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ALBUM REVIEW: With The Album, Man, Fiokee Raises The Bars High For Fellow Nigerian Guitarists.

Fiokee‘s beards captured on the artwork are an indication that he has attained maturity — biologically. However, growth or coming of age as suggested by the title of this album, Man, goes far beyond physical maturity. Career-wise, Fiokee has achieved quite a lot of great things. Symbolically, it is evident in the smile of satisfaction worn on his face on the cover art.

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The stage at Man listening party.

Some days into January 2022, Fiokee had celebrated his 40th birthday. A week after, the Afrobeats guitarist released what turned out to be his debut album since his breakout into the music industry over a decade ago. The Akwa Ibom born artiste gained fame in 2008 participating in the Star Quest as a member of a group known as Diamond. The group went on to win the contest that year.

Though there are a host of guitarists like Nsikak, Bez Idakula, Femi Leye, David Ubani, Benjazy, Sami Guitar and Godwin Guitar, however, according to Uju Obinso Odingwa, Fiokee, born Ifiok Effanga, stands out because of how “intimidating” his discography is.

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Fiokee playing at his album listening party.

Fiokee who has worked as a session musician for many A-list singers from Nigeria takes credits for lead guitar lines played on the following songs:
Scapegoat, We the Best and Bother You by D’banj, Gobe by Davido, Duro and Wash by Tekno, Laye, Woju and Good Time by Kizz Daniel, Golibe, Pick Your Phone and Ololufe by Flavour ft. Chidinma, Like by Reekado Banks ft. Tiwa Savage, Make Am by Patoranking, Orente by Adekunle Gold, Applaudise by Iyanya, Chukwudi by Jo El ft. Iyanya, Ferrari and Kissing by Yemi Alade, Inside of You and Delilah by Darey Art Alade and a host of other contributions.

For a guitarist who made these collosal impacts in the rise of Afrobeats which is now globally accepted, waiting for fourteen years before dropping his first project is a symbol of growth and manliness as a process that should not be rushed.

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Fiokee at Man listening party.

Man as an album comprises of 14 tracks delivered by a total of 24 artistes from within and outside Nigeria, with Fiokee co-producing most of the songs with some other producers like Masterkraft, DJ Coublon, Xtofa, Yalababayala, Jaypizzle, Tuzi. The album was mixed and mastered by Swaps and others.

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Man tracklist.

Ric Hassani and his fellow countryman, Klem, address the theme of manhood and its effects on Be A Man. Though the title of this song unapologetically instructs listeners to “be a man”, however, the song itself is Fiokee’s definition of coming of age as succinctly captured with the album title, Man. One thing is clear on this song, being a man means taking responsibility.

Both Ric Hassani and serial hit songs writer, Klem, effortlessly tries to make their women “understand” that being a man means working to the point of not having “time for myself” so as to be able to afford a “good life for you and my unborn child”. Chasing this dream comes with a price, that is, depriving their respective woman attention and “working my ass out” for a better life — a price none of the two women is willing to pay.

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Fiokee and his guests.

The complaints properly begins on Number One as Guchi accuses her “busy” man of cheating. The issue is made more complicated as Kelvyn Boy attests to the fact that he cheated. A distraught Guchi is heard ranting and calling her lover a “big disgrace” for such trust-breaking act.

Kelvyn Boy, a Ghanaian singer, is paired with Gucci on Number One. In a period when Shatta Wale spearheaded a social media hate against Nigerian artistes for supposedly not supporting Ghanaian music, Man by Fiokee is enough evidence that such claims are false. Fiokee featured a total of four Ghanaians on this album.

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The need to address fellow brothers in the game arises on Personal as Bella Shmurda dishes out several words of advice to the listeners. At a point, he begins to sound philosophical, drawing attention to the fact that one must “pay” a “price” for every action he takes — “if you price, you go pay,” he threatens.

Even without paying attention to the message, one can still enjoy Bella Shmurda’s delivery on the guitar-laden instrumentals — Personal unabashedly invites dance, hence, can be tagged a “feel-good” piece. Fiokee is everywhere here with the lead guitar. The dance induced here heightens on Kelewa.

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Bella Shmurda and Fiokee.

Humans’ sociality, beliefs in an extraterrestrial being and the continuous search for companionship are briefly highlighted on Kelewa. Umu Obiligbo uses the case of humans domesticating wild animals as a pillar to support the age-long idea of humans being a social animal. The idea of heaven is seen as a reason behind the belief in the existence of God while reproduction is proclaimed as the major reason behind marriage.

