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A ‘Sark’ FULL OF Glory… Sarkodie – THE ‘Highest’ ALBUM REVIEW

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While Sarkodie’s catalogue easily sets him apart as a remarkably gifted rapper, he has proven just as fertile with dance-ready anthems. Since his 2009 debut Makye (DuncWills), the BET laureate has made a bold case for African hiphop, dispensing regular bountiful fits of dizzying, dazzling, and clever wordplay (justly securing him a place among topmost names of his era). At the same time, the man is an expert in party songs: Baby, You Go Kill Me, Pon The Ting, Adonai, RNS, Fa Sor Hor, Gboza etc.

A lyrical phenom, Sarkodie is both Jack and master of many trades. This is why his fifth album Highest (SarkCess, 2017) was anticipated feverishly by all of Africa. Consisting 18 songs, it was published on September 8.

The CD follows Mary (SarkCess, 2015), which was published to immense critical praise. The project is a moving highlife album, which is also tribute to his grandmother Mary Lokko. Co-written by label-mate Akwaboah Jnr., it was swiftly touted as his most ingenious submission yet. Does Highest knock it off that pedestal? Most certainly not. Still, this new album is one fine piece of work.

It was led with Painkiller (ft. Runtown), which is listed as a bonus track. According to the rapper (born Michael Owusu Addo), the album title best encapsulates his current state of mind.

But when has the rapper never felt like the highest? If there’s one thing Sarkodie is known for in the past ten years or so that he’s done music professionally, it is his flair with braggadocio. It is what the culture of hip-hop requires, and he has studied to show himself approved. It seems pointless to list examples of songs which are strewn with infinite adulation of himself and his abilities, as it will mean citing nearly everything he has released but the Mary album. Still, there lingers an itch:  New Guy, Lay Away, Saa Okodie No, Hand to Mouth, Illuminati, Oluwa is Involved, Rap Attack, Original, Preach, Take it Back, Kanta, Return Of the Spartans, Bossy

REVIEW: On 10 of Sarkodie’s best

There features a sufficient amount of conceit on the album, as can be noticed on Silence, We No Dey Fear, Highest, Light it Up, and Certified. But more than that, the work navigates “higher” themes such as notions of beauty and self-worth, focus and dedication, faith, and the subsequent recognition which crowns hard work.

And so, a song like Glory (ft. Yung L) bears great significance. Track 18 on the project, it is also easily the most loved number so far. Accentuated by delicate saxophone melody over what is essentially highlife, the song feels like church, and calls to memory another Sarkodie classic – Adonai (ft. Castro).  Adonai and Glory  bear similar themes: there’s light at the end of the tunnel, especially if God is involved. Accompanying visuals  for Glory (directed by IKŌNE) depict the exact point desire metamorphoses into reality. Rendered in compelling black-and white, it shows the rapper, his partner Tracy, daughter Titi, and members constituting the nucleus of the “SarkCess” team reveling in the good life made possible by his consistency atop the throne.

Glory works flawlessly as what the album comes down to: no matter where you are, dreams do manifest if you keep at them, and are patient and resilient enough to see them come to pass. Thus, after citing a certain Kwame Boadi, one of the many doubters of his elaborate vision, and having fought off many battles over his career and emerged victorious, he can afford to declare:

“King Sark till I die/ nobody can ever pull me down.”

Highest is as much a rap album as it is melodic, something made possible by the layered approach of a typical Jayso production. Born Paul Nuamah Donkor, Jayso (who’s also listed as Executive Producer for the project) is widely considered a key player in Ghanaian hip-hop, especially for his inroads with the Skillions. Especially since the beef with M.anifest  last year, one could argue that Sarkodie has felt the need to reassert himself as a prized lyricist, or at least remind all that while he strays occasionally, his feet remain firmly rooted in hardcore rap, and he does that conclusively in Highest. The nifty act he is, he serves the Afrobeat constituency a number of songs too: Overdose, Your Waist, Far Away, All Night.

