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Ugoccie Delves into Highlife in New EP, “Voice of the East”

Ugoccie Delves into Highlife in New EP, “Voice of the East”

Ugoccie - Voice of the East review - Afrocritik

The songs on Voice of the East explore a range of topics; friendship, betrayal, and gossip, as they relate generally to life and kinship. 

By Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera 

It is no news that one of the industries holding the place of the Igbo culture in popular culture is its crop of musicians, many of whom are making innovative music and holding the place of the old traditions with their craft. We think of Flavour who has thrived in three different decades with his strides in Highlife, we think of Phyno who is unarguably one of Africa’s best rap artistes, and a host of other oldies. But it is the newer breed of artistes who make us see that the culture is deeply rooted. Chike has shown us how melody and romance combine beautifully in language; The Cavemen have birthed a new form of Highlife; Ifé has stamped her place as a philosopher and storyteller, and among them, there is the jolly fellow, jocular sometimes, and other times introspective, that is Ugoccie whose new EP, Voice of the East is making the rounds. 

Ugoccie established her presence in the scene as a musical comedienne with the release of her 2020 single, “Do You Really Like Me”. She has since gone on to establish her place as an important presence in the music industry, with her irresistible Igbo songs that tell comic stories as they inspire merriment. If Flavour, and more recently, Chike, are the minstrels who can serenade a woman with their songs, Ugoccie is the diva who serenades both men and women. Songs like  “Man on Fire” and “Ife Nkili” both released in 2023, are deeply rooted in stories and poetry of beauty of their main character. The Aba-born singer and songwriter is like a beloved entertainer who is well known and well sought after because of her ability to make people happy and laugh at events.

In her new EP, Voice of the East — all five songs are titled in Igbo —  she delves deeper into her newfound romance with Highlife. She appears as a more serious version of herself and displays an impressive mastery of her craft. This brings her thematically closer to Onyeka Onwenu, the erstwhile Igbo queen of Highlife to whom she has often been compared. 

Ugoccie - Voice of the East review - Afrocritik

The songs on the EP, explore a range of topics; friendship, betrayal, and gossip, as they relate generally to life and kinship. In the opening track, “Isi Mgbaka”, Ugoccie tells the story of a woman who moves abroad and leaves her home-based business in Nigeria hands of her brother who eventually squanders everything. The satirises the foolishness of its protagonist, referring to her as a crackhead, and like the proverbial dog that is killed by a disease that first impedes its ability to smell faeces. It is instructive in how it depicts real-life scenarios where people lose everything chasing more of what they do not have without employing wisdom.

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“Uwa” (featuring Umuobiligbo) is about the inevitability of being talked about irrespective of whether one is “beautiful” or “ugly”. Here, a person’s appearance is a placeholder for personality. The song is enriched by the Umuobiligbo cadence which brings an impressive intensity into the song. In “Ọgọ m”, she reiterates the Igbo proverbial prayer, “May the good I do in the name of friendship not be my end”. This is the most predictable song on the album as it brings nothing new to the message.  The standout here is the employment of the instrumentals, especially the background guitar in the song. The topic is better expressed in the following track, “Ezi Enyi” which means “True friend” which is ironic in the light of the fact that the song is really about fake friendship. In the refrain, Ugoccie sings, “Ezi enyi ma ị chọghị ị fụ ọganiru m, ezi enyi anaa (true friend, yet you don’t want to see my progress.” The backstory here is a person who follows everything her friend does; she competes with the said friend in everything and ultimately including for her man.

Ugoccie - Voice of the East review - Afrocritik
Ugoccie

Voice of the East is not a perfect EP, especially as a Highlife project. For one, its philosophy could have had more depth, considering that for the Igbo people, Highlife musicians have been some of the most amazing philosophers known. As Ugoccie grows as a singer, this is one of what is expected of her; that her topic acquires a skin of depth. Yet she is doing very well, and if there is any crown like the queen of Highlife music in Nigeria, there is perhaps, no one more fitting for the crown currently. In Voice of the East, the “Do You Really Like Me” crooner’s abilities as a storyteller-singer and comedienne are not in question. She is becoming known for her consistency in dropping relevant EPs and fans can only look forward to the album. Her continuous growth is imminent, with her listener base growing all over and beyond Africa – as far as Mahon in her most recent European tour – there is definitely more to look forward to from Ugoccie.

Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera is a writer and freelance journalist. His debut novel, Loss is an Aftertaste of Memories is out in May. Follow him on Twitter @Chukwuderaedozi

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