Soon, we can expect to see these names blossoming in the mainstream, thanks in part to the experience gained from this album, which ultimately proves to be a decently viable and enjoyable listen.…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
In the Nigerian music landscape, there are few avenues for internships, apprenticeships, and continuance. This was a niche that the Sarz Academy was intent on filling. The Sarz Academy is a Nigerian non-governmental and non-profit organisation established around 2015 by the renowned producer Sarz (Osaretin Osabuohien). Alongside him are board members, Opeyemi Iredumare, an intellectual property and telecommunications lawyer, and Olajumoke Olayiwola, an entertainment lawyer and music executive. Together, their mission is to train and educate aspiring creatives, professionals, and public personalities in the music industry – enriching their knowledge in creativity, innovation, leadership, legacy, and advocacy.
Initially focusing on music production, the academy has seen notable talents pass through its doors. The inaugural class of 2015 featured promising producer Stg, while the 2018 class included names like Dunnie, P.Priime, and Tempoe. Evolving its approach to address the realities of the music industry, the academy expanded to involve artistes in the process. This resulted in the release of the 6-track EP Memories That Last Forever in 2020. This EP allowed the young graduate producers to collaborate with prominent artistes like Tiwa Savage and Zlatan. For its recent session, the programme solidified this new approach by admitting budding artistes and music producers. The selected talents got to learn from industry heavyweights across the full spectrum of the music industry. Under the tutelage of Sarz and his contemporaries, the accepted applicants were given a space and the tools to collaborate and create numerous songs. Now, after the rigorous process, the eagerly anticipated second edition, Memories That Last Forever 2, has arrived. This impressive 15-track EP, showcases the talented crop of young producers and artistes, providing them with a grand stage to display their skills. The project is a testament to the Sarz Academy’s commitment to nurturing new voices in Nigeria and shaping a vibrant future for the music industry.
Considering the compressed length of the creation cycle and the sheer number of people involved, it is quite remarkable, the quality that was maintained throughout the project. The minimum standard is decent and most of the songs across Memories That Last Forever 2 land with adequate impact. An impressive majority of the songs range from satisfactory to good.
Tracks like “Resemble,” produced by Costa Rican producer BomboCat and performed by Fxrtune, offer a decent Afrobeats instrumental with fun melodies. The pad chords and saxophone backing add a nice touch to the standard Afrobeats drums. Fxrtune’s soft and emotive vocals beckon the listener in, but the overall presentation feels a bit sparse. The lyrics come across as simple and slightly cliché, with lines like “Oh my Angelina, sweet like semolina.”
Slowing down the tempo for a more R&B feel is “233,” produced by Twitchpapiii and performed by Charmaine ‘LA, one of the two women in the class. Charmaine’s singing is the highlight of the song as her soft and delicate voice emotes beautifully. However, the instrumental does not quite fit the vibe of the track, with ghostly pads, deep bass, and rattling hats feeling slightly sparse. Despite this, Charmaine’s vocal layers and harmonies add richness to the song.
“Good To Me” is a gospel Amapiano track, produced by BomboCat and Twitchpapiii, and it features energetic drums and glossy chords. Perfext and Gimba provide the vocals, and their melody work is commendable. The gospel choral chorus adds a captivating touch to the song. However, outside of the chorus, the vocals can feel a little bare, with moments that could have used more energy.
“Sad Love” sees artistes Millymay_pod and Syntiat try their hands at a low-tempo R&B instrumental courtesy of producer, Chibooplaythebeat. Unfortunately, the beat fails to create the desired emotional atmosphere, with synthetic guitars and spaced-out drums that fall relatively flat. Syntiat’s vocals tend to sound slightly nasal, and the lyrics lack the nuance or depth to fully engage a willing or avid R&B listener.
“Inside Life” draws on personal experiences, offering wisdom and simplicity with its lyrics. The instrumental, produced by Dartz and Twitchpapiii, is straightforward, with Afrobeats drums, a simple synth melody line, and deep rumbling 808 basses. Fxrtune delivers simple, yet, effective melodies that resonate well with the theme of the song. This results in a powerful and introspective track.
On “Only Man,” Gimba showcases his playful and sensual side above the spacious midtempo Oddwave-produced Afrobeats instrumental. The beat is founded mostly on its rhythmic drums and a sporadic bassline. Gimba’s smooth melodies and modulations blend effortlessly with the instrumental as he brags about his sexual prowess.
“Steady” comes in as an R&B-inspired Afroswing song produced by Twitchpapiii and Oddwave. The uncomplicated instrumental features vocal samples, a lively bass guitar line, rattling shakers, and straight-laced drums. Gimba and Charmaine ‘LA form a decent duet. For some reason, the R&B-inclined songs in this class do not feel strong enough. Perhaps this highlights the necessity for the students to practice outside of Afrobeats to further refine their adaptability.
“Rude” almost reaches the upper echelon, with Syntiat recounting painful experiences with a rude ex who still lingers in her mind. Her singing is strong here, although there are moments when the flow feels inconsistent and the lyrics rushed. The O.S.O-produced beat hints at a Dancehall slant in its production, combining sultry filtered synths with deep bass and snappy snares.
Fusing Drill with Afrobeats, “DPWMH” features gunshot effects, triplet hi-hats, and snappy snares in its instrumental. The Blueszn, BomboCat, and O.S.O-instrumentals possess some intriguing melodic parts, but again, the energy feels lacking in certain places. Millymay_pod and Pjstar give their best on the song, but the overall mix feels somewhat empty, and the lyrics and melodies do not capture the imagination.