 There may not be a “massive hit” on the album, at least judging by the rapper’s own standard, again, referring to such songs as You Go Kill Me, Pon The Ting, Adonai, RNS, Fa Sor Hor, and Gboza. All songs on there require repeated play to fully engage with and properly appreciate –which is how albums should be consumed anyway.

Regular collaborators Efya, Mugeez, and Akwaboah are absent on this Sarkodie album, and that is note-worthy as they have served as central sonic complements for him over time. Protégé Strongman Burner is also missing. Instead, Sarkodie experiments with Victoria Kimani, Moelogo, Praiz, Korede Bello, Jesse Jagz, Bobii Lewis among others. The result is impressive.

Highest is one for the grown man. It is not as vulnerable as Jay- Z’s 4:44 for instance, but it is personal enough — more personal than Sarkodie has ever been. Notice how closely he holds Titi to his heart on the cover, the earnest with which he beholds her perfect eyes. Observe how flagrantly he worships the many sides of wife Tracy, very carnally and most notably on Baby Mama (ft. Joey B). And indeed, the nuance with with he remembers his journey.

There are even deeper interiors he can venture, and we expect that of him with time. On this project though, Sarkodie proves that he’s unafraid to confront his very depths. He has it in him. And if you really think about it, he’s always possessed this trait.

*Highest is Sarkodie’s fifth album after Makye (2009), Rapperholic (2012), Sarkology (2014), Mary (2015).

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Reviews & Interviews

REVIEW: Cloud 9 – Shatta Wale!

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Artist: Shatta Wale
Album: Cloud 9
Label and Year: SM4LYF Records, 2017

 

Happy birthday Shatta Wale! You for come visit me for Flagstaff House o!”, read President Akufo Addo’s tweet to Shatta Wale on Tuesday October 17, as the singer turned 33.

The Head of State extending you birthday felicitations –in Pidgin –is the sort of thing that lands you on Cloud 9. Unprecedented, it is even more evidence of the controversial singer’s influence on Ghanaian social life.

The president’s tweet is surely the most monumental thing about Shatta’s birthday this year. But something else deserves mention about the day: the release of his Cloud 9 mixtape.

With little to prove in dancehall and Afropop, the Kakai man explores hiphop solely on the project. This year, as has been the case for five years straight, his songs are among the most impactful: Taking Over, Ayoo, Forgetti, Level, Dem Confuse, Umbrella, Low Tempo

All six songs on Cloud 9 prove creditable contributions to the genre in Ghana this year, which is significant to say about a dancehall act. Because hip-hop everywhere is a jealous field, and while this project earns him notice in the genre, it doesn’t suddenly grant him “access” into the ranks that matter.

But again, this is Shatta Wale, who has never been good with rules, nor waited for permission to do anything. Largely misunderstood, he has turned that into fuel, and now he’s invincible. He storms in, takes, and leaves. There’s usually little anyone can do about it.

Dancehall may be his forté, but he is no stranger to the fundamentals of hip-hop: nerve, originality, and truth. These are elements of dancehall too, if you think about it.  He exhibits these abundantly in Cloud 9, which is entirely self-produced.

Again, Wale is no stranger to hip-hop melody: as far back as his starting days in music, he has dabbled in the genre. He partners Yoggy Doggy on an early compilation by veteran producer Da’ Hammer. In May 2016, he drops Bingo. One of his major songs this year is Mayaa Tra (featuring Pope Skinny). So, it will be inaccurate to view the project as his first attempt at hip-hop. If anything, it’s reintroduction of sorts.

His delivery on the project is natural and unforced. The deftness he exhibits on Just Make the Money, for instance, is terrific. His command over, and method with rap language is both impressive and driven by the confidence which comes with practice. Blending his native Ga, Pidgin, and Patois over classic boom-bap, he waxes with blistering force about his abilities –a staple theme of the field.

