THE CUTS: EP 01 Vol. 10

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. THE CUTS is delivered every FRIDAY

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C-Real – Feel The Vibe

It was Reggie Rockstone who on one of his songs, Mbosuo, called on artistes to switch up their style if they want to be relevant and survive the turbulent music scene. This was many many years ago. C-Real’s new song ‘Feel The Vibe’, reminded me of Reggie’s advice. I love surprises but, honestly didn’t expect C-real to rap over minimally toned, Ga-inspired highlife beat (kolomashie). Feel The Vibe lives by its title: it’s fun-filled and vibely. It’s mid-tempo and danceable. The beat obviously brought out a more relaxed C-Real. For those who are unaware of Ghana and its people, Feel The Vibe is the perfect introduction. C-Real talks about the coolness of the Ghanaian-sociable, fun loving and cool people. C-Real put it better: ‘this is an awesome city/where the girls look pretty/ and the guys all bust a move when they feel the vibe’. Although ‘Feel The Vibe’ evokes happiness, in a C-Real fashion manages to kick in some inspiring words: ‘make you commot all the hate from your system/Now, gimme love no resistance’. Kay Nie, the producer laid a beat for C-Real to rapture with good vibes.

 

KAYSO feat Papa Chie – Lovey

The magic of ‘Lovey’ is less about the lyrics of the song and more about the highlife grooves that complement it. The songwriting and singing are alright-nothing striking. That aside, Lovey, the new single by producer/singer-rapper KaySo and Papachie is excellently crafted. This is my first time hearing KaySo produce a song that sit within the highlife fold- trap vibes is what I’ve known him for. The guitar licks are reminiscent of those from the palmwine highlife era whiles the horns are brass band-esque in tone. The drums bubble excitingly at the base of the song.  Featuring Papachie, ‘Lovey’ revisit some qualities seen in highlife songs of the past like allowing the beat to play for a few minutes between the first and second verses (this is uncommon lately as the verses often follow each other). With this smooth, danceable, guitar and horn filled highlife tune, KaySo from Tema stays true to his ‘Wanna Own Be Different’ tagline.

Sizz The Truth – Longest Rounds

What hit you first are those menacing piano chimes at the beginning of the song (they seem to be similar to that on ‘One of Us’ by Rick Ross). Longest Rounds is basically Sizz The Truth, detailing his night romp across the city-bar hopping trips, one-night stands and blowing money as suggested on the hook: ‘steady tryna sip the liquor in my cup/started at Purple (bar) ended at Django…had the longest rounds’ (Purple Bar and Django are two of the famous hangouts in the city). Longest Rounds is strictly hip hop (Sizz rap and sing on the hook, sounding tipsy). This Arrow produced tune is the first single off his upcoming project ‘The Whole Truth’

  B4BONAH feat Kojo-Cue – Dear God Refix

‘If you hear my cry/on my knees I’m calling/I need you right now/God, make I blow’. The message in this chorus sums up the theme of the song: a prayer to succeed. Talent alone isn’t enough to succeed in this music business. Luck, is very key in cracking the mainstream door. On this remix, b4Bonah drafts BBnZ’s Kojo Cue who, essentially details the difficulties of up and coming artistes- demand of payola from DJs before they play your song, fans not patronizing shows. ‘How many free shows do I have to stage to get recognized? /How many videos do I have to shoot to clinch a VGMA award?’, KoJo-Cue ask. Take away the rap and Dear God is a song that rides on bouncy beat and has a catchy hook.

