Offiong Bassey

Shining like the moon…

She was born with a story on her lips, a tune in her ear, and the purpose implied by her name, Offiong Bassey, God’s Moon, on her heart. Music and storytelling for Offiong have always been second-nature: “I inhale my surroundings and exhale melodies. I perceive my world and create another with rhythm and harmony.”

Singer, songwriter, producer, and poet, Offiong Bassey is an exciting new artist that draws upon the numerous influences that have touched her life. As the first generation from her Nigerian family born in the U.S., the soul, jazz, gospel, and Latin music of America reside within her just as comfortably as the musical traditions of West Africa. She brings to them her unique ear for harmonies and phrasing, her ground-shaking, power vocals, and her unmatched versatility to create music that is fresh, inspiring, and just plain fun.

Though her sound is one-of-a-kind, Offiong has had many teachers. The first of these was her namesake, her grandmother, who would sing her traditional songs from their Efik tribe, imparting to Offiong the power of music and the richness of her cultural heritage and storytelling tradition. At a young age, Offiong began to see her name, God’s Moon, as a call to be a reflection of her creator’s light, as the moon is to the sun, through story and song.

That call continued to sound in her ear like an endless melody that she heard in everything, as it guided her on her path. Along the way, she found further inspiration in other great teachers, artists ranging from Angelique Kidjo, Miriam Makeba, and Fela Kuti to Rachelle Ferrell, Lauryn Hill, and Jonathan Butler.

Music followed her to Yale University, where she sang in acclaimed singing group Shades, was a celebrated soloist on its 2005 album, Sankofa, and directed and performed “A Moonlit Evening”, an intimate concert of original songs she produced during her senior year. Her artistry has been deepened by her extensive travels to places like Japan, Spain, Panama, Nigeria, and Ghana, and she has shared her inspiring story in song with diverse audiences, including South African youth in Johannesburg, attendees at the U.S. Africa Business Summit in Washington D.C., and music lovers at Boston’s GreenSoul Fest. Most recently, she was honored to perform for the Obong (King) of Calabar, Nigeria and the Governor of Cross River State, Nigeria.

Titles from her self titled release include:

This song affirms that all people, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, their past, or their present, are legitimate and purposeful in the eyes of their Creator. On this song, we decided to bring together the groove of Calypso with the majestic call of traditional Calabar-style Nigerian drumming to herald the coming of the honorable, the worthy, the blessed Legitimate Child.

Some call you fatherless, some call you motherless/ some call you hopeless, some call you “a mess”/ but it is not how they address you/ it’s the name that you answer to that matters in the end

This chorus is in my native tongue of Efik and is an adaptation of a prayer my grandparents taught me based on the Biblical Psalm 91. I went back to my roots on this one, singing over a traditional “Ekombi” rhythm from my family’s Efik tribe.

Edidem, sn mi ke-eka ubok fo/ yak mi nsinedo nwere/ nwere, nwere, nwere/ yak mi nsinedo nwere/ Abasi, db mi ke-idak mba fo, yak mi nsinedo nwere/ nwere, nwere, nwere, yak mi nsinedo nwere

Lord, take me in the palm of your hands/ and there I will be able to roll around/ roll, roll, roll/ at rest in you/ God, hide me in the shadow of your wings/ and there I will be able to roll around/ roll, roll, roll/ at rest in you

This track serves as a reminder that there is more to life than what we see and that there is One that transcends even our most trusted systems of understanding. We focused here on creating a dynamic sound that brought together some of my favorite influences, merging smooth Afro-jazz, contemporary soul, and the lyrical sharpness of spoken word poetry.

What’s forecasted won’t necessarily happen/ don’t you judge by the clouds in the sky ’cause/ the environment could change in the blink of an eye/ some things the weatherman will never, ever know

Without the light of the sun, the moon cannot shine, and the moon in its fullness is a reflection of the sun. When we are in line with the sun (or source), we reflect the fullness of that light, but as human beings we are constantly waxing and waning, shifting and changing. My name, Offiong Bassey, means God’s moon, so this song is of special significance to my journey in life to become the embodiment of what my name implies. The Afro-Peruvian rhythms of this song transformed my vocal approach in the most unexpected yet organic of ways.

