For the love of Nneka

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For the love of Nneka

I recently became a content contributor on Dynamic Africa and one of my first assignments was to review Nneka’s new album,  My Fairy Tales. I am an active follower of Nneka’s music and this happened to be her second full length project I got to listen too.
It is completely different from Soul is Heavy,  not in a lyrical or thematic perspective but from a musical standpoint. She borrows heavy from reggae music and delivers very charged steady songs. I wish I get to see Nneka perform on day but for now,  you can read my review here and let me know what you think. 

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley

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*photo credit: Craig Carpenter / Okay Africa

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Breaking my Highlife virginity: the purpose of experience

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I began this posting wanting to share my experience with highlife music with the world. However, I’ve decided to broaden the conversation to be about all forms of art in general. 
I grew up in Ghana, in an era of ghanaian music where the highlife rhythms of the 80s and 90s were being redefined by this new youthful and energetic blend of hip hop, funk, Soul and the African spirit called hip-life. I matured to this soundtrack ( together with hip hop and r&b which were at their peaks and steady colonizing ears all over the world). Being reclusive,  consuming art was one satisfying way to live. It was the bond forged between music and I through childhood that has and is turning me into the person I am turning out to be. I listen to a weird mix, which could see me playing old school gangster rap one minute and Bocelli the next. However, I had not experienced Highlife music as it should – till a few weeks ago.
I got lucky and attended a concert at Alliance Francaise,  Accra which featured three highlife legends whose music epitomize the genre.  Ebo Taylor,  Pat Thomas and Nana Ampadu. I was not in a bubble as a child, I did hear some of their songs like Obra by Nana Ampadu, Sika y3 Mogya by Path Thomas;  yet they were just sounds to me.
Then I find myself in the cold African night, under the moonlight,  possessed by an explosion of undying spirits led by lively bass guitar medleys…highlife music.  Art is probably as subjective as love. There is no right or wrong; rather there is an experience. A personal connection of emotion between the artist and the audience.  I can’t paint that picture for you, cos you have nothing that I know of with which you can imagine it. You have to experience and it may or may not be this way for you. But it is this personal significance that makes music/art live forever.  What can be felt by an eighty and twenty year old simultaneously.
Today we want everything to be instantaneous.  Nobody wants to live with something,  we just want to feel it then and there. We don’t appreciate the patience and skill that crafted the art
we want to understand at once. If the highlife concert taught me anything,  it was that music (good music) is not instant but is like a force locked in cage, waiting for YOU to unlock and take over you.
These are just my thoughts upon being obliterated by bomb triggered before my age.

Album Review: Sidibe x Soul Siren

Review: Sidibe x Soul Siren cover art
Sidibe is an upcoming neo soul – jazz – RnB artist based in Los Angeles with ties to West Africa. Soul Siren is her second EP, following her expository material ‘Metaphysical EP’, both of which are available on her soundcloud page and iTunes. I discovered her through a beautiful moment of serendipity, and I am proud to call myself a very loyal fan.
Soul Siren is an audacious effort at classic 90s RnB, whilst incorporating jazz and pop elements into its instrumentations. A blend which Nico Stadi, the primary producer on this Ep, mixes to perfection. There is an immense growth in the power and control of Sidibe’s voice. She does not have that typical Beyoncé/ Fantasia type vocals; however, she manages to control all the instruments perfectly. Thus, creating a very beautiful authentic sound. I found it difficult to put her sound in a rigid category because she has managed to incorporate her influences in perfect moderation. The whole EP is an apostrophe to a lover. Her lyrics are direct and aptly describe her feelings towards this unknown subject of emotion. Her writing to some extent lacks nuance and ambiguity. A good thing when discussing such passionate themes.
The lead single See You Girl is probably the best song on the project. The production contains mellowed, down tempo piano and guitar progressions and a barely noticeable jazz drum line. On this song, Sidibe pushes her vocals to their very limits and creates what I dare call magic. It is not a wow song; rather it is a beautiful song. The interlude titled Slow Dance With You is reminiscent of a TLC song with a serenading saxophone sample. The first song, The Way You Make Me Sing, has slight elements of synth. It is however suppressed and corroborates the general feel of the EP.
Sidibe shows immense growth in her music with this EP. She has identified her sound and is perfecting it. I appreciate that but I will still love to hear her on more experimental, slightly upbeat production. Another reservation I had with this EP was the brevity. I guess less is more. Quality over quantity is a much-disregarded philosophy in modern music.
Soul Siren is a very alive piece of art, as elegantly illustrated on the cover. Sidibe makes sunset music. The type you can play whilst watching the suns last dance on the calms waves of the ocean. That soothing relaxing sound. I give it a strong 8 out of 10. I hope Sidibe continues to grow with her music. She has immense talent, all that needs work is branding.Sidibe - Metaphysical - Sidibe embrace

Review : Efya – This is not the Album EP

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These are my thoughts on the “This Is Not the (TINT) Album” Extended play released in December of 2013 by Ghanaian recording artist Efya.
Efya is an exciting afro-beats/neo-soul singer, songwriter from Ghana. She burst into the limelight after being part of an award winning duo called Irene & Jane. After a hiatus due to education, the group disbanded and she changed her moniker from Miss Jane to Efya. She successfully reemerged onto the Ghanaian music scene to rave reviews and awards, as a result of a number of well performing duets with rapper Sarkodie and her hits like Best in Me.
The thirteen track, forty-eight minute long EP is a collection of some of her famous singles and other previously unheard gems. It was released as a prelude to her debut album titled, “Love Genesis”, scheduled to be released sometime in 2014. A sort of exposition of her sound and style. She mainly explores love based themes of disloyalty, change, escapism, ad nauseam with simplistic diction, singing in English with hints of Twi and Pidgin English. Most of the production is mellowed and not too jumpy, with low tempo piano chords and bass guitar, producing a unique Africanized soul sound. This gives her powerful vocals the perfect canvass to dazzle and shine.
She samples Chris Brown’s Don’t Judge Me on the song Body. She does well to own the lyrics and command the pace of the song, in the end it doesn’t quite sound too much like a typical RnB song. But I feel Efya should move from doing covers and be loved for her authentic style which she excels in. Sexy Sassy Wahala is another song I enjoyed. I first heard this on the Ghanaian movie series, “Adams’ Apples” and I was impressed with the synth pop guitars. A sound I would not usually associate with Ghanaian singers. She does well to produce a soulful ballad about the struggles of a women in the big city. In her own words, “Make my money/Do my own thing/ you can’t stop me”. Rather cliché pro feminist lyrics.
My favorite song on the EP is Getaway, produced by BlackStar. She sings about escaping to a peaceful quiet place, from the chaos and stress of the city. The hook is simple and catchy, re-emphasizing the theme of the song. It’s a rather refreshing switch up from her usual song themes of idealistic love. Runaway love is both dangerous and exciting. The instrumentals here are probably the best on the tape. I have no other word to describe the manner in which the sounds complement each other, not rushed, but in some sort of metaphysical agreement than Perfect.
Falou is another noteworthy track on the Ep. Here she samples Duncan Mighty’s “Obianuju” and completely obliterates it. The producer makes minced meat of the original. The 808 drums and strings crescendo into an eventful chorus oozing all the emotion out of the song. Her vocals command the song, the instruments acquiesce to her lead to create a master piece. I would pay for her to privately perform the song.
Efya limits the features drastically on the tape to just one, on the song Commot. A good decision because it allows her to dominate the tape and make it achieve its purpose. Other artist put too much features on their EPs and the as such the loose their identity on their own work. Black Magic doesn’t even take attention away from Efya on Commot. They combine to create an upbeat reggae influenced record on infidelity in relationships.
The songs in didn’t like being on the EP were Best in Me and Little Things. I felt the artist should have left them as the massively successful radio singles that they are. Instead on putting them on here and taking attention from the other great songs she has.
Overall, this is a body of art Efya should be very proud of. It served its purpose well, introducing her sound and building up hype for her debut solo album. I feel she has a very authentic, well groomed, unique afro/neo-soul sound, and I will be disappointed if she strays from this to produce radio friendly record which might not utilize her full potential. Her lyrics are just about right, not too catchy or overly poetic. Her production, top notch and tailor made to accommodate the power in her voice. TINT is definitely on my top five Ghanaian records. She reminds me of Sade, on more Africanized Jazz instrumentals. I appreciate the originality.
I rate this album 8.5/10 and present Efya with garlands she deserves.
-Hakeem.

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