The Ghanaian music scene is rediscovering the appeal of thought provoking sounds that do more than make you move. The kind of rhythm and soul that is the foundation of the high life and hip life genres and gave birth to the likes of Osibisa, Obrafour, Nana Ampadu and Reggie Rockstone; solidifying the essence of post-colonial Ghanaian culture and the struggles that shadowed them. Artists like M.anifest and FOKN Bois are actively reengineering the melodies and stories of the past and infusing the present with the spirit of the future, offering an escape. Musician-Poet Delasi joins their rank with his 25-track debut album #ThoughtJourney.
Independently released this August, Delasi employs singing, rapping and poetry to guide you on a musical odyssey through his thoughts, some of which reverberate close to home while others transgress mindsets and dance floors alien to his experiences. His sound is reminiscent of the mystic lyrical appeal of golden age hip-hop and embodies the persona of a modern day griot. The self-proclaimed conscious crooner presents his impressions of what happens around him on layers of soul, funk and jazz with an ensemble of African drums, strings and horns.
Wrapped in the everydayness of life in Accra and Nairobi, his songs create a montage that confronts our ideas of love, hope, corruption, politics and identity. The spoken word introduction to the album stews an expectancy of the musical and lyrical direction this body of work will take. Over steady, jazzy loops, Delasi welcomes you into his intimate, provocative and heartfelt observations.
Both music and poetry avail themselves to you in a very cheerful demeanor. However, what follows neither overwhelms or underwhelms.
With a spoken word intro, 19 songs and 5 skits, the album comes off a bit lengthy and feels tedious after a point. The music on this LP is reflective and reinforces the theme of realism, right down to the album artwork with a pensive Delasi towering over Accra. For the most part however, Delasi is missing. His appreciation for various music genres allows him to cultivate a sound that marries different cultural influences, but it also cloaks his individual voice behind layers of instruments. On Miss Material for instance, the title artiste’s voice seems trapped behind the drum line while an unknown vocalist creates takes prominence by creating an interesting contrast between instrumentals and vocals. This is in direct juxtaposition to Lom Na Va, where Delasi completely owns the song, making sure the tenor saxophone and dub step synths don’t overwhelm the pure emotion behind his Ewe lyrics. And yet, this masterpiece is relegated to the back of #ThoughtJourney.
While the artist is joining the tradition of “conscious” artists, he does need to let his individual personality show a lot more than he has on his debut effort.
Delasi’s “church on the drums” preaches about the realism of everyday life; the Adabraka Girls and their grades and tuition, missing planes, religious fanatics and the attitude of Nairobi police towards civilians; the landmarks on his thought journey. Travelling through the record, you are hit with signs of empathy, pain, anger, love and most prominent, concern. Stay with him on the trip and you begin to grasp the crystal essence behind the rhythms and rhymes.
Our Verdict: #ThoughtJourney is a powerful debut effort and a worthy introduction to the dexterity Delasi possesses as an artist although the message wears itself out like an old monotone photograph where you can detect the shades but not the vibrancy of color. #ThoughtJourney is a bold, concrete conceptual trip – not aesthetically, but emotionally ripe with candid expression.
Written By Hakeem Adam, Edited by Jemila Abdulai