By Udochukwu Ikwuagwu
Artiste: TY Bello
Album: The Morning Songbook
Label: Self-released (Free album via www.tybello.com)
Features: Wale Adenuga, Msugh and Fela Durotoye
Producers: Mosadoluwa ‘Mosa’ Adegboye and TY Bello
TY Bello is no stranger to the Nigerian music scene. She was a member of the now defunct urban-gospel group, KUSH, who gained popularity with their conscious ‘Let’s Live Together’ record. Their debut (and only) album- Experience- also received critical acclaim. Though that musically adventure with Lara Bajomo (now Lara George), Emem Ema and ‘Dapo Torimiro was short-lived, TY Bello (then Toyin Shokefun) continued with music, kick-starting her solo career with ‘Greenland’. How often do you see a contemporary gospel song ‘score a hit’ in the Nigerian mainstream pop market? But TY Bello recorded that feat with ‘Greenland’, becoming a national anthem (of sort) on the lips of music lovers. Her debut album, also of same title, went on to be a success. Since her first solo effort, she’s been conspicuously missing only punctuating her absence with ‘The Future’ single in 2011. The inspirational song served as prelude to her much anticipated sophomore studio album, The Morning Songbook, which was given as a free album to her fans, is a compilation birthed by a songwriting process which started in 2009.
The 10-track project opens rather sluggishly with the drum and piano concoction Yahweh, as TY Bello sings, “Oh, oh, Yahweh/Powerful, Awesome and mighty/God of the earth/Oh I, Oh I/Laid all down, all my emotions/There in my heart”. The almost-hookless piece gains momentum and excitement with the strong-tenor rendition by Wale Adenuga as he delivers the bridge “I will let my praises flow/My voice was crafted so/Oh Yahweh, Wonderful/God of the aged, Joy of our days”. The choir’s intermittent involvement also adds to the cadence.
The piercing guitar riffs introduce Alagbada Ina– the duet with Msugh. Msugh’s voice complements TY Bello’s raspy alto, as they sing the praises of the one who bears a pouch of fire (an allegory for God’s almightiness). “Alagbada Ina, He’s my father/Dressed in fire/Voice like thunder/But softly He whispers my name,” she sings sonorously while Msugh continues the praise singing, “Arugbo ojo, the God who reigns forever/Timelessly, He loves me ever so tenderly”. Their excellent delivery makes the song very melodious.
The record segues into I am, the hard-hitting beat similar to a band-procession welcomes to an enjoyable moment, as she sings of the awesomeness of the creator’s work- the layering of divinity and humanity in her being. The familiar song structure and patterned lyrics (which abounds on most gospel projects) do little to distract from the brilliant piece. “Just because you say that I can, Lord/Human, truly human/Your expression/An image of who you are”, she sings unbridled.
Restorer follows the musical style of previous tracks- her verses in adoration accompanied by background vocals of the choir. This is made-for-concert (better suited for a live audience); Mosa, who’s been responsible for her production since ‘Greenland’ and popular for production and rendition on the best Nigerian R&B song in 2013- I Love You, hops on this with lovely (uncredited) vocals.
The fast-paced Dance for You doesn’t have the same jab as the previous offerings- not as sonically crafted- but it’s still a commendable effort. She sings with quavering voice: “As long as I can feel my heartbeat (I can feel my heartbeat)/I’ll praise”. In every/any situation, she pledges to keep her voice loud in praise of her maker.
The piano-ballad (interpolated with handclaps) Thirsty mirrors Michael W. Smith’s Breathe and Don Moen’s River of Love- “From the centre of all that I am/I am thirsty (I am thirsty)/Come to drink from your waters I am…thirsty (thirsty)/I’m desperate for you right now”.
Fela Durotoye’s spoken word on The Name serves as an apt prelude to the next single. The apocalyptic, thunder-clashing sound gives his voice a ‘heavenly’ feel.
Jesus Jesu is the highlight of the album; the song is an anthem-building single. The clichéd title notwithstanding, it is a beautiful record that showed mastery in songwriting, vocal performance and production. TY Bello’s voice cascades seemingly into the vocals of the choir; the blend is butter spread on bread.
The Heaven Touching Earth skit should have served as prelude to ‘Thirsty’- the call to worship by the preacher is one that would have built expectation for the ‘worship experience’. On Gates and Doors, TY Bello sings of the wonderfulness of the creator of heaven and earth, as she heralds his splendor and grandeur. This is a good way to end a pleasurable listening experience.
This is a well composed album though the themes seem (-ed) ‘all-familiar’. TY Bello and Mosa deserve credit for the superb songwriting and production employed on this. At times, the vocal performance was bolstered by emotions rather than actual dexterity but the ease deployed by the back-up choristers made this ignorable. This project is one worth every dime even though it was given free; this project is one that will endure for a long while.
Udochukwu writes from Ibadan. You can catch him listening to different genres of music on his iPod or buying CDs at your popular music store when he’s not working.
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