Many songs on Ogranya’s SoundCloud catalogue feels like a slow-alt-pop-jazz universe. The 29-year-old singer-songwriter from Rivers edges around soul but with bedroom pop nuances, vocals calibrated low to a devastating emotive register. His debut EP Eden Evermore, released in 2018, is a genre-blending triumph with high emotional stakes and intimate songwriting. ”I’m going talk to these scars until they speak,” he sings, ”I write your name on this heart until it bleeds.”
Enter Ogranya’s dreamy landscape orbiting around his own sonic whims. Eden Evermore led to Ogranya quitting his day job as an architect with music becoming his primary vocation. He still practice the profession but not as regularly and with more time to spare, he has dived deeper into what it really means to devote every single hour to music. ”It’s an ongoing process but I’ve spent time between then and now deciding what I’d like my music to be, both sonically and topically,” Ogranya says, ”I’ve become more aware of how intimately my songs are being consumed. It’s like a drug or some form of sustenance to a lot of people as I’ve gathered from feedback. There’s something undeniably heartwarming yet dreadfully ominous about it. This has put me in a space where I constantly feel the need to grow (evolve) and/or better myself.”
The name Ogranya begs for elucidation. Birthname Jable which Ogranya used as a stage name when he started out with musically, it was later dropped for Ogranya which means wealth or abundance in Igbo. Ogranya can’t quite explain why he opted for the name, ”It was just an overwhelming feeling and I had to go with it or continue to be at the mercy of whatever part of my being was certain I should make the change.”
Ogranya is the second eldest child out of four siblings, graduated with a Bachelors degree in architecture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in 2013 and worked at the ongoing Salvation Ministries Cathedral Project in Port Harcourt for four years. Currently flirting with the idea of returning to school, Ogranya’s sonic leanings is drawn from a huge swathe of artistes he listened to during childhood and adolescence: Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Rex Lawson, The Beatles, Eagles, B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Michael Jackson, Sade, Don Moen, Ron Kenoly, Kirk Franklin, Shaggy, Dido, Akon, 50 Cent, Ne’Yo, Lil’ Wayne, Duncan Mighty, John Legend.”
Duncan Mighty is easily one of Port Harcourt’s prodigious music exports, also home turf for enduring acts like Timaya and promising ones like Omah Lay. For Ogranya though, he thinks of himself as Nigerian first but takes great pride in knowing that artistes from Rivers are redefining African music. ”It is a testament to irony that a place that has had the most unbecoming narratives attributed to it over the last two decades is responsible for churning out minds this creative, poetically astute and very well versed in the art – the ‘beauty in the madness’ if you may.” Ogranya points out.
His sophomore project Imperfect, an EP as well, was released as coronavirus brought the world to its knees. The projects puts him in touch with more vulnerability and lovestruck lyricism, and, that same year, he collaborated with producer Wondamagik for a joint EP titled Chronicles of Magik, Vol 1. ”A mutual friend of ours (my manager at the time) gave me a beat Magik had produced and when we got to record, the outcome was compelling. Off this high, I put the first foot forward and suggested we work on more songs but Magik is a spirit [laughs] you don’t go to him, he comes to you. After some time had passed, he reached out and proposed a project. It was pretty straightforward from thereon out. He also produced a few songs on the Imperfect project so it only made sense to have his own tape as a sequel.”
In September last year, Ogranya released Lagbaja, a metaphorical shorthand for hiding personal identity while navigating relationships and possible fame. Underneath the song’s YouTube post is a detailed synopsis about the song itself, a story based on the fictional artiste Bisade and his romantic interest Temi. If anything, the background information is a testament to Ogranya’s skill at contextualisation. In 2021, Ogranya has churned out a string of singles already, from Into My World, If I Leave You Tomorrow, Salvation, to Black Widow, especially the most recent Roaa Ir’ro, with its warm synths and harmonies.
And yet, releasing an album now doesn’t quite feel right to Ogranya. ”There are still different sounds out there that I’m yet to explore and until that is done, anything album would feel forced,” the singer reveals. In the pipeline are more short-form projects, starting with 4-track EP Vanity out February 26 and a tall order to release a song weekly called Project 52. No one is as prolific as Ogranya right now.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.