Obongjayar, A Guardian Angel

Discovering a brand new artist can invoke feelings like nothing else can and leave a long lasting effect. In this exclusive Music Mondays article we take a deep dive into Obongjayr and what makes their art so special.


Have you ever wished to have a guardian angel watching over you? To have someone or something over your shoulders at all times; comforting you and telling you not to give up, or telling you they’re proud of you and that you’re trying your best. Experiencing life for the first time can be isolating and overwhelming. We weren’t given a handbook at birth; a manual on how to get through life easily. Thus, wanting to have a guardian angel is typical.

Obongjayar’s debut album, Some Nights I Dream Of Doors, is nothing short of magical. I have no recollection of how I discovered him, but I do remember listening to the titular song for the first time and feeling a weird mix of feelings. What intrigued me? Was it his voice? I had never heard anything like it before. Was it the humming lulling me to sleep? Perhaps it was the melody of the song, the pang of the piano. “Save me I’m dying. Save me I’m losing this fight. Save me I’m dying, trying my best to survive”, he sings over a pulsing synth. Hearing that for  the first time, it felt like an intense rush of wind passed through my bones, cleansed them and gave me a new found sense of clarity. He goes further to sing, “No matter where I run the waves they lead me right back here, I think it’s time I stop running from myself. You want to make a life here, you and everyone else. You want to be happy, well, so do they.” It was like an angel was urging me to be one with myself and to put in the effort to be better, after hearing my countless cries of self-loathing.

Try, Sugar and New Man are beans in a pod; one gentle and enchanting, the other having a delicate intensity, and the latter, angry. They all share the same message: I see your efforts and I know how tired you are. There is no one like you and I am proud of you. Keep on trying and you’ll get there eventually.

I like to believe angels were humans too pure for this world and with too much love in their hearts. In I wish it was me, Obongjayar lets us know that he’s human. His voice, backed up with intricate melodies, tells the story of a person that he adores. You can almost feel the tears as he appreciates the person who turns out to be his younger brother. Love is an emotion that we have all felt before, albeit with varying intensities, but with this song, we get to experience pure and unbridled love from a listener’s point of view. Obongjayar is vulnerable and tells us how much better he thinks his brother is than him without a hint of malice. The greatest and most selfless love of all; acknowledging a person’s strength and feeling inadequate in comparison, but admiring and loving them in spite of that. It is a testament to the depth of his feelings and the value he places on his brother beyond any sense of competition or comparison.

Often times, it feels as though there isn’t one person on earth that understands the way that you feel. Life can be isolating but it doesn’t seem that way. Friends and family always seem to have something going for them; a new job, a thriving relationship, a stable mental health. “Why do things never go smoothly for me?”, “Why do I feel everything so intensely?”, “Why can’t I function?”, “What is wrong with me?”. These are questions that we start to ask ourselves. Questions that we don’t have the answers to. Questions that we can’t ask anyone else because there is nothing visibly wrong with you. How do you explain to them that your mind is a battlefield and you don’t even know why yourself? On Parasite, he’s speaking to a doctor. It’s unknown whether it’s a literal or metaphorical doctor. “The pain you don’t see, it don’t mean it don’t exist”. Obongjayar is vulnerable once again, and lets us know that he struggles, as we all do, although he does a good job at hiding it. He coveys how the doctor (he hints at the doctor being people who have never had to work for anything before) doesn’t know what is wrong with him and is judging him anyway. Themes of love, anger, vulnerability, resistance, grief and acceptance are explored throughout the album, providing guidance and solace when nothing else seems to be helpful, as well as evoking emotions that are buried deep within. His debut album impressed me so much that I went looking for more of his music, and I wasn’t disappointed when I listened to his other projects.

I share a birthday with my sister. We weren’t born on the same day. In fact, I am 6 years older than her and she was born 6 days before my birthday. Every year, she wouldn’t celebrate her birthday till it was mine. Two cakes, twice the celebration. Two souls intertwined by blood, two sisters sharing love. It was always her day anyway. Iman is the brightest star in any room that she is in. A curious girl with a lovely soul, she is filled with wonder. If Iman stands before the world, the world would take one glance at her smile and fall hopelessly in love with her. My Iman is beautiful. She is kind, she is polite. She is the smell of wet sand after a rainy day. She is the first sunlight that caresses your skin in the morning. Iman is love. She is life, and so when Obongjayar says, “You wish you were big like me, I wish I could see like you”, on Never Change, I am taken aback to all the moments when she would tell me she couldn’t wait to be my age and I would tell her to enjoy being a child with mindless wonder. It is unknown to me if he wrote the song about someone, or about a version of himself that he lost and can’t get back no matter how hard he tries, but Never Change is exactly how I feel about my sister. When his voice wafts through the soft drums that are consistent throughout the song, all I can think about is my Iman. can think about is my Iman.

On a joint EP with Sarz, titled Sweetness, Obongjayar shows his versatility with just 4 songs. The songs are disco influenced. 80’s RnB is also a prevalent sound throughout the album and it’s exciting to hear a voice like Obongjayar’s, whose primary genre is afropop, flow smoothly into delicate jazz sounds. His singing is tender and tells the story of the journey of being happy in love to being a jilted lover. The drum patterns with the soft keys have you nearing the edge of your seat to hear what happens next. It’s a project that’s too short but does well to show how talented and multifaceted he is.

With his other projects, he tells stories in such a way that lets us know he is in tune with himself and his struggles. He is aware of the world around him, and the beauty - as well as the pain - that it holds. Sweetness is fun and he delivers, compelling the listener to come back for more. Overall, Obongjayar is an artist for all occasions. He has a profound knowledge of the way his world works and he does a good job of welcoming you into it with a warm embrace. He weaves his stories into songs that echo your own challenges. Through his music, he reminds us that we’re all part of a shared journey, facing similar trials and discovering life’s wonders together for the first time.

Follow Obongjayr: linktr.ee/obongjayar 

Written By LaylaBDull: linktr.ee/munirabdull