Omah Lay Takes Afro-Fusion To The World In His Own Way
Born and raised in Ikwerre, River State, Omah Lay rises from the same soil that nurtured the likes of Burna Boy, Lyrikal, Mr Eazi, Duncan Mighty and Ajebo Hustlers. Bounded by political turmoil from the Niger Delta conflict to the #EndSars movement, where the abuse of power is a common trope, it’s the simple phrase ‘Afrobeats to the world’ that fuels Omah Lay's steps. His creative output isn’t wrapped in political messages, instead it's the rawness and authenticity of his home soil that’s moulded the Afro-fusion star to be exactly who he is todaera; a genre that was conceived before the existence of Afrobeats yet it’s flavourful undertones can be detected in almost every artist that erupts from Nigeria’s musical empire. However, it was the moment listeners encountered the track “Bad Influence” that rapidly catapulted Lay into the spotlight, earning him widespread acclaim.
It may seem like the River State native seemingly appeared out of nowhere but his 2020 EP Get Layd was our first proper introduction to Omah Lay’s world of romantic confessions and vivid scenarios. A poet-turned-artist, his poignant lyrics travel through a direct line from his page to our ears. Despite its suggestive title, the project isn’t a crude show of sexual proclivity, rather it's a tender statement of his intent to love and be loved in spite of his ‘bad-boy’ nature.
Each track experiments with the idea of what Afro-fusion looks like in Omah Lay’s mind; from the mellow R&B “Damn” or “Ye Ye Ye” which convulses with hypnotic guitar melodies placed over tittering trap drums. “Lo Lo” is another offering on the EP that takes inspiration from Nigeria’s golden Highlife
Still swayed by the lush sounds of Get Layd, we were met with another project in the same year titled What Have We Done which featured US R&B star 6LACK and further solidified Omah as one to watch. Playing his hand as both songwriter and producer, Omah’s strengths are in full bloom, now all that’s left to do is sit back and watch as he takes over the global music sphere.
Meet Omah Lay, a living dichotomy of eccentric youthfulness and melancholy; an artist representing the many forms of Afro-fusion to the world.
WORDS Blessing Borode
CREATIVE DIRECTOR Derrick Odafi
PHOTOGRAPHER Kemka Ajoku
STYLIST Symone Keisha
STLYLIST ASSISTANT Miatta Coomber
MUA Blessing Kambanga
SET DESIGNER Sofia Mpana
SET DESIGNER ASSISTANT Vernetta Chukwu
PRODUCTION New Wave Studios
BTS Tameisha Edwards
NW: How’s it been performing and connecting with your fans in person now?
OL: Yeah the feeling is something I can’t explain, this is the first time I’m touring because I blew up during the pandemic so there were no shows, it was just people listening to the songs from home but for the first time people are actually coming out. It’s a different kind of feeling, I really can’t explain it.
NW: Tell us about who Omah Lay is as a person and an artist?
OL: I can’t really differentiate between the Omah Lay as an artist and as a person, I think I’m just Omah Lay - that’s the best way I can describe myself.
NW: You come from Ikwerre, River State in Nigeria, tell us about what growing up there was like, what was around you?
OL: I grew up in Port Harcourt river state in Nigeria and the Niger Delta struggle and everything actually kind of influenced my music. Growing up I was listening to a lot of Burna Boy because he’s from my city too, I was listening to him and Drake so that made my childhood. I think all of that actually influenced who I am today - it made me become Omah Lay.
NW: You currently live in Lagos but how is Port Harcourt life compared to Lagos for those unfamiliar with the city?
OL: Growing up in Port Harcourt is quite different from the Lagos vibe. I talked about the whole Niger Delta struggle and that’s actually in Port Harcourt. It’s not easy growing up there but it’s a memory I want to have forever but at the same time, it wasn’t so easy. It’s a really tough place to be, trust me. Growing up there made me who I am like I said earlier, it made me Omah Lay and I really can’t explain it until you go see for yourself what port Harcourt is. It’s a beautiful city but the vibe is different from Lagos
NW: You come from a family of legendary musicians, what’s one thing that inspires you about them?