the mistakes you make in life

The track features a solo verse, inadvertently giving it more heft. However, the chants are the real highlight. Given that minority expressions in mainstream records are far and in between, their inclusion here makes the project more dynamic. ‘Higher Powers’ is a worthy addition, despite its lyrics being inches away from the resonance level of the preceding track.

Wizard Chan.

More dynamism arrives on the next track, ‘Pray Hard’, which operates on a Hip-Hop soundscape. Wizard Chan reiterates spirituality’s status as a core theme of the project by interpolating an Islamic statement of faith. He further drives it home with the notable lines, ‘Life is full of ups and downs, Father comfort me‘/’No man survives the rot of life without Jah Jah’s healing‘. Guest artiste Dino Zee delivers a rap verse, giving unfamiliar listeners a taste of the Northern Hip-Hop scene. The Hip-Hop infusion bleeds into the next track, ‘Demons & Angels’, which features some of the The Messenger‘s best songwriting.

I summon peace. Yes, I deserve peace‘/’I fall apiece. Yes, I pick my pieces up

Wizard Chan shows the first shades of vulnerability on the project. He sings, ‘Anger management is me locking myself‘/’In my room, make it my cell, to avoid some disrespect‘. There is a further infusion of local lingua, adding a personal touch (‘Asawana Asawana eh anye, proud Ijaw man‘). Ultimately, the song captures the never-ending battle to keep pervasive dark thoughts and tendencies at bay.

Wizard Chan.

The fourth track, ‘Legacy’, begins with a local saying that translates to, “Do not spoil things for our children with the way you are behaving”. It is a cautionary warning geared towards eliciting self-reflection on the part of listeners. He adds yet another paradox, referring to time as both the enemy of, and the best gift to man. He also refers to life as a beautiful lie and death as the bitter truth. Once again, Wizard Chan’s ear for poetic gold comes to the fore and continues on the next track, ‘Earth Song’.

The reflection on ‘Earth Song’ is reminiscent of ‘Demons & Angels’, but there is a more external outlook on ‘Earth Song’. He doubles down on his desire for internal peace in sung-rap fashion, highlighting the looming danger in the world. He also pays homage to women, describing them as gods and the portal between Heaven and Earth. Wizard Chan gives one more highlight to communion with the divine in a manner faithfuls may consider subversive. Nonetheless, it is in sync with the core spirit of The Messenger.

A skit featuring vocals from Wizard Chan’s mother dials down the tempo, before Chan’s headline collaboration with Joeboy surfaces. ‘Loner’, the lead single released closest to the project’s release, is indulgent and confined. Joeboy captures the essence of the record thus:

I’m a loner‘/’Only me fit watch my shoulder‘/’Cause na only my mind I know, not another man own yeah

Wizard Chan saves his most layered gems for last on ‘Stages of Life’. He recounts the conventional trajectory of life, calling on listeners to live their life to the fullest before certain death. The record is perfectly balanced, with the first verse dwelling on childhood and the second, on adolescence and adulthood. As the song winds down, he pays homage to Lucky Dube by referencing the latter’s track, ‘Crazy World’.

Oh Lord, now I lay me down to sleep‘/’I pray the Lord my soul to keep‘/’And if I die before I wake‘/’I pray the Lord my soul to take

Wizard Chan.

Nigerian projects akin to The Messenger have been far and in between in recent times. Alternative music has always had a home in the local industry, but scarcely ever a moment in the sun. Whether Wizard Chan’s first offering would change that, it is a pensive and weighty collective for more mellow ears. It borders heavily on spirituality, but it also makes a strong emphasis on humanity. With strong songwriting, understated production and sufficient cohesion, one would be remiss to shoot this Messenger.

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