Song: Heart Beat
Label, Year: Rantique Productions, 2017
Ranti Ihimoyan isn’t a name that is instantly recognisable in the saturated firmament of Nigerian pop music. But in the small space of classical music enthusiasts in Lagos, she’s a star that can’t be missed. An opera singer in a country that only recognises the word when it’s accompanied by ‘soap’, Ranti has earned her a reputation as one of Nigeria’s best soloists using her voice.
While mentioning her name might draw blank stares, appending it with ‘Iwe Kiko’, her first foray into more popular music, may draw sounds of reminiscence from those familiar with Nigerian music. Her cover of that Yoruba folk song, which is known to those who grew up in South West Nigeria, introduced her to a more mainstream crowd. Now with the release of ‘Heart Beat’, she extends her range beyond the folk she covered in ‘Iwe Kiko’ and ‘Bamiwo’.
‘Iwe Kiko’ rode on nostalgia. Its visual and vocal elements retained the playfulness many would associate with singing it as schoolchildren. ‘Bamiwo’, on the other hand, is sombre, but this is also in following the context in which the song of prayer was sung among Yoruba communities. Because both of these songs have established moods, it’s easy for the listener to connect with them emotionally, latching onto existing mental associations. In ‘Heart Beat’, Ranti jettisons the familiarity of folk songs for the alien territory of the contemporary love song.
‘Heart Beat’ uses the cliché “my heart beats for you” as the centre of its professed affection. The accompanying music, produced by George Nathaniel, has a beat that is heavy on the synthetic snare and chords that sound too techno. This is somewhat disorienting in relation to the mellowness of the ballad.
In ‘Heart Beat’ the object of love is music. This is in the tradition of the switch that has turned many love songs into gospel songs and gospel songs into love songs.
“Since I found you I have no regrets,” she sings in a line that could easily be about any object of worship and affection: lover, friend or god.
Ranti is a trained engineer who practised the profession until 2014 when she chose to focus on her musical and theatrical career. And given how successful she has been since switching career tracks, it’s easy to see why she has no regrets since finding music.
The earnestness of love prevents Ranti from channeling the charming but goofy opera singer in her like she did in ‘Iwe Kiko’. She still smiles at the camera but this time there’s no wink; had there been one, the song would have turned completely frivolous, given the thin emotional ice it treads on.
‘Heart Beat’ isn’t the song that will make Ranti mainstream. But by attempting to venture even further from her comfort zone, she’s showing a willingness to connect with an audience that won’t come to watch her sing in theatres.