Falz & Simi Turn Relationship Rumors Into Musical 'Chemistry' in Their Joint EP

Falz & Simi's joint EP, Chemistry, fanned rumours of them being lovers. Flat album title aside, their combined talents repays multiple listenings.

Simi and Falz’ joint EP, Chemistry, was cleverly accompanied by staged wedding photo shoots which fanned rumours of them being lovers. Flat album title aside, their combined talents repays multiple listenings.

A typical Falz verse, if you haven't heard one by now, is an amalgam of Yoruba, Pidgin and English. It's fairly well written and solidly structured. Some of its charm comes from not just his wit, but also how he articulates it, incorporating phoney accents, Nigerian-isms and malapropism all done in jest. In this his most prominent forebear is Junior from Junior & Pretty.

"Chemistry" could easily have been hammy but for the earnest lyrics which pierce through speculations about their relationship: “everybody seems to think that we'll be good together/but they don't know if I'm your spec, oh/I don't need to know if I take your breath away.” Simi wants to proceed with caution but also hope of there being genuine feelings beyond mere attraction.

I've been resistant to Simi’s tiny voice for reasons that are now clearer to me. Her nice-girl-with-a-nice-voice persona is rather dull. But when she's a little caustic in her lyrics and uses more emphasis when deploying her voice, she immediately becomes way more interesting as a singer and as an individual.

That's said, you'd have to be without any redeeming qualities as a singer to fail on a song like "Shake Your Body," because the juju beat does half the job before a note is sung. The genre is a perennial favourite at owambe parties and usually accompanied by a dance that involves no more than a two step and wine—done better by grown folks with slower mobility and more grace.

Jester-Falz comes correct with just one verse and doesn't overstay his welcome. It's refreshing to hear a voice like Simi’s applied to a beat that has been traditionally sung over by men, as is evident in the couplet that closes the song which also has a winning pull quote, “Dangote come and spray me money.”

"Foreign" sounds very much like Falz’ idea for a song which Simi gamely went along with. It ridicules a person who claims a level of wealth and refinement that is clearly beyond them. It's also a big part of Jester-Falz’ comic routine and it's clear that he's mastered it.

The advent of trap has infused rap and R&B (and God knows what else) with more possibilities in vocals, sounds and marketing, than anyone I know envisaged. "Show You Pepper" is by now a hackneyed phrase loosely meaning to give someone a hard time. Sung or “trapped” over a slow, skeletal beat, Simi’s voice reaches the level of brilliance Jhene Aiko, her vocal-twin, reached on her break out EP Sail Out.

It's this toughness with which Simi threatens a jilting lover that piques one's interest and not her pleasant, inoffensive singing. Neither is there any slouching from Falz who adds a little oomph to a stale phrase like “show you pepper” when he rhymes it with “they say I'm a player, I go show you Pele.” Neat.

If afro-trap is now an accepted sub-sub-genre without an established figurehead, Falz is in there with a shout. There is less of Jester-Falz here and more of Serious-Falz who is dexterous at straddling a beat as he does on "Want To." He and Simi double up and trade bars on the second verse, a format that I'm yet to hear on any trap beat. Extra marks to Falz for the Salawa Abeni reference.

Anyone who rehashes afrobeat, as pioneered by Fela, must accept that it'll either be a good copy or a cheap alternative. Seun Kuti has dutifully inhabited afrobeat but not enough to separate his own sound from that which was passed on to him. Femi Kuti, the older scion, took a bolder step on "Bang Bang Bang" when he grafted electric guitar onto the rootstock of percussion that has defined afrobeat.

So rather than attempt yet another flash in the pan reinterpretation, Falz and Simi have borrowed a part of the framework—Tony Allen’s drumming, call and response choruses—to make "Cinderella." This is where Simi’s voice has an unexpected advantage. It works here chiefly because it isn't the rough male vocals we’re used to hearing in afrobeat. If Fela’s voice is a confident forward march, Simi’s own slinks and there's value in that because it survives on alien territory, taking the root where it is least expected to do so.

The beat on "Enough" is spatial, Simi’s singing is unadorned and the writing is uncluttered. The result is clarity. It is also the first time Jester-Falz’ comes close to being an interloper on a project that, overall, plays to the strengths of both artists. The song is about taking a lover for just what he or she is, warts and all.