Grow Bad, as well as My Friendz’ In, depict Shatta Wale’s real motive with the project: to blur any lines that exist between genres, and question the insatiable obsession to label/ categorize art in the first place. “I be different guy. Music, that be what I dey do”, he says as Grow Bad comes to a close. It is neither fair nor healthy to pin artists to a specific genre as it is widely known to stifle creativity, and he will not be pinned to one thing.

Also dispatched with playful elegance and expertise, Shit is Lit is what Trap sounds like, proving that while his music is dominated by Jamaican slang, he’s also proficient in hip-hop lingua and culture in general. Instrumentation on this song, as with the other joints on Cloud 9, is first-rate and infectious: infused with peculiar nuances that identify a sound as hip-hop. Shatta Wale’s versatility isn’t only exhibited in how he operates his husky voice, but also with how he comes up with rhythm and melody.

Shatta Wale’s performance on Feel So Stupid is one of his most vulnerable till date. He’s a musical genius, and his celebrity makes him something like a superhero to many. But away from what we see on TV, he’s just a man. He goes through daily human challenges too, including feeling unappreciated in a relationship. To hear the mighty Shatta admit to experiencing low points in a relationship provides new perspective to what makes a superhero: admitting to fears and weaknesses doesn’t make you less of a man. Every superhero is first of all, a man.

“God’s plan isn’t man’s plan” is how Shatta Wale begins Track 6: We Never Plan for This. Uttered in Ga with something that sounds like the the voice of God himself, the words resonate heavily with the listening ear. Shatta Wale possesses a work culture that is unmatched. He’s always publishing new music. Success rewards a good plan and hard work.  Still, when it finally arrives, you’re both surprised and overwhelmed. If you’ve followed Shatta Wale’s story, the following words are especially inspiring. Before singing the chorus one last time on the record, he confesses:

“You know, every man dey come in life to make am. Me and my dogs [comrades] always dey make sure say we go make am. Yeah, we mean am. But we no know say den ego happen this soon. We no plan for this time kraa…”

 

Listen to Cloud 9 below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Events & Places

Africa’s Legends CAME OUT FOR A Party… IT WAS SEEEERIOUS & FULL OF “Kwassa Kwassa”

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Flanked by spirited backing vocalists and curvaceous gyration specialists, Congolese maestro Kanda Bongo Man’s exquisite falsetto towers perfectly over his band, permeating all corners of the elegant Banquet Hall of Ghana’s State House this fine evening.

Before him have been sterling live performances from fast-rising chanteuse eShun, and fellow African powerhouses Charles K. Fosu (Daddy Lumba), and Take Away man AKA Blay.

A seasoned performer who’s widely considered a revolutionary of soukous music, Bongo Man, 62, steers the élite gathering with superior style and aura. It is astounding, yet not unexpected of this particular stage –The Vodafone African Legends Night. It is mounted by only top-tier acts from the continent.

Not every song Bongo Man performs tonight is as familiar as “Kwassa Kwassa”, which has also served as his nickname for something like two decades, but it doesn’t matter, because his charisma and stagecraft are delightful beyond measure. Delicious guitar interludes and enchanting choreography pepper each one of those extensive songs.

Bongo Man may have performed a song too many – this is the general sentiment across the room. “A concise one-hour act would surely have been more magical”, says a dark bald man with an ample grey beard to his plump Afro-haired Plus 1. But who can blame Kanda? He is author of nearly 20 albums. He can go a whole day if he wants. Plus, he’s an African legend: it is impossible to “overstay his welcome”.

Perhaps even more anticipated on the night than Kanda himself, Abrantie Amakye Dede proves an iconic crowning to the already thrilling evening, maximizing the most, this neat home-court advantage. He’s not nicknamed the “Iron Boy” for nothing. When he chants “seeeerious”, it is not child’s play. His craft is evergreen, and the adored graty cadence of his voice, still whole. While he has not released new material in several years, he’s a god of classics, and the emotional practicality in his lyric and melody make them beloved sing-alongs.

