Saturday, March 29, 2008

Music Review (a satire)

Who asked Rita Tweneboah to sing? To describe her first (and hopefully last) CD cum cassette as a musical disaster is to be guilty of inadequate vocabulary. Nothing exists in the English language, or in any language that I know, to describe this incoherent, clangorous nonsensical piece Ms Rita foisted on us as a high musical achievement. Any primary school singing group could have easily produced something better than the shit (pardon the scatological term) that made Ms Rita genuflected with enthusiasm.

Listen to her: “I thank the Almighty God for allowing me to complete successfully this taxing musical project.” She gushed to me at the low-key, two-room affairs she shares with her manager cum producer at Alajo, a suburb of Accra. The manager, a lanky lad wore dark glasses in the poorly lit room. A Che Guevera's beret lay on his head like a bird of paradise. The last part of a joint dangled from his enormous lip. He accented her every word with a nod of the head. He looked like one high on some performance-enhancement drug.

Why do we have to drag the gods into this bizarre musical affair? Mere mortals, relying on their native abilities, have produced much better musical works. Ms Rita must be thinking that celestial intervention is a substitute for ABILITY.

If there is an award for the WORST CD EVER, Ms Rita will win it with ease. The CD, the one I listened to, started as though a drunkard got hold of a guitar and started strumming un-rythmically. Then a fellow bibber apparently rescued a piano and punched the keys erratically. On top of this clangorous mishmash, Ms Rita attempted to sing - at least that is what she appeared to be doing.

A good musical voice might have save the day, but [alas] Ms Rita's voice will make you vomit. Track two follows the same mushy pattern. Let us not waste time on the next three tracks. In track six, Ms Rita decided to go for what must have appeared to her to be gospel. In a confusing pantomime of drums, noises, guitar, piano, horns, drums and keyboard, she wailed some imitation of spiritual songs. Again, her voice spoiled the fun.

It is difficult to imagine what Ms Rita was trying to do in track seven. As though telling herself: "I am tired. I am fed up with this whole nonsense. Let's get done with all these shit and be done with it." The track opened with the guitars dominating and pushing Ms Rita's grating voice out of the way. The guitarists then went on an insane display of guitar pyrotechnics. These fellows, apparently high on some chemical-enhancements, must have just left their fingers waddled on the wires without caring what keys are hit.

In track eight (blessedly the last), Ms Rita performed a mournful rendition of another spiritual generously sprinkled with 'Gye Nyame,' 'Jehowah,' 'Awurade,' and 'Yesu.' Again, her voice did the whole thing a great injustice.

Granted that Ms Rita shares her producer's bed, how did any self-respecting studio managed to get such a shoddy job out of its doors and stamped it with its label? The managers of CD-X Studio, who recently were in the news boasting about their latest hi-tech equipments, should tell us what they were thinking before releasing this monstrosity to the Ghanaian public. The listening public certainly deserves something better.

Are we to believe that good face (Ms Rita, with a full, dreamy African face, inviting sensuous thick lips and winning smiles is very beautiful), and gorgeous body (her succulent body, the stuffs dreams are made of, giggles to her every movement) is enough to get an album out?

So, OK, Ms Rita cannot sing, her guitarists do no not know one key from another, her keyboard player is both inept and insane and her horn man is a crazy-banana, didn't her lyrics rise up to the occasion? Not on your life.

It is not only that the woman cannot sing, she also cannot write music. Although, in bold Garamond type on the CD jacket, she boasted that: "All lyrics ritten (sic) by Rita Tweneboah," the fact of the matter is that Ms Rita simply cannot write - prose, verse, music or anything else for that matter. How could she when she has problems with elementary grammar? Sample this:

“Along the cost we move (she meant 'coast')

Move, move, move [2*]

Sea water in the Area Move, move, move


Plenty of sand and people we see

Move, move, move [2*]

We eat fish and shito

Move, move, move [2*]”

Alternatively, try to make sense of this - from track four:

“A child is an angel in the face of the mother (sic)

A mother is an angel in the face of the child (sic)

God is an angel of heaven

Angels are messengers of our Father in heaven

Who send us messages from our home, Jerusalem Oh, Jerusalem, Salem, Salem.”

What are we to think of the mind capable of producing such 'songs'?

Ms Rita's inability (perhaps, absolute incapability is a better word) to sing well is matched only by her sheer lack of dancing abilities. Nothing evidences this more than her pathetic attempt to dance in the accompanying video which she showed to me with glee.

If her singing can be dismissed as a disaster, Ms Rita's dancing is pure shame. Many a fine African lady can do justice to dancing by simply moving her body, not so Ms Rita. In her gallant efforts to impress and overcome an obvious natural handicap, she turned herself into something like a robot programmed to pantomime a dance.

No matter the type of music being played, it was always the same steps for Ms Rita as though she is following a rigid dancing script. Her style is like this: Plant your legs widely apart with your buttocks (yards and yards of it) sticking out; throw your left hand this way, your right the other, then shake your head like you've got a seizure, and you get a pretty good picture of what Ms Rita did in the video.

"We made the video in Belgium." She enthused to me as though a Belgium stamp of approval can mask a shoddy job and bestow legitimacy on a very poor performance. In a bow to the trash that goes for modernity, Ms Rita's fashion designers managed to reveal more than they hide. In some scenes, she wore ultra-miniskirts that are no larger than a Nigerian postage stamp. Although naturally endowed with great natural beauty, Ms Rita's heavy make-up made her look like a cheap whore.

Ms Rita has no business singing and less dancing. With her great looks, there must be something she could, conceivably, be good at - although, it is hard to imagine what that could be judging from her performance on the CD and the video. This is a music sang by the untalented; produced by the inept and marketed by the amoral.

Don't buy this CD and don't accept the video even if it becomes a freebie - unless you need a paperweight or you want to aggravate your enemy. If this music ever sold a single copy, it would represent the triumph of marketing over good taste.

The Moral: in years gone by, musical giants like ET Mensah, ET Crentsil, Koo Nimo and others firmly planted Ghana’s music on the world’s musical map. They were playing authentic highlife music that couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. They were passionate about their role as their country’s cultural ambassadors.

Lamentably, like almost everything else in our dear land, our music scene is now populated by hustlers masquerading as musical artistes. We are now saddled by those who appeared not have heard the phrase that no one treat his imitator like an equal.

I wish that our musicians will sit up and try and emulate their Jamaican and Senegalese counterpart. Whichever part of our globe one goes, Jamaica is synonymous with reggae. And musician like Baaba Maal, Orchestra Baobab, Youssou N’dour have ensured that Senegal has become a force in what European commentators like to call World Music.

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