Most of Falz’ material here is included in his repertoire as a comic-figure. He is a comedian but not an out and out stand-up comic. He's a rapper but isn't a professed MC. He's also the son of Femi Falana, a respected Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights activist, and no doubt comes from a certain level of privilege. For these reasons, consistently sending up other people’s poor grammar and pretensions to wealth and positions that eludes them does smell of condescension. I doubt this is his intention, but it reeks of it all the same.

Sabo Kpade is an Associate Writer with Spread The Word. His short story Chibok was shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize 2015. His first play, Have Mercy on Liverpool Street was longlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award. He lives in London.

Simi in "Selense" (Youtube)

Watch Simi's Beautiful Music Video For 'Selense'

Premiere: Simi shares the upbeat new video for "Selense," a song about time which draws inspiration from classic highlife.

Nigeria's Simi comes through with the new music video for her recent single, "Selense."

The song, which sees her sing about using your time and years on this earth preciously, gets a beautiful new video that follows Simi's verses about different characters who may or may not be spending their hours in the best way.

The upbeat new music video, which was directed by Adasa Cookey, is getting premiered here on OkayAfrica today.

"'Selense' is a song about time," Simi tells OkayAfrica. "The song draws inspiration from classic African highlife. A timeless classic that is perfect for all seasons."

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(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100)

Tiwa Savage, Sauti Sol, 2Baba, Toofan & More to Perform at AFRIMA Music Village Festival

The star-studded event will take place ahead of the award show and includes a host of artists from across the continent.

The 6th annual All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) celebrations, which recognize African talent from across the continent, are set to take place between November 20-23 in Lagos, Nigeria. Several events will take place ahead of the award show, including the star-studded AFRIMA Music Village Festival which will feature performances from some of the top artists in the industry.

The show's lineup has just been announced and it features over 30 acts from all regions of the continent.

The AFRIMAs once again are not to be confused with the AFRIMMAs (African Muzik Magazine Awards) which took place in Dallas, Texas in October.

UPDATE: See the full list of AFRIMA 2019 winners here.

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Burna Boy. Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage (via Getty Images).

The 20 Best Nigerian Songs of 2019

Featuring Burna Boy, Rema, Tiwa Savage, Zlatan, Mr Eazi, Wizkid, Teni, Davido, Lady Donli and many more.

2019 was another huge year for Nigerian music.

Zlatan's presence was ubiquitous and powered by the zeal for zanku, a dance which is now de rigueur. Rema led the charge for a group of young breakthrough artists that include Fireboy DML and Joeboy. They all represent an exciting crop of talents that point the way forward for Nigerian pop.

Burna Boy's new dominance, built around his excellent African Giant album, delivered on his rare talents, while the long wait for Davido's sophomore album, A Good Time, paid off in satisfying fashion. Simi's Omo Charlie Champagne Vol. 1 announced her departure from her longterm label. Tiwa Savage also made a highly-discussed move from Mavin Records to Universal Music Group. Meanwhile, Yemi Alade exuded female strength with her latest record, Woman of Steel.

Not to be left out, Wizkid sated demands for his fourth album with a new collaborative EP following a year of stellar features that included his presence on Beyoncé's Lion King: The Gift, an album which also boasts Tekno, Mr Eazi and Tiwa Savage. Mr Eazi also notably launched his emPawa initiative to help fund Africa's promising up-and-coming artists.

Asa returned in a formidable form with Lucid, while buzzing artists like Tay Iwar, Santi, and Lady Donli all shared notable releases. Lastly, the beef between Vector and M.I climaxed and sparked a resurgence of Nigerian rap releases from Phyno to Ycee, PsychoYP and more.

Read on for the best Nigerian songs of 2019. Listed in no particular order. —Sabo Kpade

Follow our NAIJA HITS playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

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OkayAfrica Presents: 'The Adinkra Oracle' December Reading with Simone Bresi-Ando

We're back with another Adinkra reading from Simone Bresi-Ando to help guide you through the end of the year—and the end of the decade.

It's the a new month and that means we're ready for a new Adinkra reading from Simone Bresi-Ando to help you navigate your December.

After cleansing the space, Simone will pull five Adinkra Ancestral Guidance Cards from a deck of 44 Adinkra symbols—these cards help to channel information, messages and direction from your ancestors using Adinkra symbols when read correctly. Remember, as Simone says, "these readings tell you what you need to know and not necessarily what you want to know—our ancestors are emotionally pure."

Simone gives a general reading of what December has in store to help you know what actions and thoughts are necessary to get the best out of the month. This is a special installment as it also guides you through the end of the year—and the end of the decade.

Watch below.

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