Primarily navigating love, money, and the journey that is this life, these masterpieces as the great Mmaa Pe Sokoo medley, Su Fre Wo Nyame, Se Se Odo, Sika Ne Berimah all invoke excited hip sway, famously amongst former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, and Communications Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful among a host of key dignitaries who grace the perfectly-organized night.

The 6th edition of he 2017 Vodafone African Legends Night was put together by the Global Media Alliance, with legendary broadcaster Kwame Sefa Kayi (Peace FM) performing MC duties. Other notable African performers to mount the enviable stage in the past have included Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Hugh Masekela, Femi Kuti, Freddy Meiway, Gyedu Blay Ambulley,  Akosua Agyapong, Kpanlogo man Amandzeba Nat Brew, Nana Tuffuor, saxophonist Steve Bedi, and Ben Brako.

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Reviews & Interviews

BOOK REVIEW: Of Etsey Atisu’s “Epistles to My Bubune”

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Starting out a couple of years ago as simple thoughts to his partner, Etsey Atisu’s column Epistles to My Bubune swiftly became manna across much of Ghanaian social media. So that, every time he submitted a new missive, it was pounced upon like vultures would a carcass.

It is not exactly surprising that the essays were widely embraced, judging by Etsey’s clout on Facebook–even if they were intended for a sole audience. But more than that, their impact was due to what they addressed, as well as the style they were rendered in. Sometimes, it would take months for a new letter to arrive, but the internet waited fervently, confident that each new installment was pregnant with realistic arguments for the contemporary love affair. Affection stories evolve with every generation, and so it is important to be afforded accurate perspectives on dealing with love in Facebook era.  Testimonies from our elders are indispensable, but so are Etsey-esque accounts.

Epistles to My Bubune consists nearly forty articles naturally and intrepidly collected by Atisu’s gifted hands. And while it is expected of him as an Ewe man to possess superior audacity, the courage that is evident in the book oozes from a special depth: honesty. When we speak the truth, we shall fear no evil.

And so he takes on the weighty as well as the trite, sidestepping all political correctness: homosexuality, fashion, tiffs, spirituality, fears, death…even the dimples that have earned him the alias “Freshie” are explored in this compelling read.

Epistles to My Bubune is the picture of young love: foolishly hopeful and drenched in youthful zeal. At the same time, it feels like one which has taken on several decades and emerged prevailed. That a man –anybody south of 30 years can invoke this unique dualism is striking –again, not necessarily because he’s an Ayigbe man. Etsey is talented and committed to writing in a way that is probably not healthy. This may be his first book, but he could well submit another one by Sunday, and three more within a fortnight. Indeed, a key reason for his growing influence is the fact that, with one toe over the next, he pens long thoughtful odes to anyone who has even slightly been acquainted to him. Once more this “hobby” of his is significant in our dispensation because it restores hope in our capabilities as millennials to care for something/someone other than applications on smartphones. Today, birthday wishes have been reduced to mere emoticons, single hash tags and the exceedingly clichéd one-line post “happy birthday” –or its irksome abbreviation “hbd”. Obviously, these are intended more for the records than anything. Thankfully, this generation can boast of one person who aims for the heart. This is what it comes down to –humanity! Etsey typifies humanity.

“Bubune” translates from Ewe as “reverence to the almighty”. Let’s talk about that for a second. The book is strewn with verses from the Holy Bible –unapologetic reference to his faith as a Christian. Like his affection for the beautiful “Bubune”, his relationship with God is not something he is prepared or inclined to hide.

“I don’t see myself marrying anybody else except you but it is not a “do or die” affair. Everything I am doing now is geared towards that life with you and it is not to satisfy some public stunt or charade but because I feel it is right for me.”

As is the experience on each page of the book, lines as the ones above are deeply affective. It is the ambition of everyone on the quest for love to be able to utter such words. Love cannot be all you find in this life, but if you do, guard it with keenness. Etsey deserves commendation because he has valiantly mustered these words…in public. This fairytale with pretty Bubune (whom he has been courting for nearly three years) will work –and it must, because it is founded on honesty.