 Fiifi Selah- Mma Obi Ndaada Wo (Let No One Deceive You)

The last time I heard a song from Fiifi Selah song I heard was over a decade ago on Obrafour’s ‘Asem Sebe’. He contributed a stellar verse on one of the most polished diss songs of all time. He was by then known as Scooby Selah-part of the music group SASS Squad and subsequently TH4Kwages. Between that time and now, a lot has happened in Fiifi Selah’s life. He’s still doing radio (on Accra based Pluzz FM) and now a full blown Rastafarian. On his latest tune, Fiifi Selah preaches to whoever is listening. His message is simple: don’t allow yourself to be deceived; seek your own truths and hold on to your God. Fiifi Selah talks rather than rap or sing on this MikeMillz On’Em produced song. Mma Obi Ndaada Wo; a deliberately style chosen for its impact on the listener.  Fiifi Selah message is full of anecdotes about life, actions and the need to act right:  is not your belief that’d get you to heaven. Neither is it your religion. Having a good heart is your surest bet to make it to heaven, Fiifi Sellah preaches. Mma Obi Ndaada Wo is taken from Sons of God mixtape Vol. 4. Download link https://t.co/lXqw7efuST

EP Review: Buying Our Freedom by Eli Muzik and Alex Wondergem

 

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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.

THROW BACK: Sounds of Our Time: Okra & Motia-The Workshop

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Every producer and A&R hopes their artistes become superstars in the future. One of the main reasons that fuel this hope is the depth of talent the artiste possesses. The hope for rapper Okra Tom Dawidi (David) and Motia to succeed and become formidable rappers within the Ghanaian rap scene was high in 2004.  And even Mantse (voice of Last 2 Music) was convinced that in two years, Okra and Motia would be the kings of rap.

‘Okra and Motia will be around for a very long time to come. And take my word for it. A year or two from now, you’ll understand what I’m saying as being the best lyricists I’ve ever heard. Skill, command and talent; raw talent’ – Mantse.

But, as we’ve come to know, the game has a way of fucking things up for rappers; incredible talent notwithstanding. The slippery road of rap dashes these hopes. Okra and Motia, despite their stellar showing on the Hammer produced ‘Sounds of our Time’ tape, the two unfortunately couldn’t rise to the top as predicted by Mantse in 2004. Both Motia and Okra crashed and burned before their time.

‘Sounds of Our Time’ featured artistes from the stables of Last Two. It was Hammer’s way offering the unknown talents on his roster the opportunity to sell themselves to the Ghanaian hip-hop community. The tape churned out two hits- Bollie’s ‘You May Kiss The Bride’ and Kwakwa by Kwaw Kesse (who is still a force till date).

‘The Workshop’ was the song that convinced Mantse to make that ‘take my word for it’ claim about their future. The song was an exhibition of rap skills and lyrical proficiency. The two young rappers indulged in a proverb-filled, bar-for-bar lyrical exchange in unadulterated Twi. Both artistes were masters of language and expression.

Okra and Motia were literally being boastful and warning other rappers to feel threatened as they were about to usurp whoever was (rap) king. The song had no hook. It was a 5 minute worth of rap. The Workshop, as the metaphorical title clearly suggest, was an exercise in ‘lyrical dexterity’ as Mantse notified listeners in the intro.

A decade or more after Mantse’s predictions, Okra has returned; attempting to light up the torch he was once predicted to hold aloft. He, and Motia were top rap prospects who slipped off the scene when the eyes of the public was about to settle on them.

 

 

Akbar Comics launch Kickstarter Campaign to fund first book ‘Captain Calabar’.

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Comic books have always played a part in our lives. For many it still does. They have been our companions -from infancy through to adulthood. Comics have inspired dreams; served as an escape into another realm (fantasy world) as well as an educative tool. For many, comics gave them reason to live.

The power and commercial appeal of comics have, in recent times, crossed over from the pages onto the big screens. Hollywood is at the forefront of this exciting wave; churning out many movie flicks based on popular comic strips.

Comics, aside its incredible stories, attractive characters and the money they generate, are also vehicles of promoting Western socio-political ideals. A cursory look at the comic landscape reveal a paucity of African comics. This means, the African story is not heard by many comic lovers albeit the existence a plethora of African stories and tales with very great characters that must be told the world.

One comic company looking to breaking into the industry and inspire an African ‘invasion’ is the Nigerian based Akbar Comics. Founded in June, 2016, Akbar Comics has a team of four individuals- Abasido Akpan, Joshua Akpan, and Timehin Akinde. Akbar Comics is seeking to do this through the release of their first comic book ‘Captain Calabar’.

