Concert Review: A FOKN Party The Rains Couldn’t Stop

Half way through their set, the rains began to fall; first in drops and latter in sheets. Earlier in the afternoon, the city had been washed by rains. But, the party wouldn’t be stopped by the showers. The adrenaline was high and the rains, it appears invigorated the fans even more.

The venue, Alliance Francaise wasn’t full when the party commenced. But, people trickled in as the show progressed. The venue was almost full a few performances later.

And the Fokn Bois – consisting of Wanlov The Kubolor and M3nsa- as usual, kept the audience excited throughout their two-and-half hour set.

What is fascinating about the Fokn Bois and their concerts is this: they are able to re-invent their performances each time they mount the stage. You can see them ten times performing the same songs yet, you wouldn’t have two sets being the same.

Their performance was a combination of comic dramatization, serious political commentaries, introduction of new artists -Fiddy and 730 (Seven Thirty) and of course, a strange appearance by a certain Donald Trump. (You read right). Ironically, this was during the performance of ‘Help America’, a humanitarian chant.

They performed songs from their classic album, “FOKN Wit Ewe” and “FOKN Ode To Ghana”. It wasn’t much about the songs they performed on the night. It was the manner it was performed that would stay with the many who were present.

The impressive backdrops and the dramatic interpretations of some songs handed their set a theatrical feel. It was like watching a musical being performed by master actors.

They had two ‘gays’ on stage to help dramatize the lyrically visual song ‘Strong Homosexual Guys’. The acting- from Wanlov being awoken by a phone call, to the ‘gays’ chasing them- as unexpected as it was-added to the overall excitement, especially when they got chased around on stage and through the audience. The backdrop did change with each song, including a Bruce Lee and a crop of lawyers during the performance of ‘Famous In China’ and ‘Laughing At Cripples’.

“Sextra Terrestrial Sex” went with a space odyssey backdrop adorned with graphics images of aliens, space ships and galactic impressions. Sitting on a couch, rapping out lyrics felt like two old buddies relaxing at a porch casually daydreaming about sexual escapades with aliens.

When we thought we’ve seen it all, they, like politicians on a podium, read out a joint ‘speech’. The speech, as politically and socially toned as they were, were taken from four songs off their “Fokn Ode To Ghana” album- ‘Live The Highlife’ (The price of lies/ the price of lies dey rise/ The price be right/ To my cit it taste nice), ‘Muga Yaro’, ‘One for Aniki’, ‘Africanspirit’.

They called on stage Medikal who joined them performed their new single ‘Wo Nim Mi’ (You Know Me). Watching the Fokn Bois on stage is amazing. Their ability to improvise and even crack jokes and start little off the cuff conversations is in itself an art. And on the night, we witnessed many of these instances.

The fever pitch moment, interestingly coincided with the rains; something they jokingly described as a godly ejaculation session. Fans weren’t perturbed. They joined the Fokn Bois in the performance of what had became a cult favorites: ‘Gimmie Pinch’, ‘Broken Lngwjz’ and ‘Super Chompia’. And when they were done with their set, the audience requested them to perform ‘Beeches’, which they had no objections to.

Like all their concerts, the Fokn Bois performed live. They had on stage a MacBook Pro which contained the instrumentations of their songs; some were a re-creation of the original.

The only downside on the night was the discomfort that some of their lyrics caused among some of the elderly folks who were in attendance. I couldn’t help but notice the facial expression of discomfort on the face of one elderly man who sat two places from me. He had his young family with him as well and hearing the Fokn Bois sing about genitalias obviously was uncomfortable.

But again, this is a Fokn Bois concert where irreverence rules. Like I always say, the FOKN Bois are masters of their trade. And they keep proving why they are one of the best performing artists in the country, by far.

