The Chorus Leader is proof of Dakolo’s remarkable ability to present relatable and enjoyable music without sacrificing his authenticity.
By Emmanuel Okoro
When conversations surrounding the impact of an artiste arise, one of the core criteria that is considered is their discography. However, for someone as soulful and talented as the Accra-born but Port Harcourt-raised singer, songwriter, and producer, Timi Dakolo, such sentiments tend to take a backseat. Since winning Idol West Africa in 2007, Dakolo has become a household name in the Nigerian music scene, leaving an indelible mark through his vocals and poignant songwriting. Despite the scarcity of his album releases, he has consistently graced various prestigious events, solidifying his status as a go-to artiste for corporate events, weddings, and gospel-themed gatherings like The Experience.
Dakolo’s latest offering, The Chorus Leader, breaks a four-year silence since his last album, Merry Christmas, Darling, and a thirteen-year gap from his debut project, Beautiful Noise, released in 2011. The album’s 61-minute runtime is a captivating journey through various musical genres, showcasing his ability to seamlessly navigate R&B, Afrobeats, Afrobeat, Gospel, Highlife, Soul, and Gyration. This is particularly intentional as the album seems to accommodate a broad audience, including long-time fans who have been loyal to his music since his early days and new listeners with evolving musical tastes. Dakolo’s vocals take centre stage throughout the album, mostly assisted by a backup choir, as he breathes life into each track.
On the LP’s opener, “Omo Ayo”, Dakolo preaches the message of resilience amid rough circumstances. The production is reminiscent of an orchestral arrangement, carrying violin runs, mild piano chords, and local percussive elements that create a rich and dynamic backdrop. However, the song is carried by Dakolo’s songwriting and vocal delivery, backed by an acapella choir that offers a moment of brilliance. “Omo Ayo” sets a high standard for the rest of the album establishing a benchmark that he appears conscious of.
The next track, “Nothing Dey Spoil for God Hand”, feels like a continuation of “Omo Ayo”, as the lyricism here mirrors the preceding track. However, there’s a noticeable tempo switch as Dakolo treats audiences with a groovy composition characterised by staccato drums, lively piano synths, and the addition of electro-guitar and bass lines, creating a dynamic and energetic sound. Here, Dakolo talks about surrendering one’s worries and cares to a higher power. The lyrics, “I take my problem, leave am for God hand/ The one wey pass me, na there I drop am”, express a sentiment of trust and reliance on divine intervention.
Dakolo’s ability to craft numbers for newer audiences is not in short supply, as The Chorus Leader sonically shifts with the next number, “Happy Fellows”, an Afro-Piano rendition tailor-made for dancefloors. He effortlessly glides through the music, infusing it with an infectious energy that invites listeners to move and groove. The lighthearted nature of “Happy Fellows” is evident in Dakolo’s playful lyrics, where he takes a good-natured swipe at perceived haters. The lyrics, “Na God dey run am, If e easy do am/ I nor come life to chop your bitterness, na happiness be my own” reflect his philosophy of relying on divine guidance and choosing happiness over negativity.
Seasoned producer, MasterKraft, is in charge of the production of “Men of the South”, one of the album’s lead singles. On this gyration-infused track, Dakolo shifts his focus to celebrate the big spenders of the oil-rich South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The song captures the essence of those who indulge in lavish spending for the sheer pleasure of it.
Producer, Magical Andy, skillfully blends traditional Afrobeat elements with a modern twist on “Hustle”, filled with shakers, bass lines, and saxophones reminiscent of the music that luminary, Fela Kuti is known for. Dakolo’s lyrics advocate for the importance of hard work, emphasising the idea that one’s worth is often recognised through tangible achievements, particularly financial success. The line “Na who get money naim people know” underscores the societal emphasis on material success and how financial status can influence perceptions. Magical Andy returns to the dashboard on “No Forget Home”, another Afrobeat number that sees Dakolo share his perspective on the prevalent japa syndrome among Nigerians. He advises not to forget one’s roots or homeland amid the desire to seek opportunities elsewhere. The lyrics and music bear semblance to Sound Sultan’s 2006 evergreen single, “Area”.