“Body Wicked” is a genre-fluid Afrofusion effort with whiffs of Hip-Hop influences and 808 basses. Thekidfuzzy infuses the instrumental with unusual electronic synths, adding a unique flavour to the track. The percussion-heavy drums do not, however, hit as prominently as desired. Millymay_pod’s delivery feels somewhat lacking, although the falsetto employed in the chorus stands out as the highlight of the song.
While all these songs are good in their own right, there is another cohort of tracks that stand above the rest, making an outstanding impression. Produced by Blueszn and performed by Perfext, “Breathe” features soft pad chords, a rich bass, and sparkling synth accents, topped by simple Afrobeats drums. It is a salient opening track, beginning with a solemn voiceover and emotionally affecting production. Perfext’s heartfelt delivery is the centrepiece of the track, with beautiful lyrics about surviving life and persisting through challenges. The rich instrumental atmosphere combines beautifully with Perfext’s introspective vocals to create an emotive and soulful experience.
“Ready” brings in a new flavour, combining naughty and explicit lyrics with wonderfully agile melodies and deliveries by Fxrtune and Pjstar. The beat, a collaboration between O.S.O, Blueszn, and Oddwave, is innovative, blending R&B sub-basses and bright synths with traditional percussions and a multi-genre drum pattern. The song ends with an enjoyable synth-driven outro section.
“More” effectively captures simplicity, with Twitchpapiii producing a delightful midtempo Afroswing instrumental. The tone is set by filtered chords, subtle chopped vocal samples, and spacious drums with an infectious bounce. Perfxct’s vocals glide effortlessly over the instrumentals, featuring catchy hooks, varied melodies, and confidence-wooing deliveries across the song’s runtime.
“Buga” is a wonderfully energetic bop. Thekidfuzzy comes up with a fantastic engrossing beat, reminiscent of something Rema would work with. The electronic-tinged chord progression, bell-like mallet accents, and boisterous drum arrangement create a very unique feel for the song. Fxrtune confidently delivers catchy melodic verses, darting in and out of various rhythmic pockets to captivate the listener.
Finally, there’s “Jam One Kele.” So far, this is the only song off the project with an accompanying music video, and it is understandable. This track should be the poster song for the class. It is a perfectly commercially-viable hit, as it embodies the midtempo Afrobeats energy and vibe that Wizkid has become synonymous with. The delightful instrumental – a joint venture between BomboCat, Oddwave, and Twitchpapiii – features wah guitar chords, clacking Afrobeats percussions, rolling congas, and a swaying laid-back drum arrangement. Fxrtune, Gimba, and Millymay_pod coalesce to sing about the fantastic woman they met the previous night and the lasting impression she had on them. They combine their powers tremendously, creating a relaxed vibe with the interactions between their distinct melodic flavours.
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This project goes beyond just being a music album; it represents an intentional effort by Sarz and his board to continuously nurture budding talent within the Nigerian music industry. For aspiring creatives in the third class of The Sarz Academy, this opportunity is a significant achievement that will shape their careers. At closer inspection, the album is a commendable effort, considering that everyone involved is an emerging talent. Undoubtedly, they encountered new challenges while at The Academy, such as working under scrutiny, and with limited time. Experiences like these are vital for building their repertoire of experience and growth.
An immediately apparent shortcoming lies in the realm of lyricism. Attention to detail in the lyrical department is lacking in many instances. A significant portion of the lyrics feels cliché and simplistic, relying on tried and tested Afrobeats sentiments. Thankfully, certain songs manage to shine through, with better and more relatable writing, particularly those with emotional and anecdotal themes. Perhaps the songwriters needed more time to come up with lyrics for the songs that were less personal and were more generic pop affairs.
Given its nature as a compilation album, Memories That Last Forever 2 is composed of songs stemming from multiple creative visions, and as such, it lacks a cohesive thread to bind the tracklist together. If the tracklist were crafted around a central theme or concept, the album’s flow would have been enhanced and offered a more cohesive listening experience.
As expected from The Sarz Academy, the majority of the production is stellar. These young producers demonstrate their versatility and creativity throughout the project. While some experiments prove successful, a few areas fall short. Notably, certain songs exhibit an evident lack of comfort with R&B sounds, impacting the overall delivery. Additionally, drum and sound selection on some tracks may benefit from refinement, and a few songs appear somewhat oversimplified. The mixing, at times, lacks depth, resulting in tracks that feel somewhat hollow. Despite this, the final engineering and mastering are mostly exemplary.
The standout elements across most of the project are, undoubtedly, the artistes themselves. Charmaine ‘LA, Gimba, Perfext, Fxrtune, and others, shine brightly with their vocal prowess. These young talents continuously explore diverse melodies, finding effective ways to utilise their vocal abilities, and engaging the listener in captivating ways.
Indeed, rawness is a natural trait for young talent, but the potential displayed throughout this project is undeniable. The hope moving forward is that The Sarz Academy and its talents can refine and hone the raw materials they possess, transforming them into polished gems of high quality. Sarz and his academy are undeniably making a significant impact, as evident in the track record of their graduates. Soon, we can expect to see these names blossoming in the mainstream, thanks in part to the experience gained from this album, which ultimately proves to be a decently viable and enjoyable listen.
Lyricism – 1.2
Tracklisting – 1.2
Sound Engineering – 1.3
Vocalisation – 1.4
Listening Experience – 1.2
Rating – 6.3/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.