Audio

Audio: Junior Freeman's "Dumyarea" is Hipco from Liberia


Our friends over at Africa Is a Country have hipped us to the stirring sounds of Liberia's musical renaissance. A generation of young urbanites is creating new forms of dynamic music including a hip-hop infused genre called "Hipco." One of these new musical pioneers is Junior Freeman, who has taken the oft heard phrase "Dumyarea" and made it the basis for a rollicking populist dance anthem. The term itself is used by sellers in markets to stake their claim on a certain area. Of course the phrase has migrated into everyday use among Liberians. It has become so popular that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf used it to help launch her (yes, Liberia's Prez is a woman!) re-election campaign.

Freeman's song is done in the Gbema style, which is basically like taking some traditional Liberian music and putting it through a digital sieve. While the song has a political tone, don't expect anything to serious or somber. This is a catchy up-beat track that will leave you with a sunny disposition and the urge to turn anything in your immediate area into a drum.  Listen below.


Dumyarea by LiBeat

Interview
Photo: Jolaoso Adebayo.

Crayon Is Nigeria's Prince of Bright Pop Melodies

Since emerging on the scene over two years ago, Crayon has carved a unique path with his catchy songs.

During the 2010s, the young musician Charles Chibuezechukwu made several failed attempts to get into a Nigerian university. On the day of his fifth attempt, while waiting for the exam's commencement, he thought of what he really wanted out of life. To the surprise of the thousands present, he stood up and left the centre, having chosen music. "Nobody knew I didn't write the exam," Charles, who's now known to afro pop lovers as Crayon, tells OkayAfrica over a Zoom call from a Lagos studio. "I had to lie to my parents that I wrote it and didn't pass. But before then, I had already met Don Jazzy and Baby Fresh [my label superiors], so I knew I was headed somewhere."

His assessment is spot on. Over the past two years Crayon's high-powered records have earned him a unique space within Nigeria's pop market. On his 2019 debut EP, the cheekily-titled Cray Cray, the musician shines over cohesive, bright production where he revels in finding pockets of joy in seemingly everyday material. His breakout record "So Fine" is built around the adorable promises of a lover to his woman. It's a fairly trite theme, but the 21-year-old musician's endearing voice strikes the beat in perfect form, and when the hook "call my number, I go respond, oh eh" rolls in, the mastery of space and time is at a level usually attributed to the icons of Afropop: Wizkid, P-Square, Wande Coal.

"My dad used to sell CDs back in the day, in Victoria Island [in Lagos]," reveals Crayon. "I had access to a lot of music: afrobeat, hip-hop, Westlife, 2Face Idibia, Wizkid, and many others." Crayon also learnt stage craft from his father's side hustle as an MC, who was always "so bold and confident," even in the midst of so much activity. His mother, then a fruit seller, loved Igbo gospel songs; few mornings passed when loud, worship songs weren't blasting from their home. All of these, Crayon says, "are a mix of different sounds and different cultures that shaped my artistry."

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