I’m waxing, I’m waning, anticipating, full moon

This track is pure fusion – a rap song with West African chants, R&B flavor, a Hip Hop beat, a funky bass line, and even a Country-style guitar. This is the story of an “independent woman” that has been burned by love and finds it difficult to trust. She mistakenly characterizes the gentlemanly advances of her suitor as chauvinistic. He has to wear her down and succeeds around minute two. This one is for the ladies and the men that want to win their hearts.

I mistook his chivalry for chauvinism/ all the love he gave to me/ I didn’t have faith in him/ that he would view me as an equal intellectually/ or that he thought I could administrate effectively/ but I was wrong, he admired qualities in me/ wanted to insure that I was comfortable and happy/ so he pulled out my chair, opened the door and closed it/ paid for me at dinner, and I’m thankful

We have all experienced the consequences of our tendency to rush to judgment without having all the facts. This Afrobeat jam channels the legacy of the great Fela Kuti with its blaring horns, its fun, raucous energy, and its Afro-centric take on raw funk. The groove really took me over and inspired me to break out with some rap – in Nigerian Pidgin English, of course.

Sometimes you take an unseen action, you take half-heard remarks/ and you construct a story – character, props, and plot/ you judge a situation with inadequate information/ you ain’t supposed to do that

Sometimes we lose ourselves chasing after the wind, pursuing things that do not last. Materialism, vanity, and compromised self-worth are all just the result of a loss of perspective, when we lose sight of our true destiny and purpose. On this track, we worked to strike a balance between the Afro-pop groove that drives the song forward and the fluid jazz-soul vocals that whisper like the elusive wind.

See the wind slips through my fingers, money doesn’t always linger/ clothes get moths and food will rot/ but what I’ve got isn’t meaningless; this blessing will endure for eternity

I like to call this tune “a song for friends.” Everybody knows that it’s better to have two or three good and faithful people around you than to surround yourself with a crowd of folks in whom you cannot trust. We set this song, which is in both Efik and English, to West African Highlife with a Makossa drum beat to give it a celebratory feel. Speaking of faithful friends, I asked my brother Eniang Bassey to grace this track with his djembe drumming skills.

When I feel the whole world is against me/ and I can’t tell my friends from my enemies/ I’m so glad to see it’s not quantity but quality I really need/ ’cause two or three can make a majority/ when we’re bound together in love, it doesn’t matter, we can rise above the maze

Who’s ever heard of the term “sowing your wild oats” (or “sowing your ‘royal’ oats”)? It’s when we scatter ourselves, with respect to our money, our time, or our bodies, without considering the repercussions of our actions and the value of what we have to offer. This is a song about setting the priorities in our lives, and I drew on a soulful ’70s vibe to couple the songs honest lyrics with an old school feel.

We can’t sow wild oats forever; our efforts will fly away like a feather/ what do you reap? What will you reap?/ if you gain the whole world and forfeit your soul/ a temporary high leads to long-lasting lows/ what do you reap?

Through all that I’ve faced, I’ve realized that even in the most difficult of times, I’m still in the arms of the Almighty, and in that quiet place, there is comfort. We drew upon the emotional honesty of the American gospel tradition to create a soundscape that mirrored the song’s message while inspiring a more candid vocal interpretation of that message.

You pick me up when I feel put down/ You’re a faithful friend, and I know full well now/ That it might be hard, but it won’t be hell/ as long as You’re with me, I have the eternal promises/ oh it might be hard, but it won’t be hell because/ hell is separation from You

This is a medley of songs in my native language of Efik. Nothing gets people lifted quite like a Nigerian praise chorus, so we gave this track that flavor, with a characteristic big brass band, percussive bass line, and exuberant guitar solo, to give it a fervent, infectious energy that transcends language barriers.

Iyang dobuyo/ eyen Abasi modo ku ubom o

Peace be still/ for the Son of God is inside the boat