Dakolo taps the assistance of dancehall superstar, Patoranking on “Na So E Be”, a Highlife number, backed by flicks of lead guitar, groovy bass lines, and mid-tempo drum rolls. Both artistes preach the significance of enjoying life, working hard, and embracing each day with a positive outlook. The lyrics and musical elements create an uplifting atmosphere, encouraging listeners to savour the present moment and persevere in their endeavours.
He showcases his inner lover boy for the first time on The Chorus Leader with “This Woman”, featuring an impressive lineup of Cohbams Asuquo, Phyno, Falz, and Black Geez, creating a cross-pollination of Highlife and Gyration. The track is a celebration of love, with each artiste praising their respective lovers in a mix of English, Nigerian Pidgin, native Igbo, Hausa, and Ijaw languages. On the soul-stirring “Hard Guy”, Dakolo delves into his romantic inclinations despite projecting a hard exterior. The track explores the vulnerability that comes with falling in love, and he confesses to his lover’s profound emotional impact. The lyrics, such as “Hard guy don fall in love/ E nor know left from right” convey a sense of disorientation – fear, even – and a departure of rational thoughts when love takes over.
“Premium Enjoyment” sees Dakolo smoothly navigate over mild log drums, bass guitar grooves, and moments of brilliance from the lead guitar. The song is a promise to a lover who deserves the best, emphasising his intentional and sincere feelings for her. “Ke Na Ke So” continues the romantic theme, with the artiste singing partly in English and native Hausa. The stripped-down musical backdrop, featuring familiar shakers and drum rolls, puts the focus squarely on Dakolo’s vocals. The lyrics express a deep commitment and devotion to his lover, with lines like “My slice of heaven, my choice is gold/ Until forever, your heart is home”, underscoring the enduring nature of his feelings.
Familiar shakers and drum rolls usher in “Iyawo Mi”, a track that has now become commonplace in Nigerian weddings. The inclusion of this song, despite being a 10-year-old track, attests to its enduring popularity and timeless appeal. Dakolo croons in English and native Yoruba, while he sings about commitment and devotion to his wife. “Anything for You” shares similar sentiments, with the singer proclaiming his willingness to do anything for his lover, reinforcing the theme of unwavering commitment.
The Chorus Leader dynamically shifts with “One Day”, as Dakolo addresses the theme of falling out of love. Despite the upbeat nature of the track, Dakolo’s lyricism reflects the pain and frustration associated with the loss. The open-ended promise to be there if she decides to return adds complexity to the narrative, capturing the emotional nuances of love and heartbreak.
“Obim”, released in 2021, slides in next. Here, he serenades a love interest in a blend of English and native Igbo. The emotive delivery, a hallmark of Dakolo’s style, contributes to the song’s popularity and its status as a staple in wedding playlists. The romantic and soulful atmosphere created by the crooner’s vocals makes it a perfect choice for couples looking to express love and commitment on their special day.
“The Vow”, despite being released in 2016, remains a standout record on the LP. Dakolo’s delivery is complemented by Asuquo’s masterful production, resulting in an earworm. The lyrics, such as “Baby, I’ll be your soldier, fight your battles/ Baby, I’ll be your shoulder you can lean on/ Baby, I’ll be your husband and your best friend/ and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to prove to you I’ll be true to you”, exemplify his prowess as one of the finest lyricists from West Africa.
The album ends with the well-received “Everything (Amen)” which brings the album full circle, delving into the theme of resilience and faith. Dakolo croons about the struggles of the common African, prophesying that their aspirations will come to pass.
The Chorus Leader is proof of Dakolo’s remarkable ability to present relatable and enjoyable music without sacrificing his authenticity. Throughout the album, he shares fragments of himself through stellar songwriting, exceptional vocal delivery, and collaborations with some of the finest features and producers. This collaborative effort culminates in a harmonious listening experience that resonates with a broad audience.
Despite any sentiments about the infrequency of his album releases, Dakolo dispels any doubts with this excellent project. In all, The Chorus Leader demonstrates the singer as a seasoned artiste who continues to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s music scene with no signs of slowing down.
Lyricism – 1.7
Tracklisting – 1.4
Sound Engineering – 1.5
Vocalisation – 1.7
Listening Experience – 1.5
Rating – 7.8/10
Emmanuel ‘Waziri’ Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on X, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde