There likely isn’t anything in the musical realm Vonj isn’t capable of. Session musician, songwriter, vocalist, and producer, the Kenyan native has worked out of England for some time now and surrounds himself with a five star cadre of musicians tuned into his wavelength and capable of matching his intensity and passion. The latest studio release from Vonj, the four song EP Unity is Power, finds this first class talent working at or near the peak of his powers.
He brings every ounce of himself to these songs; there’s never a single moment during these four tacks when it sounds like Vonj is coasting or anything less than completely committed to pushing his skills to their limits. Vonj’s Unity is Power arrived later in 2019, but it nonetheless ranks among the most compelling releases in a year full of such moments.
“Skin Deep” knocks you off your feet as an opener. The song engaged me from the beginning and Vonj has an effortless facility with this funked up style drawing listeners into his imaginative web. The R&B sound prevalent throughout much of the EP isn’t as omnipresent here, but “Skin Deep” never sounds like some outlier track when taken with the remaining three cuts. Instead, it shows off Vonj’s skill set – this is a songwriter and performer bound only by self-imposed limits and nothing else. Despite the entertaining texture of the track, “Skin Deep” shares with his other songs the same need to make a personal statement of some meaning and Vonj does so without ever dragging listeners down. I think it’s one hell of an opener for the EP.
The title track is a masterstroke follow-up. The R&B sound mentioned in the previous paragraph comes to the fore with this track but Vonj’s vocals are superb enough they never have to compete for attention with the song’s horn section. The brass punctuates the song in emphatic fashion and, in satisfying ways, acts as Vonj’s foil in a call and response vocal duet. The rhythm section stands out as well, they do throughout the EP as a whole, but the ballast they give the title song is important in determining its ability to stick in listener’s memory. The chorus is, arguably, the finest such moment on the EP.
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“Are You Ready?” is another of the release’s finest moments. Vonj could have did the obvious thing here and composed a paint by numbers anthem, but he produces a rousing track tinged with the same personal touch defining the EP’s other songs. The track boasts another strong chorus, but I am taken with how Vonj and his musical partners build this performance in such an intelligent and thoughtful way while still physically connecting with listeners. The Kenyan born singer, songwriter, and musician has grown with each new release and Unity is Power is no exception to that upward trajectory/ Listening to this release makes me believe that, despite his great success thus far, Vonj has only scratched the surface of his considerable talents.