A 1-Listen Review Of Gyakie’s New EP, ‘My Diary’
a brilliant showcase of her range
a brilliant showcase of her range
In recent years, few Ghanaian musicians have captured the global attention as impressively as Gyakie. The daughter of iconic Highlife musician Nana Acheampong, she had officially started out in 2019 with the single “Love Is Pretty.” Her moment in the sun came exactly a year after, when a tender slowburn record surfaced on Ghanaian music circles. Shortly after it crossed over to Nigeria, where the song–and by extension, the 23-year-old singer–morphed into a legitimate internet sensation.
Gyakie has since become an Afropop superstar, with her Flip The Music team inking an international deal with three subsidiaries within Sony Music in April 2021. It’s impossible not to view “Forever” and its Omah Lay-assisted remix as one of 2020’s defining moments, the crucial introduction to Gyakie’s amazing artistry. With its glistening R&B feel, both songs served as the perfect set-up to ‘SEED,’ the singer’s debut project which came in August 2020.
As any early listener would expect, Gyakie’s career has progressed in great stride. Throughout 2021, she released a couple of songs but it was a cross-country collaboration with Nigerians Fiokee and Chike (“Follow You”) which made the most impression. Over the guitar-laced production, Gyakie’s vocals recalled effortless sensuality, laced with the warm reverberations of truly being in love. 2022 began in similar fashion, releasing “Sometime” and following up with “For My Baby.” With the second single came the announcement of ‘My Diary,’ the singer’s sophomore project.
In Usual 1-Listen Review Fashion, All Reactions Are In Real-Time While The Music Plays. No Pauses, Rewinds, Fast-Forwards, Or Skip.
Ethereal, jazzy strings floating in the background. The drums are low, and really atmospheric. Love the touch of an introduction, it gives the record a really visceral feel. Gyakie’s singing…ooh, these are sweet notes. The title is derived, I guess, from the audience’s dominant role in the record. These “la la la” scats are hitting. Such a soulful intro; brief and quietly evocative. I’m already relishing the choice to write about this project, been a fan of Gyakie’s artistry ever since her breakout.
The live element is retained into this second record, but the production is more pronounced here. Soulful horns progress into vivid percussions with a neo-soul vibe, while Gyakie takes the singing in good stride. Her tonal measure is mesmerizingly natural, using her husky vocals to fine effect. She’s singing about a distant lover; in these notes, I hear the emotional strain that comes with the terrain, but it doesn’t portend the final narrative. This chorus is delightful and exhilarating, as the beat morphs into a reggae flavour. Everything just works in this record. Gyakie’s writing here is so full of character, and her vocal dynamism just gets it over the line. Excellent openers so far.
When this single was released, I wasn’t too keen on its direction. Formed around the five-beat pattern of a Ghanaian percussion, Gyakie manages to build a love story around it. “Another one for my baby, do anything for my baby,” she sings on the hook, but the excitement that should accompany such reassurances aren’t present here. It’s not an immediate skip, but I don’t see myself returning to this often.
A Davido feature is one of the most recognisable sections of Afropop and I’m eager to hear how Gyakie utilises that. The production moves from sweet strings and gently bouncing drums, easing into a somewhat laid-back vibe. Okay, Gyakie is singing; she does this really well, by the way. Can’t get enough of these luminous vocals. “Especially when you are touching me/ I know you want it, look at me you’ll see, we on fire,” she sings, and somewhere in the background Davido’s voice bounces off. He’s singing now, deep in his R&B bag. Voices like Gyakie’s and Davido’s were made for each other; there’s such graceful chemistry. Davido can come across as tender when he’s vulnerable, and that’s the vibe he leans into here, and even manages to cap that off with his trademark energy. This is an absolute banger, guys. Don’t sleep on the fire.
I think this was the first single from the project, though I didn’t listen to it when it was released. The pacing on this one easily stands out; it doesn’t have the reflective soul of the first pair of songs, nor does it have the energy of the Davido collaboration, but it’s definitely groovy. I like the knocks of these percussions, and the underlying keys. Gyakie’s vocals are so impressively singular that sometimes you don’t bother to learn the lyrics; the tone is enough splendour. There’s understated wit in in the line “and if you tell me your wishes, I will come through,” though she’s more forthcoming elsewhere. Personally, I think the directness in Gyakie’s songwriting undersells the uniqueness of her voice.
Last song on the project. WOW, THIS BEAT IS BANGING. I’ve heard a number of Hip Hop influences on this tape but it’s straight from the first beat drop here. Gyakie’s voice drips with a deliberate exhaustion, taking its rhythmic flow from Dancehall. This sounds like something Rihanna would create during her ‘Anti’ years. “We no follow clout, we set the trend everybody follow now” she sings assuredly, before launching to a scattershot flow. She’s deep in her Jamaican bag, sheesh. I can hear Shenssea on this, but Gyakie is definitely riding the groove to perfection. Her Twi is deliriously melodic, coated in a gritty rap feel as she progresses further. Martin Luther and Kwame Nkrumah references give you an insight into the militant feel she’s going for. She wears this particular skin very well, though; none of the buttery stretch of her love records. Unapologetic, brilliant. Quite a fitting way to close out the project. Great song.
‘My Diary’ updates Gyakie’s direction in a less pop-centric style. Her growing comfort with sonic palettes sees her flirt towards unconventional forms like spoken word and neo-soul, even though her Ghanaian origin still firmly sits at the core. You’d hear strains of rustic pride in “For My Baby,” painting the image of Gyakie as a musician with the crucial ability to either surge into the future or return to the promise of one’s history to unearth fresh perspectives.
She’s very assured in her sonic choices, which is quite evident from the first track. Even on first listen, it’s a remarkable project. The colour of the beats are flagrantly in-sync with her vocals, helping create an enthralling experience from start to finish. Peculiar credit should be given to her collaborators, how closely to the seams they play while ceding the centre stage for Gyakie to shine, as it should be.
As Gyakie launches further into global prominence, it’s a strong statement how she’s retaining her drive for impeccable artistry. This means that the package will never outshine the soul, which is a considerate worry for Afropop fans residing within the continent. Obviously the need comes to balance the many roles of an artist–as a business, a creator, a human–and great art is expected to deftly introduce those myriad flavours into the art being created. Gyakie surely has some more edges to perfect, but at this moment in time she’s in the perfect moment. ‘My Diary’ would surely leave an impression amongst her burgeoning fan base.
Stream ‘My Diary’ below.
Featured image credits/MyDiary