Sunday, February 7, 2021 12:00 pm
By Odolaye Aremu
My favorite cover of a rock or pop or western song by a traditional Nigerian artiste is the 1982 Orlando’s cover of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry.’
Where KSA’s (Baba Ọ̀run) cover of Jim Reeves ‘The Blizzard’ was done chord-for-chord, melody-for-melody (aside the words and language) and Ebenezer Obey’s guitar solo of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers In The Night’ was beautifully done to fit as a hook.
Orlando’s highlife version of “No Woman” is a gem on its own. Infact, I dare to rate it better than the original for its simpleness, ingenuity, raw percussion and it’s excellent grit! And he deliberately re-tuned parts of the original chords to give his own version – new life. I think, to make the creation – solely his own!
Sexist tone and language? Yes. Cut him some slack as – ‘Wokeism’ was then lightyears ahead into the future. Well established that a lot of stars are entitled animals – and they tend to relay their sexism and dumb sense of male superiority through their music back in the day. Something Orlando particularly did aplenty.
Where Bob’s live version – (the bestseller) was electronically noisy with that syncopated, whiny organ. Churchy, hallucinating, heavily romantic – as in that close to a minute guitar solo and its overall smoothness. Orlando’s version was all the way opposite.
Austere, gritty, heavy on percussion and heavy on bass. Orlando’s signature graveled baritone was heavy on it too except where tempered smoothly by Ade Conga’s sonorous falsetto. Adé’s voice was about the only soft element on the entire track. The rhythm is effectively structured! Asides the title of the song, I think the rhythm was the song’s secondary message.
The man’s genius was rooted in his storied compositions and his sense of arrangements. And the beauty of this track itself lies in its thorough simplicity. A hurried listener may be spared that disgust for missing the likeness. Perhaps Orlando did that on purpose. Who knows!
But it is frustrating to still feel the ‘unsungness’ of Orlando as a triple-A musician. This is a standout track even if its not too popular. One many of his fans pay little attention to. Finally, I tend to think of him as I do Bob Dylan – a congenital, minimalistic musician. The man who was born to make much with less!
-Odolaye Aremu is a public affairs analyst