Photos used in this article are sourced from the twitter pages of @revyboadu @mutomboDaPoet @arkiim_ @_kwnbnx @dadaeli_

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Samini’s “My Own” Proves His Old Self Is Alive

Samini has been in the news for a couple of days, thanks to the unfortunate incident that played out during the “S Concert” a few weeks ago. Scheduled to perform, he left the venue after feeling disrespected by the organizers – they kept him waiting for over four hours backstage, according to him . For any unbiased watcher, Samini was very much justified in taking that action and subsequent explanations by the organizers confirmed this.

But for that incident, Samini’s name would have been mentioned not in the same sentence as ‘controversy’. Rather, it would have been because of music. His song, “My Own” scores high on many fronts. The song is a reminder of what has been ‘missing’ from Samini, specifically his music over a period of time.

For almost a year now, he has been embroiled in a beef with another dancehall artist, Shatta Wale. Shatta has constantly thrown series of shades at Samini over who is the hottest dancehall artist in the country. This beef had elicited similar responses from Samini, who persistently tried to alert all that he is still the ace on the dancehall front.

Beefs are, as I have argued elsewhere, good for the industry since it has the tendency to draw attention to a genre of music, the artists and overall music scene of the country if it doesn’t assume a ballistic (violent) nature. It also helps the creative process of the artists. In the case of Samini, the beef led to him losing touch with himself; what distinguished him from fellow ‘dancehallers’, and what endeared him to many of his fans. The downside of beefs are that, the aggressor always has the advantage since they dictate the pace.

The veteran Samini lost it, not because he isn’t good or the best to ever do it, but because he couldn’t keep up with the frequency of diss records Shatta Wale kept releasing. It’s common knowledge that Shatta is like an industrial machine that keeps churning out products with little stress.

Despite these spanner in the wheels moments for Samini, he has taken a step away from the beefing space. The outcome of this decision is his song ‘My Own’.

‘My Own’ is not steeped in the hardcore, hard drums drenched dancehall vibe. Samini didn’t spread that timbring, husky and smokey voice over this song either. What he did was to take a more softer, elegant approach.

The love themed ‘My Own’ is a cross between highlife and lovers rock. The tone is mid-tempo. Samini’s voice is very clear and enjoyable. The song celebrates love, with Samini chronicling how his lover stood by his side during his struggling years.

The anecdotes shared are mostly real life situations which many could relate to. Samini details how she was with him when he was unemployed, had no place to live or had no money to take care of her. His unfortunate condition, notwithstanding, his lover kept faith and stood by him in the rain.

It’s said today that, it’s hard finding a ‘ride or die’ girlfriends (men are trash, of course). This song is a reminder not to give up on a girl who has held you down through the low swings of life. Be thankfully for their presence and celebrate them every dime time when you make it.

The tone of ‘My Own’ is a reminder of Samini between 2006-2010, arguably his finest years. This was the period when most of his songs were national hits due to it’s tone and reflection of reality of life. Most of these songs also carried this afro dancehall/lovers rock tone. Mention could be made of ‘Odo’, ‘Movement’, ‘My Baby’ and ‘Sweet Mistake’.

What these songs had in similarities are the lovers rock tone of the songs, the clear twi spoken, the themes of life and love, and the overall melodies that were present on these songs. Samini had producers like Quik Action and JMJ understood the musical philosophy of Samini. The results chalked include Samini bagging a MOBO Award in 2006 and the ‘Artiste of The Year’ Award in 2007 at the MTN Ghana Music Awards.

It is therefore disturbing to come across online comments that seek to diminish or question the legacy of Samini. Even if these critics seek to obliterate his legacy (which would be a foolish attempt), they can’t deny the fact that his success was like a burning torch that lightened the dancehall path for of today’s artists. From General Marcus to Sonni Bali; from Pricky Yardey to Yoggi Doggie, none was as successful and huge as Samini.

‘My Own’ hasn’t been an instant hit as some of his previous works. The reasons could be quiet myriad. I sense ‘My Own’ to fall within those type of songs that grow in popularity as it ages. That’s, its popularity grows gradually over a period of time.