As Timehin Akinde, head writer and co-creator of ‘Captain Calabar’ put it, Akbar Comics is aiming at   showcasing African beauty and reshaping the pop culture landscape. We are trying to build a lasting African comic book universe and showcase the beauty of Africa to the world. We want to redefine the art form and leave our mark on African pop culture’.

Achieving this ambition would mean having adequate support and resources. It is for this reason that Akbar Comics has commenced a Kickstarter campaign to help them achieve their dream of raising funds towards the publication and subsequent release of their first comic book.

Africa’s voice has to be heard within the global comic space. Our rich, dynamic, evocative and astounding stories must be known. Comics are one of the best mediums to get those stories out. If you are a comic lover and believe in the dream of Akbar Comics, kindly support the campaign here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2003961482/captain-calabar

Support a dream!

Music Review: Serwa Akoto by YOM (Writer Poet)

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Yom tackles the issue of skin bleaching on his latest poem Serwa Akoto

The name Serwa Akoto has somehow become synonymous to beauty thanks to the classic hit song Serwaa Akoto by the Yamoah International Band released in the 1970s. The name, based off the song title and lyrics, celebrated the beauty of Serwa Akoto. (Note: Serwa Akoto was a real individual resident at Dansoman, Akoko Foto).

The latest act to reference the name is Yom The Poet. His celebration of beauty carries a twist. YOM tackles the subject of how today’s generation perceive beauty: the adoration of light skin and the culture of skin bleaching (or is it toning). Through the character called Serwa Akoto, the ‘African Geisha’, Yom shares his views on this trend; exploring reasons behind it.

Featuring singers Tara and Bella, whose ballads and background harmonies are as ornate as Yom’s words, the two describe the contradiction Serwa Akoto is: ‘Serwa Akoto, African Geisha. She’s beautiful. She don’t know it’. They proceed to tell us how her ‘smile light up the day’.

The first verse situate the poem in context: ‘she aspires to be the crème of the crop so she applies cream to crop out the darkness’.  Serwa Akoto’s motive for bleaching is borne out of her realization that, being dark skinned was a disincentive.  Light skin, holds a lot of power and influence over men (so they say). The advantages-both social, economic and colonial- compels her to ‘photoshop’ her body.

‘Somewhere in the syllabus I suppose someone forgot to teach that,

 A painting possesses more value that a photoshop version’

The subject of skin bleaching (or toning) and the continuous fuss about the measure of beauty has become topical in recent times. In some African countries, measures including banning of bleaching creams has been instituted. In Ghana, the advocacy against skin bleaching is alive. The harmful effects of bleaching are well known. These facts notwithstanding, many women seem unperturbed. Like Serwa Akoto, their actions are borne out of an obtuse cultural thinking (light skin is beautiful or superior) and to an extent, its socio-economic benefits. Yom captures the ‘prestige’ associated with being light skinned aptly: ‘now she speaks in pounds and sprinkles of cedis’, adding ‘her dialogue is unlocked by sparkling Mercedes’.  ‘The Barbie, never been offered a penny for her thoughts/Pennies are often offered for what’s beneath her frocks’, he points out the irony.

Yom doesn’t only chide them for bleaching. He blames society for playing a role in this whole situation including Kwame Nkrumah, when he married Fathia (ha!). He asks: ‘Must we find beauty in this beast disfigured by the pressures of an unforgiven society?’ He muses over the reasons for bleaching: ‘mouths to feed? Or a misguided need to belong?’ (social factor). Yom finally concludes on a leg of despair: ‘African Geisha seems lost yet only she can find her’.

There’s a stunning calmness in the manner Yom delivers his words. They are unforced and languid; rolling off his tongue like they are draped in silk. The background music-a mix of jazz, soul and afrobeats- along with the singing of Tara and Bella hands the poem a soothing sensation. There are moments when the soulful tunes are replaced by high tempo highlife groves. A good stunt to pull for it’s important to cheer the listener after delivering such heavy, disturbing yet truthful message (in the midst of drinking is when thinking is done, as they Akan proverb goes).

