In 2017, I clicked play on Davina Oriakhi’s music. Soundcloud had matched me with her algorithmically. She also came heavily recommended from friends, peers and social media followers.
Sadly, I didn’t feel it. She felt like a malformed version of Sade and a bridge between acts like Nneka, Emeli Sande and Bryan Ferry. Her spoken word background undulated her delivery as a vocalist/singer. She could sing and her words cut through with the precision of a hot knife through Soul Mate, but her delivery felt too rough for her avant-garde sonic ambitions.
In hindsight, this writer should have been patient. She was just a young artist trying to find her voice and path in the music like everybody else. These days, she is well on her way to perfecting her art. A turning point was her 2019 collaboration with Preye Itams, from whence she never looked back.
Her voice still sears, and her words remain astute through impeccable songwriting, honed as a spoken word act. Her sound is somewhere between Afro-Soul, Neo-Soul, Quiet Storm, Sophisti-pop and even Gospel. Delivery-wise, she is similar to Nneka – it’s not the smoothest, but it’s just perfect.
Her sophomore EP, Ase is a follow-up to her 2017 effort, Love To A Mortal. This time, Oriakhi seems to grapple with grown issues around confidence, doubt, pain and even depression. Her tone is dark and contemplative. She is moody, morose and submissive to her Christianity, as a light on her weird path.
To Oriakhi, God is a woman: tender and warm. She defers to her providence on ‘So Let It Be,’ to break her ‘Yoke’ with the aid of a popular bible verse on ‘Amen.’
At different points, Oriakhi is also indifferent. On ‘So Let It Be,’ she acknowledges her fears and self-doubt. But she speaks positivity to herself.
That doesn’t last, as Oriakhi cries for help, as she veers close to giving up on the next track, ‘Pray For Me.’
Oriakhi seems like a believer stuck in a cycle of faith, while confronting a psychological storm that refuses to be combated. The EP occasionally mimics a cry for help, felt through the growing pains of reluctant ego as well. But always, Oriakhi’s message is filled with love to the world – maybe not so much to herself at her darkest.
In the end, she finds a solution on ‘Free’ and it’s simple: don’t fight yourself, let love and your faith lead you to freedom. To many, this might feel simple. But a solution is better as ‘simple’ than as ‘easy.’
‘Pray For Me’ endures a shaky bridge, just before her final hook. She also struggled with the Reggae beat on ‘Amen,’ but those passive horns saved the day.
This writer also opines that this sequence would have told Oriakhi’s story better;
This way, the EP would have documented her journey from a dark place to healing.
Is this a Gospel album? Some will argue to the affirmative, and they will have a point. A record like ‘Yoke’ occasionally envisioned God’s perspective. It’s one of those genre-bending projects, and that’s good.
Themes and Delivery: 1.7/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.8/2