If Azonto, Kente, Gold and Highlife music is all you know Ghana for, then we have a real problem here because there is one Soul diva who is particularly gaining recognition as one of the best musical products out of the beautiful West African country that is Ghana. Ghana’s got Soul, real Soul and in this 24-year old Singer/Songwriter, that fact is undeniable. We plug to you – Efya – born Maame Efya Awindor – from Accra, Ghana. With an over 20,000-strong following on Facebook and Twitter respectively and numerous national awards already to her name, Efya is taking the Afro Soul music scene by storm and is garnering a lot of fans and converting critics along the way.
She is beautiful and she’s got an amazing voice but let’s give you a little more background information on her. Efya has been singing since she was nine, having been influenced by the entertainment industry through her filmmaker mother, Nana Adjoa Awindor. She decided to pursue music professionally after receiving some national recognition as the first runner up in the maiden edition of Charterhouse’s Stars Of The Future competition in 2006. This led to a three year recording deal and a collaborative debut album with the competition winner Irene Logan titled Irene & Jane Unveiled (Efya was known as Jane Awindor at the time) which was released in Ghana and South Africa to massive fan and critical acclaim – the duo won a Ghana Music Award for Best Female Vocal Performance and were nominated for the prestigious KORA Awards (Best Artiste or Group – West Africa) and Channel O Music Awards (Best Duo or Group) in 2008.
Efya continued to feature at major concerts and events in Nigeria and Ghana as part of Irene & Jane, most notably the Big Brother Africa 3 eviction party and the Channel O Music Award ceremonies and at the end of her contract with Charterhouse, she went on to study Theatre Arts/Directing & Music at the University of Ghana before venturing out boldly as the solo artist we know her to be today. Efya’s sound is reminiscent of the likes of Jill Scott with hints of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill but comparisons aside, there’s no need to look too far to determine who or what influences her sound, let’s have a listen to her music. I am going to randomly plug a few of her previously released songs, from the upbeat tempo down to the slow and sultry to give you just a feel of this lady’s talents.
Efya’s “Sexy Sassy Wahala” is one of the songs that introduced me to her, a little while back. The song quickly caught my attention because of the vibe of it, full of ‘vocal effrontery’ if I can call it that. “Sexy Sassy Wahala” is the original sound track to a ten chapter Ghanaian cinema movie series titled Adams Apples which was released last year. Wahala means ‘trouble’ in Pidgin English and Efya delievers true to the title of the song with sexiness and power. There is a fierce but fun vibe evident in her vocals and delivery on this song – reminiscent of Destiny Child’s “Independent Woman” – and the well laced infusion of the Ghanaian language on the back up vocals is also a very adept touch.
Sang predominantly in Pidgin, “Sweet Sassy Wahala” is very upbeat and although not necessarily dance-able, it is a song that you will want to bop your head to. You will be drawn to her captivating singing more so than the music itself which is driven by electric Pop guitars and drum patterns. Efya also gives the song a mediterranean vocal feel around the edges as you will hear at intervals throughout the song which gives it an interesting and unique twist. Her vocal runs are undoubtedly piercing, in a good way. Take a listen below
“Make my money… Do my own thing… Cant’ you stop me… Take this from me… It’s my world and I go live it everyday, with my sexy sassy wahala.”
Efya – “Sexy Sassy Wahala”:
Slowing down a bit and setting you in the music mood that Efya is mostly known and adored for, is this song titled “Little Things” which is produced by Award-winning Ghanaian producer Richie Mensah. Efya comes out with her sultry soulfulness a hundred percent on this one. Guitar twangs introduce her soft adlibs which get even stronger as the song progresses while the chorus is sung in her Ghanaian language and the slow tempo of the guitar-led music milieu makes Efya’s voice even more distinct as she climbs on to higher keys effortlessly towards the end of it with even more excellent adlib injections. It’s a simple song with no deep layers to uncover – a love song from the heart of a lover to another. “Little Things” talk about just that, the little things her partner does that makes her love him more.
“When you say “cook the food let me wash the bowls. . . come here baby let me touch your toes” makes me love you more. . . It’s the little things that you do that makes me love you more.”
Efya – “Little Things”:
Let’s get away with Efya on this next song, her latest single which is titled “Getaway” and produced by Starkeep Production. Lyrically, the song talks about taking that trip to that faraway place with a lover. It is soulful and sultry as we have come to expect from Efya and true to the themes of her songs – about love and all its facet. This one is slightly “R&B-ish” and her vocals are deliberately and stylishly lazy, the vocals tend to be slightly nasal but still sound great all the same. She staccatos some lines in the verses and as usual sings some lines in her native Ghanaian language. Sonically, the song is not uncommon to what we’ve heard before with traditional guitar arrangements, drum patterns, hi-hats and hand claps all infused into “Getaway”, but Efya does a good job of making it her own and an enthralling listen.
“Even on a beachbed, on an island, go to a lakehouse baby, break out and make out… I don’t know where to go, as long as we’re alone, common let’s get away.”
Efya – “Get Away”:
One of the few things that put Efya on our radar was some footage of an impromptu studio rehearsal and duet freestyle with Nigerian Soul man Dipo of his single “Be My Man”, the vocal chemistry between the two artists was so tangible and it is 100% worth listening to here. To express more of her attraction to and affiliation with Nigerian music, the very talented Efya also recently released a slow tempo, beautifully done cover of Duncan Mighty’s hugely popular single “Obianuju” renamed “Falou”, on an instrumental which is an adaptation of Hans Zimmer’s Inception soundtrack.
A couple of her live performances on Youtube are also worth watching a good few times, fan-favourites like the Ikon-produced “Cigarette” and “Nothing” as well as a sublime cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” were performed and captured on her recent trip to New York City for our viewing and listening pleasure – her control and range is overwhelmingly on point. So what’s next from Efya who calls herself the Afro-Eclectic African Soulstress? Her long awaited and highly anticipated solo debut studio album titled Love Genesis will be a must listen when it is released, if you want that Soul, Afrosoul, Neo-Soul, Pop, Jazz and feminine musical swagger, all in one.
Download: Efya – Cigarette