“I’ve always wanted that because you make me happy” reads another extract. “You can be a little difficult nut to crack but you still make me happy. And even when it seems impossible to please you, you still make me happy because you understand that we are in this relationship with only one goal – till the end”, it further reads.

Till the end!

“Epistles to My Bubune” may have started out as routine documentation of his journey with his journey with his partner, but it applies to everyone:

“…it is about simple and everyday issues that break or bind relationships, written in simple diction but with deep messages for the reader, especially young people in relationships”, observes ace journalist and fellow writer Manasseh Azure Awuni.

“…Etsey never lets go, as he explores, discusses, explains, and ruminates on the issues ranging from the mundane to the insane nsempisms that are germane to his relationship with his beloved Bubune. In the end, one cannot help but admire the love and openness shared with Bubune, and by extension, the reader, profiting much thereby”, renowned author Nana Awere Damoah also opines about the work.

And as these two are among our foremost Ghanaian scribes today, their words are powerful testaments to the quality of the work rendered by Atisu.

What gives all art its power is the willingness of the artist to go far into himself…how prepared he is to harness his own vulnerability. When we read Epistles, we feel the very sentiments Etsey is feeling as he pens his paragraphs –they are true to us as they are to him. That is what gives this work its profoundly trait of communal ownership…that is why it is unputdownable.

 

See first images from the launch:

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Guest Blog - The Other View

REVIEW: Date Ur Fada – Ebony

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Artist: Ebony

Song: Date Ur Fada

Label, Year: Rufftown, 2017

 

The new single from Ebony continues her documentation of the sexual terrain.

On ‘Sponsor’, she was caught between an older man with money and one of those “broke guys” with “lots of energy”. She was the one you can’t let go because of what she does in the bedroom on ‘Poison’. Those songs were controversial mostly because of her image as a sexually confident young woman. With ‘Date Ur Fada’, she is almost wilfully seeking controversy with her lyrics. Already, there are complaints: a relationship counsellor has called her “a disgrace to femininity.”

Perhaps no publicity is bad publicity. And Ebony has herself said her image is no show. “The bad girl brand people see out there is a true representation of me,” she has said. “This is how I have been even before coming into the limelight.”

On other songs, Ebony has been sultry and inviting; she is threatening on ‘Date Ur Fada’. Her opening line—“If you break my heart, I go date your father!”—is dire and direct. Break my heart, she says, and I’ll break up your family.

That’s a rather scandalous sentiment to say aloud. But Ebony’s music is crafted for the confessional age of social media: Her lyrics are salacious; her songs are very danceable; her attitude is incredibly sassy. Ebony is singing songs as much as she’s providing viral content.

This, of course, might lead to her being dismissed as all show, but she’s a talented pop act. While it’s unclear if her songs are written by someone else, she has proven to be a decent interpreter of those lyrics. Though she came on clearly claiming dancehall music on her first single ‘Dancefloor’, she has since shown that her voice is a flexible instrument fitting for the broad field of pop.

Because Ghanaian pop is thought to be conservative, at least compared to Nigerian pop, Ebony might be thought to be quite the alien in her country. Yet, Ghanaian pop has seen its share of sexually bold women in pop, the most prominent in recent times was perhaps MzBel.

Yet the current female pop stars—BeccaEfya to name two—are more prone to talking love and heartbreak or, like, Sister Deborah, cradling crass lyrics in comedy. Becca served some sass on ‘Na Wash’. But she was more or less the commentator. She was watching others. Ebony is both narrator and subject in her videos. Her sass is not limited to her words. Even the production on ‘Date Ur Fada’, heavily percussive, is suggestive.

As a result her popular peers in the contemporary moment are not in Ghana but in Nigeria. On ‘Kupe’, her best song, she cleverly references Davido’s ‘Aiye’—“Me I no like Versace, and I no like designer,” she says—but her directly sexual lyrics elects her to the Tiwa Savage and Seyi Shaysorority.