But then again, the excitement for me, lies in the fact that, Samini has tapped into his old vault and released a song that bears trait with some of his standout records that earned him such attention, establishing him as one of the best artists in the country. I hope he won’t get himself distracted from what matters to him and his fans.

THE CUTS: EP 02 VOL. 13: Joey B’s “Sweetie Pie” and videos from other artists

THE CUTS is your weekly round-up of songs and videos-and anything that has caught our attention and think you must hear or see. The music featured here aren’t genre specific. ——————————————— Joey B feat King Promise – Sweetie Pie Joey B is lately not just dropping singles but visuals to accompany the songs; sometimes at the same time or within 24 hours of release. That trend began with the release of the nostalgia evoking ’89’ earlier this year. He followed the template with singles off the Darryl EP- ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Ranger’, and now, his new smooth and groovy ‘Sweetie Pie’ doesn’t depart from this trend. I love Joey B when he sing-raps. His thin voice and laid back persona permeates the song, giving it a feeling of appeal and coziness. These are what ‘Sweetie Pie’ boast. Featuring singer King Promise (who one YouTube comment described as a ‘virus’ for his recent musical ubiquitousness), the two trade voices and exalt the lovely virtues of their lovers: ‘your sugary lips are the sweetest’, For non- Ghanaian readers, ‘Sweetie Pie’ is a slang used to describe a very lovely or special person in one’s life. In the context of this song, Joey B, along with King Promise are telling the world how much they value the women in their lives. What makes this song such a potential hit (it’s Joey B anyway) is it’s feet moving groove, sing along hook, simple lyrics and the nostalgic feeling it offers, courtesy that Kofi Nti and Ofori Amponsah ‘Odo Ndwom’ interpolation. (He applauds them highly in the videos closing comments). The influence of legendary highlife crooner, Ofori Amponsah on Joey B is becoming apparent, and it’s something to be proud about. Joey is acknowledging a brilliant veteran artist and also helping re-introduce these old classics to a new and younger generation. Joey B enlisted Yaw Skyface for directorial duties for the video for ‘Sweetie Pie’. And like the experienced videographer he is, he let the location, coordination and the joyous intimacy breeze through the video. The location is absolutely stunning, especially the drone view of the valley of township and greenery nature of the location. The dance scene between King Promise and Joey B towards the end of the video looked superb, the costuming and the seeming playfulness adds to the video’s appeal. https://youtu.be/zY-NLE0SwLI GURU – Only You https://youtu.be/5grim0-GGe8 Guru qualifies as one of the most hardworking artists in the country, judging by the number of songs and videos he has released this year alone. His new video for ‘Only You’, a betrayal of love themed song is all glossy and pristine. Salifu Abdul Hafiz shows captures Guru riding through streets of Dubai, in a Rolls Royce, with the thoughts of a cheating wife playing in his mind. Unsure of his wife’s fidelity, he plants a secret camera (in the eye of a teddy bear) which confirmed his suspicions. It’s not a Dubai shot video if one of the city’s iconic landmarks , The Burj Al Arab and, at least a belly dancing scene isn’t featured. One curious question worth asking is how Guru continues to be regarded a ‘second tier’ artist despite his enormous catalogue- songs and videos? Diamond Platnumz feat Rick RossWaka https://youtu.be/q1iHgDTplfw Tanzanian act, Diamond Plantnuz is the latest African artist to join forces with American hip hop act Rick Ross on a song. ‘Waka’ carries an R&B tinge and is a celebration of life and success song, which are well reflected in the video. Diamond is seen in a party mood- enjoying the company of women-both indoors and by the pool, popping Bellaire bottles and teaching Rick Ross some dance moves. The video appears to have been shot in Miami and boast of elements visible in most Moe Musa directed videos. Hopefully, this collaboration with Rick Ross may get the ‘Sikomi’ hitmaker visible in the Americas. OTI- Lost https://youtu.be/6b2SxS-40qA Rapper OTI remains a fascinating figure to me since I first saw him. My interest led me to listen to ‘Truth’, off his mixtape “Untold Story”. Two things piqued my interest: his ability to lace a story and his consistent spread of positivism on wax. ‘Lost’ is his recent work. He shot the video in New York. ‘Lost’ talks about life, friendship and daily hustle. With a style reflective of hip hop icon, Notorious BIG (whose painting hanged from a restaurant wall OTI was relaxing), OTI paints a picture of his struggles: ‘Oh God, I was down on my last/Looking around for the cash’. He touches on about untrustworthiness: ‘the same ones who clown with you and laugh/ be the niggas who’ll be scheming/turn around and blast’, although he believes your problem’s my problem/ we y’all in deep’. He’s shown watching old tapes of himself rapping during his time in Ghana.

