It’s coming to be a well-known fact by now that the way to cross coastal African stardom is paved with collaborations; in an artist’s ability to attract other, preferably more established, artists to their cause, however briefly. The continuing success of Diamond’s WCB music label is sustained on this premise, features a growing stable of names generally willing to lend their name to other artists in the same stable until every once a while, a bigger name can be secured from abroad–generally west coast– to offer a chance at the next level. For Harmonize, it was Koredo Bello and close on his heels, comes his label-mate, and collaborator, Rich Mavoko, with a track alongside Patoranking.
The track, Rudi, is a departure for Mavoko who forgoes Afrobeat bass-lines for something spare, crisp and midtempo—something distinctly Dancehall. Rather than drive the song the short, sharp taps of percussion keep time in a slow, tropical soundscape that moves slowly, inoffensively, if not quite euphorically. The arrangement chides a little with Rich Mavoko’s singing– who for a man whose second name is a play on the word vocals, loves autotune to a degree that can be at times be burdening, a little overpowering. Nevertheless, this seems to come from a fascination rather than reliance. There is enough in this song to suggest Mavoko views autotune as a tool rather than crutch as he manipulates its effect to different ends, making his voice airy through the choruses but tighter through the verses and especially at the bridge.
Patoranking equips himself well; in spite of a shaky start his verse long and distinctive enough for the song to briefly resemble one his own. It also helps one of the songs biggest strengths; namely, the way in which it seems to occur in phases, moving through a few tone changes and instrumental flourishes for an end that seems different enough from the start for the song to be worthwhile.
Mavoko doesn’t veer too far from the Bongo Flava formula. A genre effectively built on the kind of strained enunciation of Moyo, meaning heart, that features heavily and makes the chorus seem uninspired. Nevertheless, the song and arrangement feel thought through. The song is deliberate, whole. A mid-tempo slice of utopic heartbreak pop music for those easygoing days. The sound of an artist moving through the gears.