Dwin, The Stoic’s “Heavy Heart”, his debut music album, is a burst of delight on many levels.
His song-writing works on a visceral level and at the core of his songs is a deep human reflection, that fount from where stories sprout. The 10 track album (minus 3 bonus tracks) is hoisted in an album jacket with a fuzzy portrait rendered in mock psychedelia.
First impression: this is self-absorbed music. Music from the heart, song as therapy first for the singer. It carries an interrogatory verve that seems to run through the entire album as a recurring trope. The tunes are soul-searching. Songs written in the key of angst.
However, Dwin, as his name portends, brings some stoicism to his existential inquiry. Even though his musical persona is not totally in charge of his emotional upheavals, he absorbs what life deals him with soulful singing and snatches of humour.
Most of these songs are about variations of love but it seems his best abilities lie in reproducing forlorn love songs, songs that deal with the aftermath of being scorched.
While most of these songs enjoy his silky and seemingly fenestrated vocals steeped in traditions of American country, folk and a splash of Soul music, ‘Pack Your Load’ stands apart tapping into delightful Ogene sounds and fast rhythms of Igbo music.
Melancholia is the most dominant emotion on Heavy Heart, and understandably too. Even the song called ‘Happy Song’ is not quite a happy song. It dwells on a lover’s reflection of his beloved’s absence. Dwin mines absence expertly, but his best consideration might be the soulful ‘The Lonely’.
In the same vein, Mo’Believe’s first musical offering is vaguely titled “Ariwo Eko”, which means Lagos Noise in Yoruba. An eight track Extended play album lasting in excess of twenty minutes, the album embodies a retrospective jauntiness that is quite unusual, if not precocious.
Mo’Believe calls his brand of music Urban Folklore and one listen brings this into perspective. His music is heavily distinguished by a register of influences; from Apala music to Palmwine blues, from Highlife to Juju music. Somewhere in his sound, there is a hint of experimental early Afrobeat. Although the music is digitally produced, it is conceived within the ambit of the griot tradition. When Mo’Believe sings in Yoruba on ‘Bi Oba’ about not being called the derogatory Alagbe, he is referencing an age-long class snobbery which some of his peers have now embraced. Case in point is Q-Dot, who prides himself on being called ‘Alagbe’.
The music is incurably low to mid-tempo, with a focus skewed towards lively events like praise-singing, parties and palmwine. There is ‘Temi Yemi’ with its snide misogynistic streak, ‘Jide’ that weary but predictable good-kid-gone-bad ballad and ‘Poverty’, an attempt at story-telling vivid with poignant realities of pursuing material needs.
Although Ariwo Eko begins with a short and descriptive poem which pales when compared to observer-driven poems found in music albums like Somi’s “Shine Your Eye” (from The Lagos Music Salon) and Charlie Dark’s “Nigeria 70 poem”, the album is a triumph on the basis of lyrical prowess and song arrangement.