Kiss Daniel’s New Era is a Kiss of Fresh Breath

Following ‘Woju’ his breakthrough song with the similar sounding highlife ditty ‘Laye’, it was clear to fans of Daniel Tobiloba Anidugbe that G-Worldwide’s wunderkind knew one or two things about penning songs.

This notwithstanding, the jury was still out on social media with that usual biting sarcasm that Kiss Daniel (sic) “mess with the same song” like he sang in his elegant verse on DJ Shabsy’s ‘Raba’.

He released a few other hits in the build-up to his album. ‘Good Time’ (have such a lovely day!) was so charismatic, Wizkid covered it. ‘Mama’ is a resounding gem of a modern love song (oedipal conflict notwithstanding). Obviously, Kiss Daniel and his sultry-dry silk of a voice were here for good—and we better prepare to have a good time.

The title New Era brings to mind the grandiose album titles of Fuji & Juju music. Of course, the departure starts from Kiss Daniel not using those words “new era” even if in a cameo-like situation on the album. Yet, his handlers should have considered a different title.

Another foible is the number of tracks, a whooping 20, but this isn’t peculiar to Kiss Daniel. The moment the single became more important than the album, the album became a retrospective catalog, but not, New Era, which begins with an affirmative introductory song, ‘New King’. The rhetorical question of the hook—who the new king?—and Beatburx’s marvel of a beat says it all.

The adjective “New” is quite integral to understanding the victories of Kiss Daniel. The 20 something year old Water Engineering graduate is a breath of fresh air and at the same time reminds one of all those that came before him. On first listen, it is clear that Kiss Daniel draws a line across the traditions of African music, passing through a timeline of Highlife and Juju music all the way to Afrobeats. Sometimes a phrase, a falsetto, an adlib will bring to mind King Sunny Ade, Kayode Fashola, Dele Taiwo, Klever Jay, Danny Young and even 9ice.

That said, the album’s potential would have been brought home in a leaner track list. Some songs like ‘Another Day’, ‘Give Into’, ‘Nothing Dey’ and ‘All God’ did not deserve their day in the sun but then doing a first album is like trawling. Middle-level songs also bound and on a good number of them he got assisted by his labelmate Sugarboy, the only featured vocalist on the entire album!

It is a triumph to have a first-time artist since 2Face feature such few and unknown names on his breakthrough album. Perhaps this deviation from the zeitgeist is what earns the album its name, New Era; but then again, how new is new?

To some nothing is new; to others new is when the old re-surfaces, but to anyone who has listened, Kiss Daniel is clearly a new kiss of fresh breath. On the Young-John stellar production “Kiss Me”, Kiss Daniel gives instruction in a romance situation and varies his song-writing pattern a bit, using goal-directed calls and a redundant response. On his situation song “Are You Alright”, he is playful and sarcastic when an ex(lover) re-surfaces. The DJ Coublon beat pairs repetitive rhythms with his singing. If one strips Kiss Daniel’s music of the heavy percussion, he might almost pass for a modern juju singer.

‘Alone’ is his Kiss Daniel’s Ojuelegba, reflective and melancholic but still heavy in the percussion department. It is quite interesting that his jaunty lyrics are most accomplished when he delves to affairs of the heart. On the Masterkraft produced ‘Jumbo’, he sings about a certain Amaka whom he impregnates and the not-so-subtle refutations of her parents. And on the Young-John produced ‘Mama’, he serenades confidently when he begins the song with the masterful bridge and affirms, “I won’t lie to you/but if I fit lie for you”.

Seamlessly switching lyrics from Yoruba, Pidgin and English, the music of the baby-faced and gangly Kiss Daniel finds an audience in almost every ear it falls upon. The highlife of the golden age and the Caribbean Ska music were made for dance, specifically of sinuous African curves. Almost fifty years later, Kiss Daniel’s music makes you want to do same.

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