The Rema review praises a talented Nigerian artist who incorporates bat-riding into his performances, but also suggests that his ambitions may be too grand.


As a 23-year-old, Rema is often referred to as the most promising talent in Nigeria’s music scene. He has risen from his hometown of Benin City to perform in various places around the world, including Curaçao, Tønsberg in Norway, and three cities in India. His 2022 single “Calm Down” has become one of the most successful African songs ever, with a total of 1.6 billion Spotify streams (including the remix featuring Selena Gomez). His rapid rise to global fame has established him as a contemporary peer to well-established Nigerian artists like Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Davido, rather than just their successor.

Despite his commercial success, this fully-booked concert at London’s O2 demonstrates an artist who is unafraid to take chances and showcase his talent beyond Afrobeats. Beginning with a grand entrance, Rema rises onto the stage while straddling a horse on rugged rocks, surrounded by a red haze and images of nuclear blasts, as he performs his new song DND with a husky and assertive voice. He confidently sings, “I’ve done enough pleasing and being proper right now,” foreshadowing his unwillingness to conform to others’ expectations.

Rema’s music has undergone a surprising transformation, incorporating elements of rock and trap. Along with his occasional metal-style vocals, his band uses electric guitars and saxophones to create a tension reminiscent of a movie thriller. His earlier tracks, such as Fame and Why, have been revamped to highlight these new influences and Rema’s delivery is bold and powerful as he confidently moves about on stage. Notably, he also incorporates a gothic element by performing while riding a bat in the sky, a nod to the bats found in his hometown of Benin City.

Rema the O2 Arena, London.

The question is whether prioritizing artistic passion benefits the audience. Rema is undoubtedly a fantastic performer, as seen in his dynamic and passionate performances of “Lady” and “Beamer,” where he sings “fire dey your body oh.” However, the overall show lacks coherence and consumes him; the sexy gyrating heart-throb who loves “nyash” and the masked, misunderstood emo-zombie are too conflicting personas to harmonize. Additionally, the breaks between transitions are too long, especially after a late start, and the mismatch between Rema’s energy and the occasional stillness and confusion of the crowd creates an awkward atmosphere. Although he wants the O2 to be lively, popular songs like “Dumebi,” “Woman,” “Bounce,” and “Calm Down” are saved for the end, past the 11pm curfew.

Rema’s undeniable talent has not gone unnoticed, and he certainly put on the type of performance he desired. However, with a bit more self-control, he could have better connected with his fans.


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