The beam of attention does shine on some quiet early in life and follows them throughout their careers. Others have to wait for a longer period to get their shine even when the scale of their talents maintain same equilibrium. When opportunity and timing combine at the right time, success is bound to happen. The wait for these two important intangibles could be excruciating when they fail to manifest despite giving your all. It can crash your dream into granular material. You could watch the wind blow it away with ease.
For those with strong resolve to wait for the beam of light to fall on their path, they exploit this waiting period to hone their skills, examine which genre they would fit, study the terrain before finally showcasing the full spectrum of their abilities.
Quayba falls within this category. A gifted singer who had to bid her time for years, in her effort at getting her shot. Her new EP, ”Nkuro” is her first real attempt at earning her stripes. From providing vocal services for other artists to performing at ‘low level’ events and spaces, Quayba had made impressions on those who have witnessed her performances; either live or on wax.
Long before I met her at Mixdown studios in 2016, where she was laying harmonies and ad-libs to a song by rapper Trix, I had heard a few of her songs from producer Nel Magnum. And when Fricky released his classic ‘Collector’s Item’ mixtape, the song ‘Past Glory’ caught my attention. Quayba was on it, slitting the track into bits with her soulful vocals. Shortly afterwards, Quayba underwent an identity change. She changed her name Lyanna for Quayba. This identity change began showing in the music she made: soul music stewed in traditionally African rhythms.
Even though ballads seemed like her stronghold, Quayba switched her style up on “Nkuro”, venturing into afrosoul/folk music. The EP ‘catalogues her experiences of growing up in Ghana… she recounts memories and stories of her childhood and explores hope, faith and pursuing dreams’. ‘’Nkuro’’, a Twi word that means ‘to play’ offers you a sneak peek into Ghanaian life- from the culture to its various experiences. The EP oscillates between nostalgic childhood memories (of games she played as a kid) and the experiences of adulthood.
The opening track ‘Chale Wote’- the first single to be released- has Quayba capturing the work hard, play later life mantra: ”Early morning I holler my crew/ what be the rundown, paddy, what be the move?”. Temple, who is featured also backed this assertion in his spirited rap flow (life no be race, let me do my joggin’). ‘Streetlife’ also delves into the daily hustle of life while being optimistic of a great future and as the hook goes: ‘street life e never be easy but we for maintain’. Draped in contagious horns, the afro soul tempo sound of ‘Streetlife’ bears an unmistakable similarity with “Trotro (Allegation)” by the rappers Safo, Anyemi and Nino.(Watch video of song). ‘Qumomi’, a Ga word that means ‘bust a move or move your body’ encourages people to set aside their troubles and revel in the good moment.
G.O.D (Good Ole Days) is a trip down memory lane and captures the spirit of the EP. Quayba recounts some of the childhood games (chaskele, ampe, pilolo) and shows many 90s kids grew up on (like By The Fireside, Kyekyekule), getting sacked from school for owing school fees. She sings ‘make you no fi forget the good ole days cos you no go get am again’. G.O.D is hewed around infectious traditional kpalogo rhythms that reminds me of Adane Best’s ‘Maafio’. ‘Ajeeii’ is used to describe a painful experience and Quayba employs it here to describe a failed relationship.
”Nkuro” ends with ‘Fa Ma Nyame’ (Give It To God); a diary entry of her struggles: ‘In this life, I’ve learnt things book couldn’t write, songs couldn’t sing/ In my 20-something years I’ve had fears’. The song carries a message of hope. On the hook, she entreats all to lean on God when their ships get rocked. ‘Fa Ma Nyame’ is the only song off this 6 track EP that draws out the soulful prowess of Quayba; something she had held in check throughout.
Choosing to blend both traditional rhythms and modern elements of afrobeats along with her singing in both Fante, English, Twi and Ga means serving larger constituents of listeners. She isn’t making the tape for a particular segment of society. Her mellifluous delivery is crisp and assuring; like a person who has something to prove yet, is having fun doing just that. And Nel Magnum, one of the slept on producers out there chopping up and fitting together musical sounds in a mould befitting the talent of Quayba is a good advert for both individuals.
In an era where the scene is being saturated by music – they get released faster than a heartbeat – and sounding similar to each other, seeing Quayba render a work that hybridizes traditional Ghanaian rhythms with posh afropop sensibilities to great effect is not only a brave move; it’s the sort of refreshing break from the monotonous beat that has become the standard of today’s afropop music.
If the numerous features was her audition process, the 6 track ”Nkuro” is her full solo showpiece. The beam is moving towards her direction.