#Throwback:Darey’s Naked Reveals New Sensibilities

It has been four years since Dare Art-Alade, one of Nigeria’s finest crooners of the Afro-Soul fusion, put out studio album. In the intervening years since his daring double album Double Dare, the man has been playing compère—a very good one—and keeping his fans on their feet.

The wait is over and I daresay that his latest 13 track EP (???) is worth every second of the wait. Darey, as he likes to be called on stage, was an alumnus of the 2004 Project Fame Academy. Before he lent his sonorous voice to songs, he worked as  a Radio/TV journalist presenting MTN Music Chart in his power-bike-riding undergraduate UNILAG days, a time that coincided with the vibrant campus renaissance of music and theatre arts by the likes of the Trybesmen Collective, Kofi, Segun Adefila, etc.

Darey’s inevitability as a singer can be premised on his late father’s singing career; he probably spent his childhood listening to his father’s records. It was however not surprising that in 2006, he released his debut album From Me to U (trivia alert: which shares its title with Juelz Santana’s LP.) This album featured a hilarious hit song called ‘Escalade’. Olamide’s breakthrough song, “First of All” underscores the importance of introductions, Darey’s introduction on “Escalade” was simply to mention his name and quip a caveat that he does not own an Escalade.

Nine years and two albums later, Darey is figuratively back, without his clothes. The album title Naked is borrowed from the metaphor of bearing it all in the open and what Darey reveals is a patchwork of influences as well as a deliberate attempt to represent his evolving aesthetics and sensibilities.

“Asiko Laiye” begins the 49-minute long musical journey with a drumbeat borrowed from Fela’s “Fear Not For Man.” This song in spite of its contemporary feel conveys that biblical admonition about how there is a time for everything and how profitable waiting can be.

“Orekelewa,” a personal favourite, rides on guitar riffs through the length of the song. A highlife song in the league of great love songs like Victor Olaiya’s “So fun mi” and Rex Lawson’s “Serah Nene”, Darey also introduces early another dominant feature on this album, the talking drum.

With over sixty songs in his fifteen year career, it is on Naked that Darey concentrates unabashedly on Yoruba rhythms and percussion. Of course he has written songs in Yoruba but before now, “Sisi Eko” on the Heart section of his “Double Dare” was his best.

Still on love matters, Darey’s “nakedness” reflects a maturity that doesn’t lean into the lewd. Well-behaved love songs outnumber other kind of songs on this album. “You’re Beautiful” blends Anglophone lyrics and Juju rhythms, but inadvertently a third to the song’s end, a Yoruba refrain about how women rule the world erupted.

“Aya mi”, still in the highlife mode, will become one of the wedding reception playlist staples. “Love You Die” is mid-tempo song about flattery, enjoying a call to response set to Nigerian English.

Darey reminds us of his excellent Cobham collaboration—Not the Girl—on the low-tempo “Lie to You”, a song about forlorn love carried presumably by the strength of Darey’s voice and Cobhams Asuquo’s dexterous piano play.

“Pray for me”, another meditative song and, by far the most popular single from the album, tells the story of a young man who tore away from his hometown into the embrace of the city to find his fortune. It is reminiscent of the epistolary M.I’s ‘Money’ in clarity and storytelling. Soweto Gospel Choir’s harmonies of Yoruba lyrics and the repetitive percussion make this song an instant favourite among listeners.

“Delilah” honors Bobby Benson, bandleader of the influential Jam Orchestra, with a remake of his “Taxi-Driver” but instead of Sisi Siju, a more biblically acceptable name is deployed and the narrative of sexual indecorum also spreads to men.

Olamide’s cameo on the remix to Asiko Laiye is disappointing as Baddo is more concerned with clowning than laying down meaningful lyrics. The hugely successful reggae-tinged duet with Asa tries for an innuendo in its title, “Inside Of You.”

“I Go Make Am” is a motivation song, not in the way that, say, a “Shakiti Bobo” is, since it is more pared down and carried almost exclusively on the strength of Darey’s vocals. “Champion” reminds one of General Pype’s same-titled song and might just be written in anticipation of victory for Darey’s favourite club side.

But as far as victories go, the longish EP Naked is by far one of the better albums that graced 2015 and a worthy addition to Darey’s growing discography.

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