Maayaa’s name might not resonate with many people who love music, including the ones who keep watch over happenings on the front. She isn’t a huge name for now, and the reasons are myriad: she hasn’t been aggressively pushing her music; and hasn’t been consistent with her releases. But, for her online (twitter) followers, her talent has never been questioned. Her two previous singles – ‘Limbo’ and ‘You’ were received with a degree of curiosity and excitement. In fact, that’s how I came to know her.
Aside her relative online clout, Maayaa’s talent is indisputable. Her potent vocal and songwriting skills put her on the same pedestal as some of her contemporaries. The release of her 7 track EP is the first step at achieving that visibility.
“Chapter Red”, the debut EP by soul singer Maayaa came as a surprise release. Except for her close confidants, many didn’t have a clue what plans she had under her sleeve. And, unlike some artists who subtly reveal they are working on a project – their social engagements become less or they vanish from public eyes – Maayaa (real name Deloris Larbi), was mostly seen online: chatting, goofing around and ‘preaching’ her gospel of love and sex.
If the release of “Ride”, the first single off the EP was a surprise, then “Chapter Red”, that came a few days after was shocking. The EP broaches the delicate subjects of love, life and loss. It borrows its breezy and eclectic sentiments from jazz and soul genres. Maayaa’s lingering voice becomes the conveyer belt for her emotions and thoughts.
Maayaa transports you into a dimly lit jazz/soul club where she stir up your emotions with her vocal inflections while the single beam of light shines gloriously on her. She succeeds in pulling you towards the cascading emotions that pours from within her. The songs also come across as a conversation between her and an invisible partner. “Chapter Red” is Maayaa’s cathartic experiment: a brooding over her experiences; directly or from observations.
Prior to “Chapter Red”, she had showcased her incredible talents on her previous singles ” You” and “Limbo”. She was featured by Robin Huws on “Run”, off his ” Hues” mixtape.
The tone of the EP is set by “Red” (Intro), a solo guitar driven song. The 37 seconds intro is sourced from a rehearsal session. “Red” also offers a fair idea on the production make-up of the EP: the songs are recorded live.
On “San”, Maayaa rues a lost love due to indiscretion and poor judgement: “Heard you found someone new’, she seeks confirmation from him before begging for a comeback. Akan, who plays her lover, craves for her company again in response. Many would relate to the familiarity of the story echoed on ” San”.
Maayaa comes across as a lady who knows what she wants when it comes to love. She present forth her demands and requirements unequivocally. This is exemplified on “More”, a soulful song that has her assuring a lover “we can be more if you want it’. She encourages the person to “tell the fucking truth if you want me” and that “I can’t wait for you/ don’t blame me”. Behind all these sentiments is a soul already smitten over this person; she wants this lover to affirm exactly what she feels.
“You want all of me/ there’s nothing left to give/ listen you don’t have to fight this/ our love is sin/ no, we don’t need fixing, ain’t nothing here to heal”. These lyrics opens the sublime and tingling “Hers”; a sides chick’s tale describing the feeling when the partner has to go to his main lover. “Ride” is a chapter on the glitz of falling in love. Stepping away from the acoustic renditions “More” and “Hers” for something mid-tempo, she, along with Worlasi allow their love to glow.
Considering how intolerable and judgemental our society is when it came to certain behavioural traits, the reggae tinged “Perfect” celebrates such people. She encourages them to ‘not apologise for who you are”, notwithstanding the pressures for them to conform to ‘what’s considered good”. Closing the EP is the sorrowful “Ensu”. Built on renowned classical genius JS Bach’s Prelude I, Maayaa sings about severing relationship with a loved one due to an eminent death.”I love you too much to watch you suffer”, despite defeating the ’till-death-do-us-part’ promise. Obviously a tough decision but one made on compassionate grounds.
“Chapter Red” is a formidable outing by all measure. The lyrics are straightforward – thanks to her songwriting talent. Her melodic delivery is outstanding. The production works from The GentleMan, Ice Geezy, DD & Ekow and Peewezel is remarkable. Maayaa’s voice isn’t consumed by the vibrant instrumentals surrounding the songs. It floats and cut through where it is supposed to.
Her ability to inject bits of Twi expressions helped convey her thoughts vividly, although critics might point to the overall ambience of song as ‘too foreign’.
It is said that, artists conceive a vision and producers make it manifest. Maayaa and her team of producers succeeded in crafting an album that breathes joy and pain. She adds to a growing list of young musicians like Amaarae, Ria Boss, Cina Soul, Adomaa, Robin Huws, Eli Muzik pushing the genre of soul music in the country.
“Chapter Red”‘s brevity and honesty makes her debut the best EP I’ve heard thus far. Her patience in creating this body of work has paid off. Maayaa has finally landed.