2020 was a good year for music as a lot of artists released projects, especially within the last quarter. However, the saturation of music meant that a lot of good albums slipped through the cracks. That is the case with Th&o’s debut album, Ebusuku. The producer/sound engineer created one of the strongest bodies of work in the country but it went largely unnoticed. That was until one of the lead singles, “Prosecco” caught the attention of Grammy award-winning producer Jermaine Dupri, who gave the song a shoutout and featured the track on his curated Spotify playlist, J.D’s Jook Joints. Apple Music jumped on the bandwagon as they included that song on their Future Funk playlist and placed “Ghosting” on their Africa Rising playlist. The 12-track offering is based around the concept of night. It is clear in the sonics, the artwork, and the lyrical content. It was also part of the process as most of the album was crafted in the night. Th&o is nocturnal and creatively comes alive in the evening—and that lent itself to the record. Speaking about the album, he shares:
There are so many things that get intensified at night. And music sounds so different at night. The night time has this thing where it has its own sound. So I wanted to chase the feeling and own it. I wanted to see how far I could take that idea and get that vibe.
The opening record “Night” sets the tone of the entire record and Th&o uses subdued vocals over synth and drums to give the song a sultry feel. The album is completely self-produced and takes the listener through the sonic landscape of R&B, funk, indie, electronica, and alternative music. It borrows from 70’s/80’s music, particularly from the likes of Letta Mbulu, Brenda and the Big Dudes, and Fela Kuti, all mixed in with more contemporary influences from the likes of Jamiroquai, N*E*R*D, Mark Ronson, and Daft Punk. “I consider myself an eclectic person and I listen to so much music. I’m inspired by different things in life and whatever I take in, it comes out in the music”, said Th&o. “I use different styles but I wanted [the album] to sound like one piece and I did that by restricting the palettes that I used. It’s like showing the same colour but in different ways”. The album dives into the realm of sensuality with records like, “Body Like A Gun” featuring Sarah Jones, “How Do You Know Me”, and the aforementioned “Prosecco”—speaking to relationships that can only happen at night. This is perfectly illustrated through the song, “Light” where he sings:
Our love is impossible in the day world when you’re riding about/ In the day world where I keep finding out/There is no way for us to keep our love alive/ But in the dark, I feel like we find our love and then we crawl into it
The bottom half of the record enters more emotive territory. In the song “Ghosting”, TH&o sings about the elusiveness of a romantic partner and “Vampire Tune” revolves around a lover who is unavailable:
If you listen to all the lyrics from the album, outside of ‘Prosecco’, you’ll hear that they all are in the same arena. I solely concentrated on the emotion of isolation that is dramatised by the night. When you’re alone during the day, it’s fine but when you’re alone at night, somehow you feel lonelier and the emotion is darker and I wanted to capture that.
The album mellows out with the song “The Morning” and it signals the denouement of the concept of night. “The morning is when most people wake up and reset. But for me, it’s my switch off point. Everyone starts their day and I end mine in the morning and the album ends where people begin”.