If Sadness Had a Happy Sound, It Would Be Olamide’s ‘Wonma

‘Joba Ojelabi

Vulgarity is not a novel concept in music. I do not expect this to change anytime soon. As a matter of fact, I believe that vulgarity is the language of reality. So much that it becomes quite difficult to fully retain the soul of an experience in documentation without a touch of vulgarity. We might try hard to remain prim and proper by hiding behind euphemistic expressions and less popular synonyms, but the ‘real’ ones are the ones who say it the way it is.

Although vulgarity covers quite some ground when it comes to expression. This is why both hardcore rap which captures mostly tendencies of violence and sexually explicit songs can both be said to contain vulgar language. So, streamlining the basis of conversation to sexual vulgarity in music makes the task of exploring Olamide’s ‘Wonma’ easier.

Sexual explicitness in music is also not new. History holds account of several artists that have been quite direct with messages on and around coitus, which often includes but is not limited to the male and female anatomy and the very act itself. Back home, sexual vulgarity in music is also not strange. Across several genres, there have always been rebellious artistes that have grown a brand around being sexually vulgar in their music. Names like Obesere, Zule-zoo, and several others come to mind.

Currently, Olamide is one artist that is holding the fort with respect to sexually vulgar music with ‘Wonma’ from his most recent body of work, 999, being perhaps his most recent addition to that catalogue. But what makes ‘wonma’ quite different Olamide’s long list of vulgar songs?

The intent of sexual vulgarity in music is not unilateral, even though, in most instances, it is commercial. An example that readily comes to mind in this regard is the unusual saint, Saint Janet. Saint Janet is alleged to have been a gospel artist who turned to ‘alternative’ singing for commercial reasons. However, sometimes as is noted in Olamide’s Wonma, there is something else to say.

Wonma’ is a shortened part of the trisyllabic sentence that largely forms the chorus of the song, “won ma do.” Loosely translated, this sentence means, “they’ll f*ck her.” The song, which is totally sung in Yoruba, is a call and response. But unlike the gentler ones from tales by moonlight, wonma offers a different kind of wisdom, one that is borne from a man’s frustration, a misogynistic culture, and perhaps the insatiability of man (with particular emphasis on women). These, of course, make the song very unpopular among women and a priceless addition to the #MenAreScum repertoire.

Produced by Cracker Mallo, the lyrics of Wonma are strung on a groovy beat that makes it tempting to enjoy the complex oxymoron that the song becomes. It’s easy to get lost in the fast tempo and groove of the song but paying attention to Wonma beneath its groovy beat and memorable melody is to see a man in pain. A pain that seems to have metamorphosed into hopelessness and mistrust, or maybe even absolute distrust.

In the end, Wonma becomes a means of expression for stifled emotions; for artist and maybe even most listeners. While this, of course, makes the piece of work somewhat important, it becomes necessary to hope that there is a better way to unbottle, at least for the sake of etiquette.

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