Keziah Jones - Captain Rugged (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
GIVEN the current obsession with all things superhero related I suppose it was an inevitable move that a musician might one day adopt such an alter-ego to help get them noticed.
And that’s what Nigerian singer-songwriter Keziah Jones has done for his sixth album, Captain Rugged. For that eponymous ‘hero’ is his quirky and socially committed double. And the LP itself even comes with a full graphic novel chronicling the Captain’s adventures in Lagos.
Nigerian, Afropolitan, universal, Captain Rugged then proceeds to tell anyone who will listen about modern Africa and its urban movements. From his youth among the ghettos and skyscrapers of bustling Lagos, flying around in his ankara cape and shaking the city with his angry beats:
“Here I come, an Afro Superhero, Captain Rugged,” cries Keziah. His Afronewave echoes his rebellion: a concept album in the shape of a manifesto.
Some of this is, admittedly, quite striking, while remaining rooted firmly in African music tradition. Album opener Afronewave drops an insistent central bass hook and a snappy beat and is a useful calling card for things to come. It’s also one of the tracks that boasts more crossover appeal than most.
But thereafter, a lot of the enjoyment of the album is dependent on how much you like your world music, with songs like Nollywoodoo and Rugged sticking rigidly to African percussion rhythms, while other moments such as Hypothetical and Utopia, while lyrically interesting, aren’t strong enough to really hold the attention beyond a couple of listens.
It’s in the songs that more proactively combine the various instrumental elements that the album is at its most accessible, with Lunar and Falling (which both draw on more soul and pop elements) standing out.
Captain Rugged is therefore an interesting concept album but its superhero power is only limited.
Download picks: Afronewave, Lunar, Falling