We Plug To You... IBIYEMI - Love Always Wins

The first time I heard this soulful songbird, I went "Wow! What a deep and husky voice!", she reminded me a lot of Tracy Chapman's vocal essence and texture. I actually just recently posted one of her songs titled "Can You Love Me?"on my Facebook profile - her first release as a solo recording artiste - little did I know she had actually already been in the studio and cooked up some great tunes by way of her debut release and I would be reviewing some of them here for your listening pleasure...

In light of this, with positive soul and 'feel good' vibes, we gladly plug to you... IBIYEMI. Born on May 22, 1981 in California, USA, Ibiyemi started off as a backing vocalist in 2003 for various artistes before a major performance of the Nigerian National anthem at the 228th USA Independence ceremony kicked off her solo career. With her debut album 'Love Always Wins', Ibiyemi set out to blow us all away and we think she's done exactly that on this 12-track record, tracks of which we will be plugging to you in this feature.

Her debut single - 2009's "Don't Leave Me" was met with relative success and garnered her a nomination for Best Female Vocal Performance at the 2010 Hip-Hop World Awards as well as a nomination form Best R&B Song at the 2010 Sound City Music Awards among a host of other award nominations. Said to be influenced by Mary J Blige, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder and (rightly so) Tracy Chapman, Ibiyemi's sound can be described as rich, soulful and of a musical genre I will call Contemporary Afro Neo-Soul with Afrocentric vocalisms akin to Brenda Fassie and vocal energy similar to Angelique Kidjo.

What is so special about Ibiyemi's album 'Love Always Wins'? Trust me, Soul is a music genre I am personally inclined to so my take on this is extremely honestly judged. I am taken by the diverse feel and uniqueness of the songs on this project, the originality in the music composition and arrangement, the perfect fusion of afro-rythms and Soul. The four tracks from 'Love Always Wins' that are featured below represent the diversity I speak of. These four tracks especially caught my musical attention only for me to find out that they were actually produced by the same individual. WPGM decided to take it a step further and caught up with this producer... Nigeria's best kept secret, multi-talented producer, singer and songwriter - FLO. FLO had this to say about Ibiyemi's album.
"There are several singers in the Nigerian music industry with hit~banging tracks but not all of them get to strike that cord and rhythm in your head and in your heart. Ibiyemi has a unique style of delivery to her music..sincerity. You can feel that honesty in these tracks. One edge her tracks have is the ability to draw the listener in on her storyline. Whilst we were working on 'Ore' for example, I already had enough to work with by just listening to the experience she shared with me concerning her childhood friend, you could feel that innocent and pure affection even within her mode of delivery. When Ibiyemi decides to speak about love, she speaks from her heart and not her head" - FLO
We begin our plug with the Ibiyemi's brand new single "It Would Be" which was released yesterday (May 22) as a free download to mark the singer's birthday... A duet with another rising Nigerian Soul "lover boy" crooner by the name of Dipo, "It Would Be" is a powerful boy/girl love "tease" song. The chorus starts off with the phrase "Ta ba fera?" which in Yoruba means "If we love each other/fall in love with each other/marry each other" with Ibiyemi and Dipo expressing it to us nicely that "it would be so nice"... "It Would Be" will get you falling in love again. Dipo makes matters more intricate by adding that soulful R&B'ish zing to this duet. The song is believable, the groove matches the theme. It's an easy listening song with percussion and bass guitar-led R&B production laden with soulful vocals, intercepted with a nice piano solo that gives a suspensive closure to the song's story.

'It Would Be':
"Ta ba fera, baby it would be so nice, so nice.... I wanna go where your wind blows, discover places only you know"

This next song is in Yoruba and is called "Ore" which means "Friend" - it celebrates and appreciates the essence of a true and real friendship. It talks about love, kindness and a reminder and gratitude of the bond and interdependence of kindred relationships. This is an excellent song gift to that friend you appreciate. Even though the understanding of the lyrics of this track may be limited to Yoruba speakers, everyone can still enjoy the flow and feel of the music. "Ore" has an mid-tempo Afro-pop sound backed by gorgeous keyboard chords, very danceable with hip rhythms and drum patterns. Ibiyemi does excellent justice vocally throughout the song, without overdoing her natural deep tone range.

"Ore ma se gbabgbe mi lojokojo nibikibi, ma se gbagbe mi (Friend, don't forget me anyday, anywhere, don't forget me)

Is this next song the potential contender to rival another incredible song of the same title by one Jill Scott on your iPods? Possibly... The difference is Ibiyemi's "He Loves Me" is Gospel/Inspirational in content, it's an expression of God's unconditional love and it's more upbeat than Jill Scott's "He Loves Me". The intro and the backdrop of the track features a slightly electro-pop infused sound while the chorus is easy and sing-along and Ibiyemi maintains her natural depth of real Soul on this as well. "He Loves Me" is a song that makes you comfortable in spirit and in soul with Ibiyemi's assuring tone and the uplifting message about the Creator's love for you keeping you at ease in this track.

