Offei Has Shown The Way

When Offfei released his romance spilling single “Santorini” and got the blogosphere talking, I struggled to identify what made the record special. “Santorini”, released last year, was a decent piece of work. It was cast in the mold of most of today’s radio formatted afropop/ records. Offei and [his] producers plucked sonic influences from various hotspots like the Caribbean and underground European techno/pop circuits in creating the song as evidenced by the fast paced tempo of the record. In my estimation, ‘’Santorini’’ was his ” The Spook Who Sat At The Door’ moment.

Photo Credit : @Offeimusic

With nostalgia serving as the bedrock of today’s contemporary music, artistes have found a way to rope in some gems from the past in the course of creating their own pieces. Either for inspiration or down-right lifting, these artistes and their producers have found cache of classics to feed on. It would be shocking to turn on the radio today and not hear songs that bore commonalities with some old classic records from two decades or more ago. Out of the number of afropop songs that dominate radio today, about 80% have interpolations or samples from old classic highlife, hiplife, palmwine highlife or folkloric tunes.

“Interpolation”, according to Wikipedia “refers to using a melody — or portions of a melody (often with modified lyrics) — from a previously recorded song but re-recording the melody instead of sampling it’’. Wikipedia further explains that ‘’Interpolation is often used when the artist or label who owns the piece of music declines to license the sample, or if licensing the piece of music is considered too costly”.

Like interpolations, sampling is another technique that is often employed by artistes in their creative process. And Wikipedia explains the process as ‘’the art of sampling or the reuse of a portion (or sample) of a sound recording in another recording. Samples may comprise rhythm, melody, speech, sounds, or entire bars of music, especially from soul records, and maybe layered, equalized, sped up or slowed down, repitched, looped, or otherwise manipulated’’. These two techniques, when done well add distinctive value to whatever piece of music is being created

Despite the good that the two methods offer, the reality is that many artists lift portions from old classic songs, infuse it into their work for their own benefits. In most cases, these artists fail to get clearance for the original recording. (Despite the laws on copyright and publishing, people have zero regard for it in this town). For them, clearing samples does not matter. Some even refuse to acknowledge the source material that inspired their creativity. I remember Reggie Rockstone describing the reaction of highlife ace, Alhaji K. Frimpong when they paid him for using his ‘’Kyenkyen Bi’’ beat on ‘’Keep Your Eyes on the Road’’.

Offei however, took the opposite direction. On his latest output, the singer did not only interpolate the hook of a classic hiplife song. He paid ode to the source material by borrowing the title of this old song and going the extra step to feature one of the original creators of that hit record.

“Fi Ma No”, [Kiss Me] carries the stems of contemporary afropop with a dance hall flavour courtesy the appearance of Nigerian award winning act, Patoranking. A love effusive song, “Fi Ma No” is beautifully crafted: the lyrics are relatable and expresses the feeling that anyone in love would dish on their partner.

Patoranking’s melody driven verse with its dancehall version of El -Shadai offers it a recognizable appeal. Patoranking’s flawless singing in excellent Twi won’t come as a surprise to many considering he spent some years in Ghana. Kwastone, one-half of Blackstone makes an entry; reminding us why we fell in love with them and their songs decades ago. Not only did Kwastone sing in Twi, he also performed part of his verse in his native Dagbani language.

Blackstone’s “Fi M’ano” was released some 20 years ago. Made up of Kwastone and Flexx, the duo met and formed a group during their student days in Kumasi. They would go on to sign a recording deal with legendary music producer Faisal Helwani resulting in the release of “Fi M’ano”, a cover of Donell Jones’ “This Luv’’. The rendition by Blackstone sounds better than Donell Jones’ 1999 release.

“Fi Ma No’’ might be that record to spring Offei into the limelight which is currently led by some of his compatriots- the likes of King Promise, Darkovibes, Camidoh and others. One can also understand his reason for featuring Patoranking. Whether his move to draw one-half of Blackstone was for commercial reasons or founded in altruism, one thing is absolute: he paid both homage and respect to the veterans who paved the way for him [in respect of “Fi Ma No”] and the magic that comes with featuring some of these veterans on songs they crafted.