Edem takes us to church on ‘’Mighty Jesus’’

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In his 2015 speech after winning the VGMA ‘Best Video Award’ for ‘The One’, Edem appealed to all to support artists by patronizing their works. This, he indicated was one of the ways, artists like himself would release very good works-both audio and videos for fans to enjoy and sell Ghana music to the world. According to him, he spent about GHc 40,000 on that video. In short, money helps in creating excellent visuals for artists.

This is evident in his new video, ‘Mighty Jesus’. The song celebrates the goodness of God (or Jesus) in his life and career. Produced by Coptic, Edem drafts fellow rappers, EL and Jayso, who took turns to express the favour of God in their various endeavours over hard hitting hip hop beat.

The Video:

The video is directed by Pascal Aka and is set in a church. There is a choir, a pastor and violinists providing extra musical texture to the song. The video runs through a series of shots- dancers in a praying posture (heads bowed), choristers, a pastor, violinists and evil forces seeking to cause harm to Edem, Jayso and EL. We also see Edem (dressed in all white) and a view of a mountain battered by winds. The video is shot entirely in black and white.

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We get introduced to Jayso courtesy a panoramic view of him lying in a big drawn crucifix adorned at the edges with candles. There are scenes of him rapping while standing with the choir behind him. Interspersed are scenes of a ‘kayayie’ (head porter) and an ‘albino’ mother who’s being tormented by evil forces.  EL is shown in a room full of evil forces trying to attack him. On the white walls of the room are blood stains- he is killing them through the grace of God. Next comes Edem, looking all dapper in his white shirt and black trousers, sitting comfortably on what looks like a wooden throne (made of sticks and palm fronts).

The ‘Mighty Jesus’ video has some interesting scenes that advances the narrative including the albino mother who’s separated from the evil forces by a grace enclosure she’s in. That wall connotes the grace of God. The video marries Western (charismatic) Church culture with Traditional African Religious themes as seen in the Christian symbols of crucifix, candles, choirs and the preacher. The animated expressions of the pastor is flawlessly performed. The depiction of African themes or symbols via the body paintings, Northern warrior horn helmet and raffia wearing priestess all point to the contrast and commonalities existing between these religions although the Christian values are positively highlighted. At the end of the day, the evil forces all succumbed to one God, the Christian God.

Compared to his video for ‘The One’, ‘Mighty Jesus’ has less graphic works. Pascal Aka and Edem chose to keep it very simple (concept, colour grading) yet the story is clearly told and could be understood by anyone who may have no sense of what they may be saying. In sum, this gospel themed video is perfect for a gospel themed song as ‘Mighty Jesus’.

‘Mighty Jesus’ is the first single from his soon to be released album, ‘The African Answer’. Cop a copy and support the artists so they could continue to create the way we want them to.

Amaarae’s “Passionfruit Summers” is a Perfect Sonic Gift

The anticipation which surrounded the announcement of a new EP by Amaarae was, upon listening very worthwhile. Amaarae’s name began swirling on my twitter timeline months ago-videos of her performances accompanied various tweets.

At first, I thought it was one of those hype team efforts at building steam for an artist who may be just average (that’s uncommon though). But, I got baited, followed by a change of mind and heart when I watched one of her videos. That Voice. The falsetto voice is charming and luxurious. That was the gripper. Then shifting through her words, you realize her pen game is absolutely fantastic. That combination of talent in voice and writing is fully accentuated exposure on her latest project “Passionfruit Summers’’.

