Song: Enku Lenu (Eyes on You)
Label, Year: Burniton Music Group, 2017
You might have noticed that over the past few years, pop music in Africa appears to be leaning away from brisk tempo to something of a slower groove and more sensitive melody. Consider Wizkid’s ‘Ojuelegba’, Dr Sid’s ‘Surulere’, Shatta Wale’s ‘Romantic’, Runtown’s ‘Mad Over You’, Sarkodie’s ‘Painkiller’, Patoranking’s ‘No Kissing Baby’, Tiwa Savage’s ‘If I Start to Talk’ and Mr Eazi’s ‘Leg Over’. Because it is the African terrain, vigorous rhythms will always be with us. Dance is sweeter that way, but the relaxed melody—that’s what’s up right now.
Even before it became a thing, Ghanaian dancehall singer and BET honoree Livingstone Satekla (Stonebwoy) has always experimented with that kind of rhythm. In the past decade or so that he has been active, he has registered continental success with rapid records: ‘Pull Up’ (2012), ‘Bhim Nation’ (2014), ‘People Dey’ (2016), but he has done just as impressive with cozy vibes too: ‘Ghetto Love’, ‘Baafira’, ‘Talk to Me’ (ft. Kranium), ‘Mightylele’, ‘Gbedegbede’, ‘Problem’.
‘Enku Lenu’, the exquisite love song the singer kicks off 2017 with, is packaged in that air—three verses of sensitive calmness which runs up your skin in gentle caress, rather than exploding in your face, demanding instant foot movement and spirited waist flailing. Produced by Awaga, protégé of his longtime sidekick Beatz Dakay, ‘Enku Lenu’ is, of course, littered with rash promises accompanying new fondness:
My girlie oooo girlie ooo
I want to touch you touch you
Say make I do anything for you
Girl am ready yoo ready yoo oh oh
That first line is noticeable homage to Nigerian comrade Patoranking, whose Girlie O was groundbreaking in Ghana as much as it was in Nigeria, and across Africa, and whose chemistry with Ghanaian artists is incredible. ‘No Kissing Baby’ is the brightest example, but he’s appeared on remixes with Stonebwoy, and Jupitar. Elsewhere, drunk in love, Stonebwoy declares: “I go dey follow you like curse”. It is a troubling phase during the chase, but it has to be said: some women do love that kind of talk.
A decent video (directed by Alexx Adjei) aptly captures the pleasures of being held prisoner by love of all things. One scene shows the singer, after being abducted by a band of female captors, getting tormented by his kidnappers stripped down to thongs and see-throughs. Stonebwoy the captive is smiling.
While Awaga receives production credits on ‘Enku Lenu’, which might make the next Stonebwoy album EOM (Epistles of Mama), the song is very much Dakay’s handiwork. Besides the fact that he mixed and mastered the record, he might as well have produced it—the specific use of the snare as drumroll tool, the keyboard progression, the invocation of the aura of wind instruments—these are all elements of the Dakay Method, which has worked every time, particularly with Stonebwoy, who has only partnered with a handful other producers.
It is safe to say that the Dakay Method is why Stonebwoy has come this far in the first place. Recent news reports suggest a deterioration in their relationship, and therefore, a possible end to their creative collaboration. As was the case of giants D’Banj and Don Jazzy in Nigeria, Ghana is devastated, and dreads an imminent downward spiral for somebody, but ‘Enku Lenu’, like the many other gems he has dispatched over the years, is evidence that Stonebwoy remains a god of melody.