With a fast paced Highlife instrumentals and an energetic delivery from Umu Obiligbo, Fiokee is afforded a space to freely operate with the guitar. Both the lead guitar and the bass guitar have a long-lasting soloing bringing the song to a close.

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Dance as an action gains prominence on the track Dance. Combining Vector with female Ghanaian singer, Sefadzi Abena Amesu, professionally known as Sefa, and her label boss, D Black practically guarantees backbreaking rhythmic movements.

Sefa particularly makes this possible by taking the chorus and instructing listeners to “dance like tomorrow no go come”. Here, one notices that Fiokee’s excessive use of the lead guitar continues to give some of the songs on the album a Highlife feel amongst few other effects.

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Gospel singers Nosa and Ada Ehi are employed on Goodness and Mercy. The song is built on a line from Psalm 23 off the Christian Bible — “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me”. The song acknowledges the support of the Christian God for the singers. Goodness and Mercy appeals more to the church. Surprisingly, it is even more appealing to lovers of good music.

The hunt for love begins on Good Time and Smooth Operator respectively. The former pitches T Classic with the Puerto Rican brothers, Jean and Alex. Together, the three seek loving and pleasure from a woman. The motivation is two things — “weytin my eyes dey see” and “shayo”. The featured acts singing in Spanish is rhythmically complementary of the deep hums of the bass guitar. Ice Prince’s Oleku with Brymo is briefly referenced.

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Smooth Operator on the other hand features Cape Verdean-Dutch singer, Nelson Freitas. The 46 years old Netherlands citizen uses English Language to woo his intended. At this point on the project, one is reminded that a man needs loving. This is the only Amapiano song on the album, by the way.

The Highlife, I Cannot is an attainment of Fiokee’s search for love as Yemi Alade boldly declares that “I don finally see love/I no go let am go”. However, a celebration of the love found is lyrically represented on Follow You. Chike and Gyakie personify a couple so stricken with love that both are not ready to let go of each other for even a minute. That’s why both sing “I will let the whole world know that I’m in love with you” — love is without shame, it is clear.

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You Bad, Nne, Koni Koni and Forever are a continuation of the love found by Yemi Alade on I Cannot. With the track You Bad, a chance is provided for the listeners to see love from the perspective of a woman — Layydoe dominating the song only represents one thing — women do not joke with love when they find a genuine one.

This is however detrimental to Peruzzi whose appearance is limited to the second verse alone. Layydoe declaring “I love my man” on verse one is a warning; STAY AWAY! One also marvels at the skill with which Layydoe pitches her voice beyond the thickness heard on the Reggae-Dancehall song titled Rough Up off Olamide’s UY Scuti album in 2021.

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Nne featuring The Cavemen is a portrayal of love in a traditional setting; the indigenous language with which the Igbo Highlife duo deliver their lyrics is a testimony. Nne is systematically placed immediately before Kelewa featuring Umu Obiligbo. There are fans who strongly believe The Cavemen do Igbo Highlife better than Umu Obiligbo and vice versa. Placing both songs side by side however makes the comparisons easier.

Koni Koni featuring Simi and Oxlade released as far back as 2020 is a matter of a sonorous vocalist meets a falsetto merchant. Simi’s delivery is somewhat Highlife, Oxlade’s on the other hand is far from it. This difference in their justice to the instrumentals is what makes the song sonically spicy. Simi laments having a liar as a lover while Oxlade feels the necessity of saving the relation-ship that may soon be heading for the icebergs.

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Another Netherlands citizen is featured alongside Maua Sama, a female Tanzanian singer, on Forever. Forever as suggested by its title is an assurance of an everlasting love affair between a couple. While Lirical takes the chorus in English, making promises and lyrically painting the appearance of his significant half, Sama opts for singing in her local dialect, majorly.

Fiokee’s release of Man is significant. It marks his attainment of age; he is forty. To understand this better, one may need to revisit the old cliche that reads “a fool at forty is a fool forever”. It is believed that whatever one does at that stage in life will affect the rest of his life on the long run. So waiting till 2022 before registering his first project is both timely and historic.

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The Cavemen at Fiokee’s album listening party.

With songs like Good Time, Personal, Follow You and I Cannot, Fiokee can hope for a beautiful year ahead in terms of decorations like awards, more recognition and streams. However, a serious PR should not be overlooked too for the commercial success of the project. A region-based concert may then follow. Above all, Man is not below par, especially with the addition of the foreign artistes who introduced new sounds to the Nigerian Highlife and Afrobeats. It’s good for the unity of Nigeria and the countries of the featured acts.

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