Ebony is bolder than both on ‘Date Ur Fada’. (It is almost unimaginable to think of either Nigerian act singing these words on a single: “If you break my heart I go date your father. You gonna be my son; you go call me your mother.”) Despite their sexual lyrics, Tiwa Savage and Seyi Shay are vendors of monogamy. Ebony talks taboo, and convincingly. Her latest single will draw flak. It will also draw fans.

Buy ‘Date Ur Fada’ on iTunes

Credit: Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

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Music

M.anifest’s ‘Be My Woman’ – A VIDEO REVIEW

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Soft sunlight cuts into a small loft overlooking the city, announcing Friday August 11. Ahuofe Dua’s eyes slowly part open to welcome it. A slight neck pain reminds her what a hectic day yesterday was. An extra hour of sleep will be a blessing, but sleep is for the weak.

She inhales deeply and sits upright. She reaches for her phone on the nightstand to her left, and replies a quick message. Through the screen, she’s also greeted by the single tattoo she has. Elegant ink the shape of love, it rests just beneath her clavicle, pointing down at her heart. She had that tattoo done on the eve of her 21st birthday, right around the time she had decided that short hair works best for her.

She wraps a towel around her head, and soon, she settles into her morning routine, which involves sipping tea against the smiling sun, lighting a stick of incense, making soup, dancing by her window, half an hour of yoga, and then a shower.

The above is what ensues in the first minute of M.anifest’s latest video Be My Woman. Directed by Makere Thekiso (Call Back Dreams Production), the song features South African House band Mi Casa, and like all things M.anifest, steers conversation away from the hullabaloo to the core of matters: great art. It is what he has insisted on from the very start, especially with collaborations, and whereas artists collaborate for various business reasons, great art is what should be the the real “business reason”, he holds. This is why his music oozes such soul.

Deservedly so, M.anifest (Kwame Ametepe Tsikata) has earned a seat at Africa’s rap Vatican, delivering some of the most iconic verses the macho genre has witnessed in recent history. Yet, because of such songs as Cupid’s Crooked Bow, Goodbye, and Mind Games, he’s also distinguished himself in the character of resident loverboy. When it’s time to show vulnerability, M.anifest shows up just as impressively.  A singular verse he pours on Simple Love, made it one of the most requested songs in 2016. Supported only by an acoustic guitar, he empties his very depths unto the record –and when an artist is fearless in his weakness, it also translates to the ear at the end of his voice. Doubtlessly one of the biggest songs off Nowhere Cool (his latest album), it is unanimously recited back to him during performances.

M.anifest & singer J’Something share a laugh onset. Credit: M.anifest

Mi Casa member J’Something onset “Be My Woman”. Credit: M.anifest

He replicates a similar sensation in Be My Woman. “never felt like this/ my heart’s over heels but my heart says I like this/ my muse, it’s for you that I write this/ you make a gee send out sappy emojis”, he begins, before going on to unconditional love and fairytale nobility for Ahuofe Dua. There overflows in his speech, the specific authenticity of the foolishness of flaming love. And as everybody has articulated sentiments thus at one point in life or another, it makes it the more relatable.

Mi Casa’s sound –alternative, mature, and gracefully interior, proves a perfect balance for the Mike Millz –produced joint. Consisting producer Dr. Duda, silky singer J’Something, and hornsman Mo-T, they add to the first-rate quality of the song. Respected as a strong force in Ghanaian hiphop, Millz merges melodies from the two parts uniquely, but manages to retain the essence of the sounds: the strings and trumpet feel South African, but also present in the drum progression is unmistakable Ghanaianness, like is heard on another M.anifest record —Forget Dem (2015).

M.anifest & Mi Casa on the set of “Be My Woman”. Credit: M.anifest

Ahuofe Dua might translate from Twi as “tree of beauty”, and is a peculiar Ghanaian compliment for women of infinite splendor.  It is accurately testimonies of such a woman that we hear in those 4 minutes or so, and witness in the accompanying visuals. “Shea butter, smooth skin, gap tooth, 24-carat smile” –the daily charm of African goddess is portrayed both without effort and unnecessary flamboyance. Also present in the film is an alluring proximity worked into the eyes of the viewer. This sleekness in rendering may appear normal, but is not– else it will be seen in every third music video on YouTube. It is the consequence of deliberate ingenuity behind the lens, and exceptional sleights.

