Talent is one part for the artist, getting people to listen is another thing. Attention is difficult currency to come across for upcoming artists these days, especially those without any major label or big machine support. Cosigns are not a guarantee of success in the music industry either, but they can be really important in presenting the artist to a wider audience.
I came across Eri Ife via cosigns by Don Jazzy and Adekunle Gold on twitter, both had really good words for his recently released EP. That was enough to stoke a desire to listen to the music. I went straight for my SoundCloud app, dug out Eri Ife – The EP and got my first listen. It sounded really good and I went after the replay button immediately the final track closed out.
— KING (@adekunleGOLD) March 31, 2017
While on my second listen, I decided to look through google to provide some insight on the man behind music. Initially, the results were links to a Yoruba Nollywood movie until I added ‘Nigerian Artist’ to the search string before I found suitable links to look through. An interview with Diary of a Varsity Babe was especially helpful. Eri Ife’s government name is Adedamola Akin-Onigbinde, also known by another alias – Calderon by some people. He’s a final year law student at the University of Ibadan and the founder of his current imprint, 309 Entertainment which also houses six other artists on the platform. That is a lot to juggle for anyone but his comments in that interview seem like Eri Ife is determined to make it all work.
While Eri Ife’s eponymous EP is his first body of work, he’s been making rounds around the local music scene in Ibadan and has obviously done a lot of work to get to where he is as an artist today. The only song on his SoundCloud account apart from his EP is an older version of the third track on the EP, ‘Nobody’. A comparison between both versions show the change in musical subtleties and an obvious improvement in artistry. While the lyrics remain the same, the instrumentation and mixing is what presents the gap. While the initial mix has a beautiful but somewhat bloated sound, the EP version puts Eri Ife in the front of the mix like a bandleader. The message from his lyrics are at the forefront of the song with the production adding an ornate urgency to them, it’s like that for the other songs on the project.
Instead of falling into the common tropes of singing frivolous lyrics for commercial viability, Eri Ife uses his lyrics as a means of spreading positivity. Production on the EP is courtesy of Joshua Ohia, Ibukun Fadugba, Emmanuel Ating and Sir Bastien – all not ubiquitous names, who lend their talents to providing an excellent organic backdrop to the EP. Instead of going for totally synthesised sounds, the use of live instrumentation adds a brighter nuance to the project. A beautiful case of showmanship that is less exacting and more complimentary to Eri Ife’s vocals and lyrics, to the project’s benefit.
The aforementioned ‘Nobody’ is an honest call to millennials to be better people, its lyrics are lacerating but not born of sanctimonious earnestness. The lyric line “Generation of 140 characters, so ironic that so many have no characters” sung by featured artist, Logan, is the kind of striking truth that thoroughly applies to many modern day youths. The lyrics are sung in English and Yoruba, adding a welcome smudge of enculturation that perfectly encapsulates the dynamic of his city of resident – the ancient city of Ibadan.
For a guy who looks up to elegant Nigerian singer-songwriters like Asa, Bez, Cobhams and Darey Art-Alade, Eri Ife – The EP definitely wears its influences on its sleeves. But one of my favourite spots on the project, ‘Dreamers’ reminds me of legendary Nigerian Afro-folk musician, Beautiful Nubia albeit with a more contemporary touch. The song which has a beautiful jazzy drum and a soft wailing guitars contains an uplifting message of optimism to creatives and those with lofty goals. The pinnacle of optimism is captured in the “oh-oh”s on the sunny ‘Upside Down’, which addresses the essence of smiling and finding happiness in spite of difficult situations. The song’s hook is done in arena pop style, the type a crowd can sing along happily during a live performance. Eri Ife’s Falz-ish comedic chatter in between gives an extra incentive to grin or laugh.
From the meaning of his stage name (Evidence of Love) and his explanation of why he gave himself the name, it’s not hard to piece together that Eri Ife is a Christian. He succinctly and gracefully presents his love for God despite all his shortcomings on the penultimate track, ‘Someone Like Me’. The song features vocals by Eri Ife and The Jay Vocal Ensemble, accompanied by an underlying church organ to give the song a spiritually inclined feel. The solemn final track, ‘Black Minstrel’ which clocks in it at less than a minute breezes past really fast leaving you with the need for more.
Eri Ife – The EP is a well put together debut body of work you really should listen to.
Words by Dennis (@ayo_dennis).