In 2016, Cina Soul released her soulful, heart drenching ballad ‘Awo’ to a warm reception. She instantly got a look from a cross section of Ghanaian music fans off that. And the reasons aren’t far-fetched. Her voice was alluring, striking each line of these wounding lyrics with distinction. The soulful nature of ‘Awo’ was refreshing and different from what was dominating radio. Again, she is a captivating figure- beautiful and innocent with a ‘girl-next-door’ appeal. With ‘Awo’, Cina Soul shared a story about losing someone very dear; something many people connected with.
Months after ‘Awo’, and getting ‘exposed’ to a relatively larger section of fans by M.anifest at the 2016 edition of Sabolai Radio, Cina Soul released her 7 track mixtape, ‘’Metanoia’’. Boasting the irrepressible J’ulor’, the trap-induced ‘Bad’, ‘Awo’ and ‘Your Mama’- a song about how much her boyfriend’s mum despises her- she moved an inch closer to the centre from the periphery. Her 2016 Concert at Alliance Francaise was the validation she needed to formally introduce herself.
Like many music loving countries, Ghana is a heavy hip hop (or rap) and in recent times afrobeats and dancehall music consuming country. Decades ago, it was highlife music that was reigning supreme, and was the biggest musical export in the 70s to late 80s. Soul music, once enjoyed by a section of Ghanaians in the 70s and 80s has lost its vibrancy. That lost love is what the emergence of these fresh faced artists are kicking back to life.
Like Cina Soul, Ria Boss knew what she wanted to do and path to walk on. Her 2017 EP ‘Find Your Free’ was saturated in enchanting soulfulness. Her themes covered all aspect of life- from love, self-discovery and renewed confidence. With her personal experiences serving as her canvas, painted a picture about self-worth, freedom and newness. (Ria has openly spoken about being in an emotionally draining relationship; plunging her depression and self-loathing).
Find Your Free was her catharsis; an album that was made to heal her of past experiences and also, a guide for other ladies who feel less about themselves to reclaim their emotions; steer it towards the path they feel comfortable and bask in its beauty.
Listening to him sing in that falsetto voice is akin to having raindrops kiss your body. It’s soothing, relaxing and unforced. All comes out naturally. Robin Huws, hasn’t attained the visibility of Cina Soul and to a degree Ria Boss, especially among music lovers biased to the kind of records he makes.
ROBIN_HUWS first registered on my radar after his former label mate and song writing/making partner Adomaa mentioned him in 2015, at the album listening for her debut project ‘’Afraba’’. A guitarist cum singer/songwriter, she credited him for helping her craft ‘Shii The Song’ out of nothing. Robin Huws’ relative exposure got people to look at him more closely. And when ‘A Fading Dream’ and the aching ballad ‘See Her Again’ surfaced in 2017, you instantly knew he had something to offer.
The themes on the songs were personal. Whereas ‘See Her Again’ was a grief-soaked tribute to his late mum, ‘A Fading Dream’ centred on the fear of chasing a mirage – his music career. The true worth of Robin Huws came to light on his debut mixtape, ‘’HUES’’ in 2017.
The 14 tracks that filled the mixtape are part semi-autobiographical like on ‘Just Believe’, ‘Dear Diary’, ‘Mr. Huws’ and ‘Demons’. He explored his fantasies on ‘’Voice On The Radio’’, unrequited love on ‘Kimberly’- he performed with the tempered zeal of an experienced singer. ‘HUES’ made those who heard it raise eye brows, more as a mark of approval and excellence.
If ‘HUES’ was Robin Huws’ confrontation with his fears and doubts, then ‘’Passionfruit Summers’’ is a waltz into the golden blaze of newness. That’s exactly what Amaarae delivered on her debut. Amaarae’s entry into the music fold was calculative. After residing in the US for a couple of years, and choosing to pursue music, the dyed hair petite started releasing short videos of acoustic performances when she came to Ghana last year. The videos did generate interest.
Not only was her voice ticklish and luxurious, Amaarae came with a definitive appearance and style: dyed hair, white shirt often with top button opened, sunglasses. She didn’t carry herself like the conventional RnB/Soul singer who has to look perfect and classy. Amaarae was a mix between early Alicia Keys and 90s Mary J. Blige, with a bit of finesse. ‘Passionfruit Summer’s, a six track project was refreshing and a satisfying listen. Freedom (Catching A Wav), Independence (Fluid, Hawaii) and desire (Happy Mistake, Sundays, Passionfruit Summers) were served as themes on her tape.
Putting out records is excellent. Shooting and sharing videos is great. However, being seen live in concert by the fans you’ve cultivated through these two modes is the greatest value an artist could earn for themselves. Although their respective projects had offered them a decent level of visibility, it wasn’t enough. Capitalizing on this found exposure via live performances was something these artists fully grasped.
Cina Soul has performed on various stages since she first emerged in 2016. Prior to her breakthrough, she had garnered few looks via the music reality TV show, Vodafone Iconz. Based on that experience, live performances wasn’t a strange affair for the young singer. As her reputation grows, so has her live performances. Her performances, like the songs she makes, exude this engulfing tenderness. But, when she decides to turn it on like she did during her performance with KiDi at the Metanoia concert or the Black Girls Glow concert, she can leave you mesmerized. Although she hasn’t hit the big stages yet, the few she has graced had served her well.
Ria Boss never disappoint on stage. At least, for all the times I’ve seen her, she had given 100% on each occasion. Watching her, one could feel her presence. The stage suddenly becomes her home- she owns it and unapologetically exude this feeling, whether she’s performing at a big event like Sabolai Radio event or on a small venue as The Republic Bar. Leaving a memory on the mind of the audience seems to be her foremost priority-as it should be for any good artist.
Amaarae on the other hand circumvented the big stages for a smaller set. Following the release of ‘Passionfruit Summers’, she organized a few pop-up concerts, serenading and enchanting her fans while cultivating new fans in the process. The responses to these pop-up mini concerts were positive, highlighting how awesome she is when it came to serving fans with some dopeness.
Unlike the ladies, Robin Huws kept his public performances to events organized by his label, Vision Inspired Music (VI Music). In recent times, however, he has been out there more, performing at various events across the city. Last month, he headlined Senses, a musical event organized by The Shop Accra. It is always interesting to see the shock reaction of people during the course of his performances.They often don’t expect to hear such a voice and of course, the soulful ballads he sings heartedly.
Judging by the torrent of afropop/afrobeats, hiplife and dancehall songs that is being consumed by the populace, one may think there isn’t space for other genres to blossom. In fact, there’s a lane for those not cut for the ‘attractive’ afropop lane. But, these four artists-and many others within the afro-soul/ RnB circuits like ELi Muzik- know there’s a crop of soul lovers who need to be catered for-an audacious decision to make in a musical climate as we have it.
And what may stick out as the icing on their respective cakes is the fact that, they love what they are doing. In the end, that’s what matters to the artist- people out there appreciating their talents.