While Be My Woman is a refreshing marriage between the sounds of Ghana and South Africa, and adds delightfully to his catalogue, it is not the first time he is pulling something of this nature off. A truly pan- African artist M.anifest seems to have developed a natural connection with acts from that part of the continent especially, brewing masterpieces with rap heavyweights HHP, ProVerb, and Tumi Molekane, as well as with eclectic singer/spoken word artist Nomisupasta.

A gentle sun sets on the the smooth chocolate complexion of Ahuofe Dua’s skin. She’s draped in a flowery dress which reaches down her wrists and ankles. Large beads hang down her neck, and a happy smile draws across her face. The majesty of her gait on these pavements has made her the object of every man’s gaze. She’s unmoved by the many admiring eyes trained on her. She notices the tall dark man by the car ahead, and her smile broadens. He’s wearing a suit and a hat, and holds a large kempt beard between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. He’s smiling too. They embrace –Ahuofe Dua and this tall dark man, like lovers. He is no stranger; all through her day he has been present –in spirit and in truth –reciting her rap from a chair across the bed as she slept, in her mirror, next to her earlier as she showered, and while she painted her toe nails earlier.

The class of Be My Woman, like other pieces M.anifest has published in the past, makes it something to treasure — a product of genuine global quality. It reaffirms confidence in his mandate as among leading ambassadors of art and culture from the Gold Coast.

 

A multiple –award winner, M.anifest is author of Manifestations (2007), The Birds and the Beats (2009), Immigrant Chronicles: Coming to America (2011), Apae: the price of free EP (2013), , and Nowhere Cool (2016).

He is signed to Singitdamnit!

 

Watch “Be My Woman” below:

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Music

A highly spiritual WAIST BEAD & a jam for days – ‘Jennifer Lomotey’ – A REVIEW

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Like the imprint handling him now, singer Kurl Songx’s Jennifer Lomotey strikes you in a manner that is truly “highly spiritual”. It’s highlife alright – the one true conduit of the Ghanaian love speech – still, it is characterized by incendiary pizzazz which we’ve only seen work with dancehall or hip-hop.

What a way for singer Kurl Songx to state his name! 1st runner-up for Vodafone Icons – Street Edition (2013) and 2016 winner of music reality show MTN Hitmaker, the unassuming chap has stirred vibrations powerful enough to invoke fear and trembling amongst even established acts. Like Bisa KDei did with Mansa and Brother Brother in 2015, Songx’s song is immediately key for the genre, and key among songs of influence in 2017, Taking Over, Sponsor, Bronya, Leg Over etc notwithstanding. Aftershocks of Jennifer Lomotey will be felt for a long long time. Thus is the consequence of fearless creativity.

Indeed, Songx himself may never fully understand what bold statement he has made – how well he has scratched his initials into modern highlife. After all, he merely set out to remember a harmless high school infatuation. Yet, is “ordinary” not vital in spelling “extraordinary”?

Jennifer Lomotey is designed to abide. From title to final note, it is impossible to forget. “The title self dey kill me, confesses a lager enthusiast behind a pot-belly and grams of hops and barley. It is a wild name to call a song, and perhaps Jehoshaphat Eshun (Screwface) was told same when he recorded Gbalagazaa, which ranks among bona fide hits of the 2000s.

The vehemence that this KayWa-engineered jam oozes is as a result of deliberate tailoring. It is why each semitone of the instrumentation embodies rare uniqueness and flavorsome finishing. Like a meal prepared with love, every second of the tune is anticipated with childish delight, because, each moment is filled with uncommon wit.

These meticulously placed components make for exciting little brainteasers too, ensuring that the song lends itself seamlessly to the replay button: that hush is merely a pause, and not conclusion, those punchy drum sequences here aren’t quite the same throughout the song after all.