'He Loves Me':

Last but not least is the playful, pop, party-feel song rightfully named "Play". It has that 80's disco vibe to it, and FLO's signature rock sound backed by lush bass guitars and musical undertones pops out Ibiyemi's vocals excellently to incite some finger-snapping, toe-tapping moves from any listener. This track is upbeat, full of energy, perfect for the dance floor and I would submit this song for a radio mix anyday. You can't listen to this and not get moving, come on and let's boogie down till the break of dawn with Ibiyemi's "Play" below....

"Mi o ronu mo ( I am not downcast anymore), I just wanna dance to the break of dawn, DeeJay play that song"

This is one album you absolutely should own. If you want a break away from the norm, the usual and mundane music then Love Always Wins is the music for you. This is that album you would not only want to listen to but one you'd love to share with others. It's what I would refer to as a 2-in-1 album - for solace and for social interaction; for an audience of one or two as the case may be (per love and soulful communications) or for a party to groove and move to. It ticks all the boxes

Ibiyemi gets two thumbs up for the diverse collection of songs on this album. The sky is limitless for the young singer as she makes her way to making a musical mark globally amongst the current crop of afro-originated Soul singers of our generation. Her voice is not only great, it's not common plus her vibe is appealing, her message is sweet, her sound is market-worthy - it just works. Love Always Wins - the album - is definitely highly recommended. Stamped, signed and delivered... What more is there to say?

Keep Tabs on Ibiyemi: Website // Twitter // Facebook


We Plug To You... Freedom or Death - EGO

Freedom or Death - made up of duo Steve Fernandez and Sway Clarke - is an alternative rock band out of Toronto, Canada. Sway, the singer/songwriter and Fernandez, the pianist/DJ both met while working at a record label a few years ago and burst unto our radar when they released their critically acclaimed self-titled debut EP last year. Fast-forward about ten months on and the duo return with the follow-up project to and what they call a progression from Freedom or Death - an 8-track sophomore EP titled Ego which was recently released on April 26. The EP is self-released on their own label Liars & Thieves with distribution via the good folks at Arts & Crafts and every track on Ego is written, produced and mixed by the duo who assumed full creative control on the EP over the 5 months it was recorded. 

On why the record is called Ego, the bands response is Cause we all have one and have to deal with our and other people's egos every day”. A couple more quick facts about the band; they performed this year at the Canadian Music Week and also played 3 showcases at this year's SXSW (South by South West) music showcase which has previously birthed the careers of other notable artists such as John Mayer and James Blunt. Even bigger achievements - songs off of the EP are scheduled to run in ABC’s series Rookie Blue this Summer. Now unto the music…

'Inside' which in theory is the first song of the EP draws you in immediately, starting off with an electronic guitar riff. On the verses, you hear a light drum sample while on the chorus an Eighties themed electronic sound is vivid. There’s no doubt that this was carefully constructed to make for a strong opening track. While vibing to the song you almost forget its message is that of one trying to find one's way home to where they belong. I must say it is quite a catchy track that you may find yourself singing along to even on the first listen. For almost a minute on the track (from the 2:40 minute mark), a combination of instrumentals - from drum kicks to lush electronic guitar riffs - are merged together to further showcase the great musical production coming out of this track while the song ends with the band holding a falsetto note that was apparent throughout the track. Listen below: 

The next song I plug to you is coincidentally also the second track on the EP and arguably one of the best. On 'The Crowded Room', very noticeable are the synthesizers that start off the track accompanied by strong captivating leading vocals from the duo. The build-up of instrumentals on this track is nothing short of genius posing a sound that comes similar to what some have termed "earth music". Accompanying the synthesizers are little shakers and a hint of cymbal sounds, followed by a strong drum kick loop sample that backs the harmonious vocals of the group at around the second minute mark. There is also a hidden bonus acoustic version of this song at the end of the album and I urge you to listen to it as well.

"This Crowded Room":
The third song I'm sharing with you was chosen at random (Yes, the EP is that good). The track titled 'Virginia Woolf' starts off with delicate shakers mixed with guitar strings backing the band's lead vocals. Just as before, it slowly builds up to include a drum, bass and eventually claps to make up the instrumental part of the song. This track's orchestrated sound has one of the most enjoyable instrumentals of the album for me. The track also includes dialogue excerpts from the 1966 movie "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf". Harmonizing, a strong asset of the band is very apparent and very well executed on this track as well.

