Oslo – Harlem is a very personal body of work from Oslo artist Baya, who upon a trip to Harlem to meet his estranged father, he found a common link between two disparate artistic voices and the consequence, a double EP. Although not quite a concept album, the ideas that arose through interviewing his father, Professor Sompohi Baya, were channeled into music across two records with his father’s strong visual work based on the African mask, finding a perpendicular narrative to the album as visual accompaniment.
Falling somewhere between artists like Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaur and MIA, Baya’s music pulls at very distant threads, merging elements of synthesisers, guitars and the artist’s chameleon-like vocal to produce melodically-rich music that engages at an accessible level, with layers that can be peeled back further to reveal more through each listening experience. There is a narrative to be explored connecting the tracks, that often gets pieced together through the interview-interludes throughout, but songs like “Movin Up” and “I called to say Hello” stand all on their own, and showcases a song-writing ability that calls to mind experts like Steely Dan or Prince.
Very much a contemporary album however Oslo-Harlem bounds with colour and juxtaposition as various elements of the songwriter’s influences merge into a unique voice, one that rejuvenates the stale formulaic approach to pop music that exists today. We look forward to experiencing the album in the live context too when Baya comes to Jæger’s basement on Friday to debut his live show, until then we’ll be playing this album on repeat in our cafe.