‘Flame On’ by Ria Boss is a relevant song for this time

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On her recently released EP, singer Ria Boss was quick to remind us of the need and importance of being free. The advantages of finding ourselves and traversing this catastrophic thing called life to a place of bliss where happiness and freedom shake hands frequently and not intermittently.

Every song on the Six (6) track EP- beginning with ‘Golden’ to the last track, ‘Everything’, has Ria  motivating the listener, with hopeful lyrics. Lyrics that calls on the listener to eschew all negativities and start trundling on the path of happiness. The EP name, ‘Find Your Free’, captures the crux of her messages succinctly.

One of the outstanding songs on the EP (in my opinion) is ‘Flame On’, the guitar accompanied, live recorded song. ‘Flame On’, aside the great qualities it boast-good production, the soulful singing- it’s the message in the song that captivated me. A very necessary and timely song for this era where fear and uncertainties stifle our efforts at reaching a place of peace and happiness.

We live in a society where fear and terror is on the high, unemployment is biting and parents aren’t ready to encourage their wards to seek opportunities that are deemed unconventional. We hear of the experiences of people who are trapped in situations where quitting should be the rational decision to take but are forced to stay within such frameworks-bad marriages/relationships, jobs we hate, opportunistic friends. Such people sacrifice their own pleasures to make others happy thus deferring dreams. The fear of failing or being deemed a failure scares all of us; holding us back from finding ourselves and also, our freedom.

It is not uncommon to witness, especially on social media the many incidents of abuse, either sexually, verbally or physically yet the empathy needed by these victims are replaced by hateful comments. There also have been cases where others have been mocked for expressing unpopular opinions/comments. The fear of getting judged leave many to silently nurse their wounds rather than ask for help from others (you can’t even trust those you’d share your deep thoughts with).

“The world can be overwhelming, and sometimes we get scared. Of ourselves…of…time. Regrets build and it sucks and we forget that life is passing us by and we should trust in ourselves more. We shouldn’t deny our inner children. When we were little, we had aspirations for adulthood, we shouldn’t deny ourselves the joy we thought we’d feel. There’s light, there’s happiness, on the other side of fear, and wallowing. I was depressed when I wrote this, I wanted to remind the kid in me to stop being scared and trust the journey.” – Ria Boss

It is for this reason that ‘Flame On’ is such a necessary song.. Armed with the right words, Ria Boss proceed to inspire and assure us to ignore those self-inspired pressures and those society pile on us; dig within ourselves and chase our dreams. Although she is singing to inspire herself, Ria Boss’ words is for everyone else She begins by sharing her state of mind: ‘Losing focus, I can’t sleep at night no more’. Then on the pre-hook, attempts to motivate herself to chase the dream ‘maybe I’ll be somebody else if I wish hard enough/Maybe I can make the pain disappear/Maybe if I face all my bad days with some armor/Gotta stop living in fear’.

On the second verse, Ria Boss points to the many issues afflicting the world and by extension fuels her fears and draws her away from her aspirations. She sings about the crumbling of the world around and how ‘through the blood, the strange fruit, bombs and prayers all seem mute’. Ending with a very relevant question: ‘What’s the point of living?

When our fears tend to overwhelm us, we conceive a variety of assumptions to cocoon within temporarily. We know these ideas or escapes are nothing but fathoms that would vapourize; yet, they’ve become ways that help us dump down on our fears. And Ria Boss did same on ‘Flame On’, teasing out thoughts that could hide these fears: ‘maybe I can find love to make time worthwhile/Maybe I can try to set the demons free’. When such options lacked the potential to lock out her fears, she finally decides to live: ‘Maybe if I face all my bad days, I’ll be strong enough/Imma stop living in fear’.

Life is like a volcano spewing its dangerous lava each day. In our quest to avoid getting burnt by the flowing lava, we are forced to stay within our comfort zone, even when it’s a depressing zone. Distancing ourselves from the fears and uncertainties that entangles us should happen at a point. That’s what Ria Boss is encouraging us to do when on the hook of the song she assures the little girl that: ‘you don’t have to face your dark days alone/There’s light on the other side’, so she should not be afraid to ‘set yourself on fire’.