Nothing less is expected from the Highly Spiritual Music CEO – the celebrated genius who has also brewed hit songs for Sarkodie, Kwabena Kwabena Ofori Amponsah, Ohemaa Mercy, Becca, Castro, Buk Bak, and a host of others. 4-time VGMA Producer of the Year, KayWa, via Jennifer Lomotey, pushes the boundaries of highlife to new scopes — yet again, proving his value to music from these parts.  The cadence of the song is established in classic highlife, and those string and percussion placements ensure that the spirit of the melody is back to the good old days. Nevertheless, KayWa’s fingertips sprinkle an essence that is custom-built and truly avant-garde. That is why it will serve as outline for the next phase of the genre.

Notice how the instrumentation is memorized alongside lyric in the song. Notice how the bass guitar hums along to lines from the catchy chorus delivered by Songx. Not many other songs bear this feature.

I give you my heart and my body

Whenever you need love, call me

I go give it to you six in the morning

I be your hobby

I go do anything for your body

These words, which constitute the crust of the chorus, aren’t exactly problematic. They sung with the passionate tenderness of a lover, not a fighter.  Hardly the same can be said for Sarkodie though, who possesses one of the most important voices on the continent. It has been the case for well over a decade. Ace broadcaster Nana Aba Anamoah aptly notes of his influence in a July tweet: “Want to go higher? Feature Sarkodie”. Examples abound in and outside the country to justify Nana Aba’s pronouncement.

Recruiting the rap icon also means employing a lyrical beast who is held back by nothing! A true artist, he’s not scared to create discomfort: he’s poked power, and veered into risky terrain like fornication, homosexuality, the Illuminati…Guest verses he has submitted on joints as R2Bees’ Ajeei, Joey B’s Tonga, Ofori Amponsah’s Alewa, because of how border-line coarse innuendoes in these verses have been, they have attracted as much disapproval as they have courted praise. In Jennifer Lomotey, it is these words that have caused public uproar, most notably among Ada youth, who take this line: “Krobonii baa papa a ahweneɛ da ne sisi/ Komfo Anokye de adwaman abɔ no dua” to be a statement of utmost disrespect to their tribe.  Proclaiming that a foremost witchdoctor in Ghanaian history has cursed this Krobo woman with promiscuity cannot be taken lightly under any circumstance.

Yet, to Sarkodie, as it should be with all creatives, “taboo topic” is merely an expression. He’s clever, and seemingly emerges unscathed from scandals festered by his bars, every time. Radio smells something fishy with his rhyme for sure, but can’t really do much about it, because the words aren’t necessarily invectives, hence not exactly prohibited.

The lady at the end of both verses that Sarkodie spews, should be shaken, even if it’s love that is being promised. The phraseology through which the rapper conveys his intentions are impish and forward, stimulating and disturbing.

Accompanying visuals had to be just as big, and Songx’s handlers entrusted Gorilla Films’ Justin Campos with that task. Campos is a top name in video directing around the continent, and as expected, he delivers a picture which is top-notch – mainly being led by the punches in the song, and constructing a story through fast cars, club lights and glossy lipstick. Will the video, despite it being shot in sunny South Africa by the great Gorilla Films have as much impact as the song? That is a judgment we can make after a few months at least.

Songx is a determined vocalist, considering the quality of competition he fought off in MTN Hitmaker (where he simply traded by Kelvin): F9, Eugene and Sir Tino. To be under the tutelage of KayWa is extra fortune for anyone. It gives the crooner extra advantage.

Stimulus as is found in Jennifer Lomotey cannot be captured in a single song, and you don’t change a formula that works. Therefore, the pair have swiftly recorded a follow-up.

Titled Whistle and due for release this Saturday, it is also produced by KayWa, and Campos handles accompanying visuals. Songx’s handlers are optimistic of just as much success. And why not? Jennifer Lomotey has opened key doors for the act, and perhaps in this one case, lightening will strike the same place twice.

Kaywa bɔ me piano…

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