Album Review: Aramide’s ‘Suitcase’ – A Pastiche of Influences
There is something impressionistic about the way the jacket of Suitcase, the debut album by Aramide, is done. From the brown leathery colour and the sketch of her portrait etched on it, the next item noticed is the rather simple one-word title, Suitcase.
At 14 tracks, this suitcase is not as heavy as the standard Nigerian portmanteau. It is produced by Laitan Dada, Tintin, Sizzle Pro with Cobhams Asoquo credited as co-producer on just one song. At 55 minutes, it is 12 minutes short of Lauryn Hill’s classic.
Back to the idea of cover jacket, an earnest listener is soon convinced that perhaps a comparison to Ms Hill is too early. When Aramide sings boldly on ‘Eledumare’, a mellow gospel-like song, about how a divine being scripts tomorrow, you may think about the bespectacled genius of latter day Afrosoul, the internationally respected Asa. But the thing about Aramide is that with every song, she calls upon new references, new influences.
On ‘Why So Serious’, she replaces the gospel verve with the insouciance of a swanky lady giving retorts to a swain who leaves 300 missed calls after a one night stand. When she goes, “we both know it’s not that deep”, and repeats it, a strident horn parts her way whilst a drumbeat follows her. It is sheer delight, what this lady has done and some feminists will listen and approve.
‘Funmi Lowo’ begins with a whistle quite reminiscent of Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy on the one hand and also drawing from the dance melody of Pharrell’s Happy on the other hand. Aramide brings it home when she sings partly in Yoruba and takes it back to Rihanna’s America when she sings, “bitch better have my money”. It is a complex pastiche, this song, but it doesn’t leave an aftertaste on the acoustic palate – if one disregards Sir Dauda’s minor and unexciting part.
‘Bose’ is cabaret styled and textbook Sade Adu with a social commentary slant. “Bosede where you dey go again, you wan go do ofofo?” Then Aramide belts out the usual social media gossip sites .
‘Sweet Connection’ stays with Sade and the beauty of this song is in the undertow of saxophone riffs. Ultimately, Aramide aspires to jazz. ‘Feeling this Feeling’, like Sweet Connection, is a love song that brings itself home with evocative sounds of the gan-gan drum. Ditto for ‘Yemi My Lover’ which shares no kinship with that song on Olamide’s magnum opus but has everything to do with that early Yoruba Nollywood flick which enthralled everyone who was born in the 80s.
‘Hurry Up’ says don’t forget Tracy Chapman. Aramide belongs to the family of those who strum the guitar and she is blessed with a booming voice which she easily lends to Yoruba language, code-switching to English with the fluid grace of polymath.
‘Stranger in Rome’ is what you have been waiting for. That song with reggae inflections and a plot twist that should have taken you to Jamaica, but goes to Rome instead. ‘Iwo Nikan’ has an acoustic session feel and her voice ferries with gusto and grace.
Ice Prince and Adekunle Gold are featured respectively on ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Love Me’, both duets are decent, even if Aramide is a lot better when she is by herself. ‘Devil at the Doorstep’ almost screams Michael Jackson of the 80s, that retro feel of acoustic guitars and lights trailing dancing shoes. At the height of an octave, Aramide is Tina Turner.
‘Ayokunnumi’ tells a story similar to Darey’s Pray for Me with a little less brio. The additional male vocal feels a bit of a stretch, but it will do. On the last song, she revisits her ticket to commercial stardom, ‘Funmi Lowo’ with the aid of Koker and Sound Sultan. Koker channels verses from his Kolewerk. Sound Sultan tries for his slapstick attempt at comedy as usual.
Generally, I prefer when Aramide sings by herself; her voice carries the day each time she does.
Suitcase is clearly the first of many great things in the discography of this hardworking singer-songwriter who just gave 2016 its best album by a female Afrosoul vocalist.