There is something impressionistic
about the jacket of Suitcase, Aramide’s debut album. From the leathery brown
colour and the sketch of her portrait on it, the next noticeable item is the
rather simple one-word title, Suitcase.
We know the uses of a suitcase: for
hoisting personal effects—and they are particularly important to musicians, especially
on tour. Suffice to say that Aramide is on some sort of virtual tour and she is
sharing the intimate items of her suitcase with us—but hold that thought.
Return to the jacket, look keenly and
guess who it pays homage to? Lauryn Hill and that iconic album released in 1998
which pretty much changed the way we perceived Hip-Hop in the 90s. The cover
jacket of Aramide’s Suitcase is just like the cover of ‘The Miseducation of
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 one song. At 55
minutes, it is 12 minutes short of Lauryn Hill’s classic LP.
Back to the jacket, an earnest
listener is convinced that 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 of the bespectacled genius of latter day
Afrosoul, Asa. But the thing about Aramide is that with every song, she calls
up new references, new influences.
On ‘Why so serious’, she replaces
that gospel verve with the insouciance of a swanky lady who lambasts a swain
who leaves 300 missed calls after a one night stand. When she goes, “we both know
it’s not that deep”, a strident horn parts way for her whilst a drumbeat huddles
her vocals. It is sheer delight, what this lady has done and some women will listen,
nod and acquiesce.
‘Funmi lowo’ begins with a whistle
quite reminiscent of Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t
Worry Be Happy on the one hand and also draws from the graceful 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 role.
‘Bose’ is cabaret-style textbook Sade
Adu with a social commentary slant. “Bosede where you dey go again, you wan go
do ofofo?” Then Aramide belts out a slew of social media gossip sites.
‘Sweet connection’ stays with Sade
and the beauty of this song is in its undertow of saxophone riffs. Ultimately,
Aramide aspires to jazz. ‘Feeling this feeling’, like Sweet Connection, is a
love song that brings itself home carried by the percussionist. Ditto for ‘Yemi
my lover’ which shares no kinship with that Olamide song but has everything to
do with that early Yoruba Nollywood flick that enthralled everyone born in the
‘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 voices ferries it 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 becomes
‘Ayokunnumi’ tells a story
similar to Darey’s ‘Pray for me’ but with less brio. The additional male vocal
feels a bit of a stretch but it will suffice. 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 Afro-Soul vocalist.