"Virginia Woolf":
Freedom or Death remind me a lot of the other stand-out alternative bands within the same or similar genre such as OneRepublic and The Fray but this is far from us offering up some easy comparisons because Freedom or Death are certainly different from these bands. I can confidently say Freedom or Death's music can and should very well be ranked and judged along with the veterans and chart-toppers on the scene. The production quality on the Ego EP is flawless while the vocal delivery and musical cohesiveness is one for the books. After listening to Ego, I’m definitely downloading their previous EP as well just because I can’t get enough of their music. Download the EP and listen for yourself and just incase you’re in the Toronto area, do not forget to catch the duo on tour all through the Summer (check their website below for tour dates).
Purchase Freedom or Death - Ego EP (Amazon) // Ego EP (iTunes)
Keep Tabs on Freedom or Death - Website // Twitter // Facebook

We Plug To You... Iyadede - The Demo

Sipping on a vanilla latte one beautiful morning just after downloading The Demo by an artist by the name of Iyadede; at first I was taken aback by the rather long track listing - 29 tracks - but somehow I summoned the courage to press play.

The girl who fell to earth, that girl from Africa or simply put Iyadede is a singer/songwriter whose life’s journey has transitioned itself into her music. Born Sabrina Iyadede, she was raised in Kigali, Rwanda but due to the genocide that escalated in the country in 1994, she relocated to Belgium then France and now is a resident of Brooklyn, New York. Music has always been a part of her even before birth as while pregnant with Iyadede, her mother worked as a DJ at a Rwandan radio station - a time that has left an imprint on Iyadede’s eclectic sound. In her own words, the perfect pitch when you are a multicultural inter-continental animal like myself is a schizophrenic exercise.

Call it Afri-Pop, Afro-Punk, Soul or Electronica, either way Iyadede’s music knows no boundaries... The Demo isn’t Iyadede’s first project either; she released an album Talking to God - her first - in May 2010 but alas, we digress somewhat. Without further ado, let us delve into the world of this aspiring singer/songwriter with melodies that embrace her roots from the motherland - by way of The Demo.

The first song I plug to you from the LP is "Not The Same". This track has a throwback appeal to it and in Iyadede’s words, "talks about love". On this record, she states that the time lapse in a relationship changes things and could potentially create a rift. The imaginary distance could also mean someone else is in the mix or they just aren’t the same people they were when they met. After looking up Iyadede on numerous music blogs, I can immediately see her playful personality translated into the lyrics on this song. The Eighties sounding synths accompanied by a bass groove used on the track is also perfect fit to introducing her sound.

"Not The Same":

If you had your music player on shuffle, this next track "Burnstone and Fire" could easily be mistaken for one sung by a certain Janelle Monáe. Iyadede’s eclectic creativity resounds on this socially conscious song; one she points out is about politics. She speaks metaphorically about occasions of being oppressed that you wonder if she's speaking from experience growing up in Rwanda. Regardless, she shows a great level of vocal skill on this up-tempo song backed by drum kick arrangements which sees the NY-based singer switch up her lyrical delivery.

"Burnstone and Fire":

The final track "Lets Stay Together (2011)" samples the classic Al Green song of the same title and I can confidently say Iyadede does the song justice. Apart from a few lyrics that are lifted off the original, Iyadede’s take is a breath of fresh air to the already acclaimed hit. The instrumentals fuse sultry jazz with R&B and makes for a classic Soul sound. I would love to hear her perform this live as I can imagine such melodic structures and arrangements would sound even ten times better live. The inclusion of a spoken word interlude was greatly written and executed too, adding to the beauty of Iyadede's remake.

"Lets Stay Together (2011)":

Many other standout tracks exist on this LP that deciding which three to share with you was quite tasking. At this point, I should let you in on a little secret - the album has only 14 full songs plus an additional bonus track. The other 14 listed "tracks" are just short interludes to each song so do not be put off. What drew me to one particular standout track - "Pretend You Are A Square" - however was the instrumental arranged and produced by Iyadede herself. On the first listen, I noticed something sounded too familiar then it occurred to me that it samples loops from Apple’s Garage Band application. Makes sense as this application is usually the starting point for most starter and/or emerging producers and this song is Iyadede’s first attempt at producing so kudos to her. Besides that, I find the song title quite interesting and unusual and Iyadede’s definition of it entails not being afraid to be whoever you want to be.

"Mfura Yange" is a track sung in Iyadede’s native language Kinyarwanda, which talks about her sister and eloquently brings out the Afro-pop side of the whole demo. I like the softly used instrumentals backing her vocals on the song and even without an understanding of the lyrics; there is a sense of a heartfelt delivery from Iyadede.

I was very happy to review her album as her eclectic sound is one I had been missing in my collection for a while. Sure enough I’ll definitely be looking to see if she’s got any tours coming up around my way. If you’re in the mood for some refreshing, laid-back meaningful music, I suggest you pick this one up and you certainly won't be disappointed.

Keep tabs on Iyadede: Twitter // Website

Download: The Demo

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