Even though Ria Boss wrote this for the little girl inside of her to encourage and motivate her towards finding her free, all can relate to the inspirational words behind Flame On. Don’t let fear dim your shine. Set yourself on fire.

 

 

Album REVIEW: JULS – Leap of Faith

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On his love soaked EP, Juls takes a leap that has definitely paid off

Love is at the centre of Leap of Faith, the debut EP released by UK based Ghanaian producer, DJ Juls on 8th May. The meaning behind the EP title comes as a double entendre. First, it’s reflect a certain doubt in his crossing from a credible producer to an incredible one. It also reflect, based on the themes covered, a man in love.

For many years, DJ Juls has worked his way to the top. The many years of work is beginning to pay off in a huge way. What began as an experimentation with a new found production style, which he credits his girlfriend for, became a ground breaking one. Employing classic highlife grooves and deliberately slowing the tempo of the song caused a seismic shift as far as the afropop sound is concerned. Juls, arguably created what is today’s afropop sound. The experimentation which began with Mr. Eazi has become an industry standard.

This new sound is what is heard on this EP. DJ Juls also assembles some of the ‘new age’ artistes who are proponents of this wave; this eclectic afropop sound. A cursory look at the features shows a host of Nigerian artiste with a few UK based Ghanaian artiste.

The EP opens with ‘My Wave’, an infectious tune soaked in rich highlife grooves with Juls blending various elements of traditional African music. The guitar riffs and horns along with the excellently delivered vocals of Odunsi (The Engine) and Sona makes a solid opener. Maleek Berry and Nonso Amadi, two fast rising artistes croon with passion on ‘Early’, a love-tinged tune, which sees the two exalting their love interest. ‘Is that invitation to take you out? Even if you say no, I’d take you out/I just wanna wake up and check you out’, Nonso sing with tenderness. Whereas Nonso comes across smooth and soulful, Maleek Berry’s tone was intense. A perfect blend. The emotions expressed are passionate and honest; something that hit the listener. ‘Early’ is likely to be the radio banger off the EP. ‘Give You Love’, released as the first single in late 2016, doesn’t deviate from the norm: the charming guitar riffs, triumphant and the hard hitting percussions suck you in before L.A.X’s words. He croons about love like someone bitten by the love bug.

The tone of the EP tilt towards afro-dancehall on the Kojey Radical assisted ‘Temperature Rising’. Employing elements of Nigerian juju music, Juls lays down a beat for Kojey to slay- thanks to his booming voice and cadence. The sing along chorus aside: ‘you feel the temperature climbing/you know that time is expensive/ you know that these moments are priceless’; the DJ scratches hand the song a late 80s/early 90s mixtape feel. The afro dancehall template is followed on ‘After Six’ (featuring Santi and Tomy Agape), ‘Coco’ (where Santi joins Odunsi) and the Frass AOD featured ‘Mi Luv’. Next comes ‘Bad’; the club crafted tune which features Nots3, Kojo Funds and Eugy. The minimal elements of drums and snares tease the bad in you out. The EP ends with Eji Owuro, the R&B influenced love-themed song featuring Moelego.

There are a host of positives on Leap of Faith. First, Juls has formally cemented his place within the pantheon of producers who have shaped the sound of African music. Second, the feature list and the pairing of acts as well as the sequencing of songs were perfectly done. Finally, settling on a host of African, new age’ artistes pushing the new rhythms of Africa to a wider global audience was an excellent decision. The switch from the mellow, slowly burning rhythmic grooves on Leap of Faith to dancehall vibes saved the EP from becoming a boring, repetitive outing.

It is uncommon for even experts in a field to have a bit of doubt when making a transition from one spectrum to the other-a transition with the potential of changing their lives. Granted Juls, has in recent times, etched his name in the top African producer list but that doesn’t erode the doubt, as seen in the EP title. The leap taken by Juls has indeed paid off. Acceptance: check; success: guaranteed!

written by Swaye Kidd (@swayekidd)