The six track EP is a well knitted, pleasuring experience that transports you into a place of pure serenity and joyous pain. “Passionfruit Summers” is an exercise of sonic exploration and a magical trip into a world of absolutely bliss. It’s a portrait of Amaarae: a confident, bold woman who knows what she wants and isn’t scared to face her feelings.

‘The shawty with the bald head’, as her twitter bio read, assembled some of the best minds and hands in the music front in Ghana to curate this EP. Rvdical, EDWVN, MikeMillz, Dex Kwasi dug deep into their sonic vault for this project and the outcome is one that should elicit an eternal smile across their faces. The EPs opener ‘Sundays’ uses an inviting bass guitar chords and percussion for this ‘don’t-stress-me’ tune.

The picturesque view she describes is one of a ‘good day with palm tree breeze’ with her ‘smoking purple and drinking’ is pleasurable experience. Bringing on board Fingers, helps bring the song ‘home’. What stands out is how their voices blend to perfection-whether singing together or throwing in ad-libs. Her voice slices through it effortlessly, like a knife through a butter cake. She sings those low notes with easy comfort.

The EP can be described as Amaarae’s parting of ‘ways with her fear over lost love and demonstrates an undeniable lust for sonic freedom’. These themes run throughout the six tracks. Sometimes, the songs sound like a yearning for a loved one; or stuck somewhere she doesn’t want to leave. Some of the songs also feel like confessional diary entries; a showcase of her love life. The theme is demonstrated profoundly on the sensually tinged ‘Catching A Wave’, where she sings about letting a lover go. Her opening words, ‘I think the time has come for me and you to let it go’ is uttered in a casual mode. But, there’s a sense of hurt in the lyrics that follow: ‘You changed the game I’ll not be the same, I’ll let you know’. The slow-tempo beat on which her words float serve as the perfect canvas on which she paints her pain; of wanting someone you can’t have.

The influence of songs from Ghana and Nigeria (on their respective artists) is evident on ‘Happy Mistakes’ where she does an interpolation of D’Banj’s classic ‘Oliver Twist’. ‘Happy Mistakes’, as much an oxymoron, has her crooning about her feelings towards a lover. The honesty in the lyrics, ‘sometimes, you treat me like a fool, I went crazy over you, you don’t have a clue’, is definitely proclaimed from a place of truth. The happiness that the slapping hi-hats in the first part evoke is stripped away in the second part.

As she indicated in her interview, these are real life experiences shared over minimal, kora string beats. The second part of this song slowly builds, rising with each thump of the kick. Here, she sounds like one coming to terms with the end of the relationship. The Usher ‘U Don’t Have To Call’ interpolation is the perfect, painless closure to a satisfying encounter.

Listening or hearing the story behind the making of a particular track adds a ton of beauty and also, helps you appreciate the artist’s creativity. As she disclosed in an interview with Kozie on Accra based YFM, they (she and her team of producers) had to go the extra mile to create the perfect product that is “Passionfruit Summers”.

This is how they came about creating the dreamy song “Hawaii”, as she shared on twitter

‘’It took me Rvdical, EDWVN and David Edem an entire day of mostly just talking about random stuff, chilling in my guest room, listening to Jerry Plange and mostly interrupting Rvdical while he was making the beat, EDWVN actually came up with the melodies first. He had been singing it all day so we drove to MikeMillz’s studio and talked for another two hours, watched Ryan Leslie’s Black Mozart film while Rvdical was finishing the beat. Rvdical finished, EDWVN hopped in the booth, killed it, gave me vim, hopped in right after. Boom’’.

‘Hawaii’, a 1 minute and 45 seconds song carries a whispery vibe. The beat and her singing rise contemporaneously, her voice sliding along the rising soundscape of the song. Her checklists what she’d do for her lover (I’ll give you all my time). The trap soul influence and sharp piano chords add to the ambience of the song, thus encapsulating with perfection the song’s title. On the title track of the EP, which happens to be the closing song, she enlists another incredibly gifted singer, Sutra and together steamed into the sunny summer season.

