Unorthodox. Brave. Relevant. Growth. These were the adjectives that came to mind after listening to this Eli Muzik and Alex Wondergem EP, ‘Buying Our Freedom’ some weeks ago. Here are two artistes who have joined hands to create a project that mirrors their thoughts at issues of our times.
‘Buying Our Freedom’ is question plagued. Questions bothering on life and its frustrations, hope and people. The elements found in Eli’s music is ever present-the Afro neo-soul/afrobeat influences. Just that, the love-ly lyrics are shoved aside. They are replaced with grating lyrics bedeviling us.
If the growth of an artiste is measured by the depth of their lyrics and of course, their wokeness, then Eli has hit that spot. Any keen observer of Eli would have noticed how daring his lyrics have become lately. One hears within his voice a tone of activism and social consciousness. On songs like ‘Gold Coast’ and ‘Gaudette’, he expressed a new element in his art.
The art and its value has been a concern for Eli for a while. In 2015, he wrote an article for this blog titled ‘The Times’. The article-more like his musings-bothered on how the art being made today is lacking a ‘truth’ value. In the article he posed a question: So I ask: Of what value is truth and false to the young mind, whose foundations are built upon what he hears, sees and feels through these forms of art?’
The quest of sharing the truth value is present in ‘Buying Our Freedom’. From the opening track, (more like a skit), what is heard isn’t Eli’s voice. Rather, an advice from Prez. J.J. Rawlings about ‘evil dwarfs’, from which the track takes its name ‘Old Evil Dwarf’. In the skit, Rawlings takes political shots at the leadership of the country at that time (the NDC). ‘There’s nothing more oppressive than when a political leader refuses to see the actions of negative elements around him’, Rawlings observes. For him, a leader must ‘put his feet down’ and remove these negative elements-the old evil dwarfs.
It becomes clear that, Eli and Alex are going to producing a work that eschews all courtesies. In its place, ‘disruptive’ truths. While Chapter II and Je M’en Bats Les Couilles are neo-soul influenced, the messages/themes covered aren’t similar. ‘Je M’en Bats Les Couilles’ (I don’t give a shit/care) has Eli pouring out his frustrations about how things are evolving; how ‘this world is eating him today’ yet doesn’t ‘give a fuck’. The strings, pounding drum and striking snare driven ‘Chapter II’ preaches self-love and how that inspire your own creativity. Eli soulfully croons about ‘having issues with the way I felt by myself’ born out of low confidence and self-esteem.
Low confidence and diminishing self-esteem are two dangerous mix for an artiste. The two situations has the potential of not only confining the creativity of artistes but also, push them into a state of depression (mental health). And when that happens, who does the artiste call? Thus Eli’s rhetorically question: ‘whose is it to make me feel right’? In self-love lies the answer.
On ‘Hygrade’ and ‘Sunday Morning’, the pace of the songs increase, abandoning the soulfulness for hyperactive afrobeat sound. Alex Wondergem’s productions are more aggressive and rightly loud, to match the themes of songs. ‘Hygrade’ is unorthodox, as it wasn’t a subject I expected Eli sing about- calling for the legalization of weed. An interview granted by Kwaw Kesse after his running with the law over smoking weed preceded Eli’s ‘legalize it’ call. In a style reminiscent of Fela Kuti, Eli, singing in pidgin, chants ‘the thing, e dey everywhere for here…we know the power it get’. He points out the irony of the ban-the people with the power are the abusers of the drug.
‘Sunday Morning’ samples one of Joe Mensah’s famous instrumentals (it was a signature tune for Viasat One). On this 1:24 mins, Eli celebrates Ghana. ‘Sunday Morning’ is a call to all immigrants to return home for ‘Ghana better pass any place in the whole world’. He admonishes those with thoughts of travelling to rescind their decision: ‘make you no leave go chop shit for Yankee (US)’. ‘Sunday Morning’ is your grass-is-not-green-on-the-other- side’ advice pack. Afro-trap influences envelope ‘Hueman’, a song about defying labels (‘they want to identify me but that’s a story hard to write’); being themselves and the many things fans/world doesn’t see (nobody know the things e dey do me) features singer/rapper Worlasi and Adomaa.
Good art is when it comes from the heart. Good art is what impacts society and life positively. Eli Muzik and Alex Wondergem perhaps set out to reflect on this country and its people but ended up with an EP that speaks the minds of many as well. In its broad lyrics, interesting themes and vibrant grooves lies the appeal of the tape.