Ayobamidele Aladekomo, better known by her stage moniker, Aduke, has finally succumbed to the lure of the first album.
Titled “Peace and Light”, Aduke has taken her time, and taken maximal time from a teeming horde of fans that have loitered for the better part of a decade, in wait.
Waiting has been accompanied by subtle transformations. Aduke has evolved from being a member of Segun Adefila’s Crown Troupe class of the late noughties, through to becoming the poster girl for the subsidy protests. Moulting into Aduke, the harbinger of peace and light, is the terminus. Total time elapsed – just in excess of one decade.
Ayo has been honing her craft as a performer since her days with the Bariga-based drama company. Those aware of Adefila’s legacy will also remember that Adunni Neferitti also evolved from that formative project before branching of into pre-eminet yoruba griots.
With Adunni, as some sort of leading light, Aduke side-stepped antecedence to court the less trod path to her own discovery.
Unlike Adunni who relies on shrilling vocal cords, Aduke’s affectation has been towards the tensile strength of guitar strings. Her genre of choice is Afrosoul, where the likes of Asa, Omawumi and Aramide have excelled. Aduke has risen to their standard, on her own terms.
Memories linger, of, what in retrospect, may have been a false start. Early 2012, the Goodluck Jonathan-led Nigerian Government’s attempt to remove the subsidy on petroleum products generated widespread protests from citizens.
Under the auspices of the Occupy Nigeria protest, Aduke launched ‘Hear the Voice’, a brisk up-tempo reggae-inflected ditty about the common man’s plight. The song caught a mild fire that lasted about as long as the week-long protest which was summarily halted by military presence at the Ojota Freedom Park.
Eight years later, Aduke returns at another time of turmoil, global this time. The Covid-19 pandemic has all but quietened the anticipated effervescence of her new album.
The trope of a majestic arrival runs through the 12 track album lasting 36 minutes.
Hoisted by chants and poetry intermission, the nine songs dwell quite remarkably on praise and optimism. The praise is of a divine nature and it is this tendency that lends the album its overall gospel flair.
Yoruba panegyrics are rendered with thespian verve dubbed over airy live instrumentation on a generous clutter of tracks. Aduke wears her Celestial Church chorister experience rather proudly.
Besides divine praise, Peace and Light is concerned with the evolution of Aduke. This is the lyrical gist of a good number of songs where Aduke eloquently insists on the vicissitudes of life and her miraculous triumph. It is almost reminiscent of her pop music counterparts but not quite as laughable.
Beyond divine praise and self-evolution, Aduke sings, inevitably about love. Taking a philosophical bent, she invests in the Yoruba aphorism about the din of a market to disabuse a lover’s faltering attention. Her market of choice is the one at Oyingbo, which has been often appropriated by folklore and highlife music.
‘The One’, the other love song, deals with the dilemma of alexithymia. It publishes a caveat quite early: this is not a love song. But affection bubbles past through the song’s bridge and relies on the cooing harmonies and guitar strings to deliver a jolly but generic highlife love song.
Borrowing from highlife, afrobeat, pop music, Yoruba chants, and even reggae, Peace and Light is an exploration in the fusion of genres, but the gospel flair is the overarching aesthetic.
Even though there is a preoccupation with live music, instrumentation hardly strays away from competence to the point of mastery.
Peace and Light comes at a time of need, delivered after a prolonged hiatus of digital releases from the singer. Aduke has always privileged live performances over studio albums and this tendency also abides with the album. There is that urgent need to hear these songs in the mode they were conceived. Perhaps a strictly live album would satiate this thirst. Hopefully, Aduke will not take another eight years to hand in a cup.