‘Passionfruit Summers’ is the perfect introduction of Amaarae to lovers of neo-soul/bluesy music, although she’s able to subtly embed few strands of trap and hip-hop influences. The EP is a trip down the clichéd memory lane-staying with the golden moments and trying to purge yourself of the sour moments.

The decision to keep it at just six tracks is perfect- it doesn’t get boring. Her falsetto and her ability to hit those low notes effortlessly reminds me of Solange on her Grammy nominated album, ‘’Seat At The Table’’.

Then again, I dare ask: Who’s Amaarae? A cross between the sublime sultriness of Jhene Aiko and a girl next door Solange? Or, she’s AMAARAE! Make your decision after listening to ‘Passionfruit Summers’ here. https://soundcloud.com/amaarae/sets/passionfruit-summers

MzVee scores high with her visually appealing video ‘Sing My Name’

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There are three things you can’t take for granted when you are rising to the top as an artist. First, the music you make. Two, a strong brand; and three, the visuals that accompany your videos must be absolutely appealing.

The third is what MzVee has done with her latest video for ‘Sing My Name’. The KP Selorm directed video is eye catching. The visuals are clean, the lightning is supremely beautiful and the colour grading is spotless.

That’s what money does, anyway. Her label, Lynx Entertainment is currently resting on the music charts through their other two artists- KiDi (with ”Odo”) and Kuami Eugene (”Angela”). This second Lynx Entertainment wave is an attempt at capturing the upper echelons of the music scene which they once dominated circa 2007 to 2012.

Back to MzVee’s video. The concept is simple: start your day in the gym and end up later in the club. MzVee performs plays a gym instructor taking her female clients through various exercise- stretches, dancing, biking and yoga. The scene looks more like a sorority girl club having a good time on a Saturday morning.

The colour grading, the use of light and the camera angles – both close-up and long shots- offer whoever watches an appreciative view of the work that went into the making of the video.

The video transitions from the gym to the club, where we are bombarded with a lot of neon lights and well crafted neon colour graphics. MzVee and her girls and Patoranking (featured on the song) have their bodies draped with graphics, similar to something from a Missy Elliott creative book. KP Selorm places black-and-white moments in-between the heavily neon video.

With artists, labels and managers becoming aware of the need to invest in visuals, since its one of the ways to capture the attention of people, both locally and outside of the artists locale, video directors are also crafting some amazing pieces of work to tell that story. Clearly, MzVee and her team recognizes this fact.

King Promise – Selfish

There’s something worth pointing out about this video. Was the ‘accident scene’ really necessary? Perhaps it was. Just that, it wasn’t really done well. It looked super fictitious. The director could have created a good scene to capture that bit of the story than what we saw.

King Promise is working. A few weeks after releasing the audio of this love-tinged song ‘Selfish’, the video is out. A good video concept that highlights the beauty of a love relationship: trips to the cinema, the long night drives, sharing food, warm cuddles, shopping trips and the inescapable, sometimes volatile arguments.

King Promise and his lover seem very comfortable with each other as the video show. Of course, they are in love. The love between them seem all genuine. Then.. Tragedy hit. She is knocked by a car. She passes on. We see King Promise dropping a flower in her grave. The lover he promised to be selfish about has been snatched crudely from him.

So, the video is King Promise in a flashback mode, reminiscing about her and the good times the two shared. Interesting, the story isn’t as obvious from the start. The colour grade of the video was as colourful as it should be. Elsewhere, a video director could have shot some of the scenes in black and white for flashback effects.

Need to say, King Promise is working hard to be a top prospect in this competitive music scene. He’s trying to be ahead of the pack. And his wave is catching on albeit gradually. ‘Selfish’ is another good time to help propel him to his desired destination. Expect the song to be a ‘couple first dance’ tune at weddings.