On his third studio album, Worlasi does not only push the boundaries of his creativity. He, along with Senku Live, crafted a living album fit for live performances.
Some people are born to be great in whatever field of endeavor they may find themselves. They are blessed with gifts to succeed and all they need to propel them to the genius level is the discipline to hone their gifts. Notwithstanding the fact that such people are few, it is easy to spot their gifts once you see them in action. On the other hand, some have to put in twice the effort to be at par with such people. These talented individuals on the other hand invest enough to be at the top and push themselves to the limit of their abilities so much so that their superhuman qualities comes alive.
My first encounter with Worlasi was in 2013 on the Elorm Beatz produced “Ay3 Adze”. You could tell he was doing something different from the pack. He knew exactly the kind of music he wanted to make even at that early stage in his career. Four years after “Ay3 Adze”, the world would be introduced to the musical splendor of Worlasi.
“Nus3” (The Strength Within) was the album that announced Worlasi to many. The richness of the sound, the themes covered, the music style plus its traditional tone made “Nus3” a critic’s choice. He would, a year after, release “The Uncut”, a 13 track album consisting of songs that did not fit the concept of “Nus3”.
Tracks like “Okada”, “Cartoon”, “Satan” carried the vignettes of its predecessor tape and by the time “Outerlane” dropped in 2017, it was clear Worlasi’s creativity was not one to be boxed. His versatility, exemplified on hooks for the likes of M.anifest offered a glimpse into the artiste he was becoming. If ”Nus3″ and “The Uncut” were Worlasi at his core best, “Outerlane” reflected his pop sensibilities. Remarkably, he did not fray much from his sonic identity. (“Outerlane’’ was a fusion between his signature traditional African sound and contemporary rhythms).
What do you expect from an artiste who has expressed, across three albums, the full length of his creativity? In the music industry, the expectation from fans and the pressure on artiste like Worlasi to stay true to his self could be daunting. But not for Worlasi. He’s a firm believer in his own gifts. In challenges rises his creative pulse.
For his latest album ”The Man & The god”, Worlasi joined forces with Senku Live, one of the vibrant musical bands in the country. Together, the two created an album that ploughs through a variety of sounds, melodies and rhythms that projects the beauty of traditional folk music.
“Five years ago, I made ‘’Nuse’’ (Strength Within).’ I was at a point in my life where I needed to finally get out of my shell and face the world, and making that project was my way of doing that. Music has always been therapy for me, and the things that were bothering me, the things I didn’t understand, I poured into that mixtape. ‘’Nuse’’ pulled me out from the embers of myself, and like a parent does to a child, taught me how to walk’’ – WORLASI
Beginning the album was “Chant”, a fusion of acapella performance enveloped by a corresponding fast-paced rhythmic beat. Worlasi subjects the listener to a barrage of thoughts delivered in the form of incantations where he compares man to God and vice-versa. The words “Everyman be God o, aye/You wey talk am, aye/Man talk am,aye/God talk am, aye”, and “I no dey see God/I dey see man/ I dey see man but I dey feel God” over a dusty 5 second vinyl statics brings home the biblical reference of God creating man in His own image, thus giving him power and dominion over all things. One admirable thing about “Chant” is the manner of presentation. The message and its soaring live instrumentation is akin to witnessing a Mosama Disco Christo Church preacher at his best.
The pulsating delivery on “Chant” gives way to a more soothing and emo-stirring “Woezor”, which means “Welcome” in his native Ewe lingua. The clasping rhythms, the calming vocal work of Worlasi brings into sharp memory the hair raising, spiritually filling Osibisa song “Welcome Home”. I won’t be surprised if the 1979 Osibisa record influenced the crafting of “Woezor”.
“Fokoo” melds the aggressive tone of “Chant” at its beginning and the equanimity of “Woezor”. That switch is too smooth and perfect. The song throws a beam on the state of Ghana, where the politicians finesse the system to their own advantage rather than help the people who voted for them. The imaginative prowess of Worlasi shines on the record, turning the topic into a theatrical performance- he sing-talks in numerous voices, and oh was that M3NSA’s voice I heard on the sketch? “Fokoo” also exhibited the rapping talent of Worlasi. He does a stream of conscious freestyle about the effects of plastics on the environment, politics and the human behaviour. “Fokoo” is presented just like a novel; the first part is the prologue, the singing forming the body of the story and the freestyle becomes the ending chapter.
“The Man & The god” switches tone to a more rigorous but captivating sound. “Animate” sees Worlasi describing in part, how he loves curvaceous ladies. The song is not about objectifying the body of women but rather, a celebration of its beauty. (Remember, Worlasi is also a trained painter who indulges in painting curvatures). “Animate” is heralded by a gorgeous solo horn section reminiscent of one heard at the latter end of Jay Z’s “Roc Boys” tune. The infectious zeal of the drums kick in a fervor that reminds me of a song by Rex Omar.
Performing in a medley of pidgin and Ewe (I initially thought he was singing in one of the Northern dialects), Senku Live’s production work on the song would gladden the heart of any appreciator of highlife music. The drums, horns and other clanging instrument along with Worlasi’s voice blend with such perfection. If you don’t see a correlation between “Animate’’ and ‘’Unlooking’’, off ‘’Nus3’’, then, you need to go back to that album. On both “Veku”, a song about awaiting death (Man is growing, death will soon come/ I don’t respect anyone, I’m just me’’); “Okwasia”, about his intolerance to buffoonery, and “Years”, a criticism of both politicians and the voting public who are often victims of political bamboozling continue on the fast paced, danceable style.
“Ebi says we fool, or ebi say we bi cool? / Dem say we bi cool/But I say we fool”, heard on “Years” embodies the feel of highlife songs of the 70s not only in composition but delivery. Worlasi runs a monologue akin to what the likes of Nana Ampadu, Alwasi Ampofo Agyei and Dr. Paa Bobo did on their own records decades ago. Closing the album is “We All Go Die”, a shocking yet undeniable truth about life. Whatever has a beginning comes to an end. No one is spared the visit from the grim reaper. “We All Go Die” and the album opener “Chant” are at polar opposite in message yet are essential tales about life. On the guitar led “Preek”, Worlasi sings ‘no bi me, ebi my preek”, a convenient excuse for being a debauchee.
“The Man & The god” is an album helmed to advance the glowing talent of Worlasi and the musical prowess of Senku Live whose contribution to the album is crucial to the overall soundscape of the album. What Worlasi does is to index the Ghanaian folkloric tradition of storytelling with contemporary musical influences without losing the essence and direction of the album. For fans of Worlasi, the creative direction of the album is nothing new. The Man has been mining uncharted territories with his art since his debut album.
Never mind that you won’t be hearing his songs on mainstream radio, something he is at peace with – in fact, he has been content with that since ‘’Nus3’’. What Worlasi has focused on, however, is to push his own creativity beyond his own sphere of comfort. He, along with Senku Live crafted a living album, one that would survive generations like some of the greatest Ghanaian albums ever released. Worlasi could not have chosen a better album title. And, that is a cheeky way of telling your colleagues to, one, fall back and second, to step up their game.