Review of Santi’s Mandy & the Jungle by Pitchfork was a talking point over the past week. After sharing thoughts with some bright minds on a Whatsapp group called Village Chiefs – comprising some of the finest creatives in Lagos, with DJ, Aye! as its admin, I felt a strong need to pen this in response to the review. Shout out Chiefs! I went on to ask people outside the group what they thought about the review and this article contains direct quotes from some of these people. Also I will address parts of the review that’s noteworthy. I speak not for myself, but for the people. Let’s get into it!
“Everything here is something you have heard, vaguely, somewhere else”
I don’t know for sure what the critic was driving at with this but it would be nice if it was clarified. But I will quickly say this, as a millenial with a liberal taste in music, who is very in touch with the global music scene; severally, I have heard music from global icons that sound vaguely like something I have heard somewhere else. I mean that’s part of what sampling & interpolation does, you hear new music, and think ‘oh my God I have heard this sound somewhere before’. What I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t take away anything from the album. If it does then I may be forced to no longer see some of Kanye’s records as classics, but I think we all know that’s not happening. So the rules don’t change for Santi. Right?
In spite of this, some think it is an objective review and are in agreement for most parts. Dennis thinks “No lies detected lol” and Deena Ade thinks “…it’s a very concise review. Music is Music. The article stated Alte as a deviation from the mainstream, but the sounds are reminiscent of american rap or whatever. It is pretty objective.” However, even in its objectivity, opinions are still divided, some others think it was a ‘stupid’ review mostly based off bias and you have to understand why they feel that way, it’s Santi we’re talking about here. “It’s a good review I’m just biased to Santi, he’s Nigerian and I like and understand his music. Certain comparisons pissed me off like ‘lummy d’ Santi’s shit is way more original than that” (BLiNk). I reiterate Santi’s music is way more original than that. For me, the comparisons are proof that the critic felt like the music across Mandy was nothing new to him or, broadly put, the international audience, and that’s right. Aye! had this to say “Santi gave a great entry but it’s nothing new to an international audience. He has put himself on the worldwide chopping block of urban music, with that being said – the project must be judged objectively – outside of backyard fandom – Aye!.
But a few things still need to be picked apart. The review heavily insinuated that Santi lacked originality and I must say that for all his talents, that’s a big disservice. I’m struggling so hard not to call it a blatant lie. How do I know this? If there was nothing new, or fresh about the Santi sound, it won’t enjoy the good amount of attention he’s receiving from music lovers outside his country of birth. Let me put it as plain as I can, if Santi lacked originality, he won’t be a crossover artiste. I could argue that anywhere and anytime, if any one round the world wants to take that up. Santi is as original as it gets in every form of it. He is his own person with a unique voice. Thank you, next.
“Santi makes sure to interpolate Nigerian music alongside American hits, but the album never really feels local to anywhere”
Now I don’t know if this album was the critic’s first time listening to Santi but I imagine before penning his review he probably had an expectation. And Novagotthatheat agrees with me “The writer has an expectations associated with African artists and his review is from that perspective. That really has nothing to do with Santi and this project. I understand it is important for music to be rooted but who decides that.” We may be wrong but here is why we feel this way. Severally, the review appeared to desperately beg for the music on the album to have African (or Nigerian) roots. Like I said, I may be wrong, but let’s say I’m right about this, that to me is like taking a trip to space and getting disappointed you can’t walk round its hard vacuum. See, Santi is an artist in every sense of it and in the words of DJ Joey “..the artist has every right to express himself however he wants. Anyone that listens and doesn’t find a root or needs one- sounds like their personal problem”. When you listen to any artiste, you accept what you’re given and criticize based on what you’ve received, not what you were expecting. As put in more playful fashion by Stig “when you listen to Santi you get what he gives you”.
“These songs are the sonic equivalents of screensavers, soothing in their artificiality, but disappearing the moment you focus on them.”
Last thing I’m going to say is, Pitchfork you’re late to the Santi party, but you’re welcome still. Do I think Mandy is a classic or a groundbreaking album? No, I do not. But Mandy does the fucking job. The songs may be sonic equivalents of screen savers but while we have them on our screens, we’d rather not look elsewhere. In the words of Lanre, “just enjoy the sounds and keep it moving”.