We may not see it now but Cobhams Asuquo is for all intents and purposes, a national treasure.
At thirty-six years of age and visually impaired, Asuquo has been responsible for some of the biggest and most durable pop records of the past decade. To get a measure of his impact, try imagining a stark dystopian universe where the musical landscape is a wasteland and Asa’s classic eponymous debut did not exist. Instead of anthems like Great Nation and Iyawo Mi, Timi Dakolo churned out Pangolo music and Banky W stayed back in America doing Rihanna covers.
Cobhams Asuquo’s cultural legacy is unmistakable. It’s significance towers above pop hits such as Banky W’s Strong Thing, or future classics like Omawumi’s If You Ask Me, contributing heavily to film soundtracks and ear wormy jingles commissioned by product peddling banks and telecommunication companies.
The last decade of contemporary music simply wouldn’t exist without Cobhams Asuquo.
For his first album as a solo artist, Asuquo abandons the trappings of fame and lure of the bright lights and makes a complete gospel album that astounds in its craftsmanship and overflows with richness. From the single, Ordinary People which predates the album by at least three years, to the opening song, the naked plea, Make Our Hearts, it is quite clear that Asuquo is in a league all by himself.
Technically the project is faultless.
The finish is of international quality,- par for the course on any Cobhams Asuquo project,- and Asuquo’s big booming voice is placed at the centre of the affecting ballads that make up the album. Complementing him are deft piano strings, guitar licks and the occasional horns. The entire experience is a thoroughly pleasurable and enveloping, yet intimate encounter with the Most High.
Spiritually, For You tells a story of one who is in touch with and has enjoyed a higher level of grace. It is a personal record that speaks from the abundance of the heart and while guest appearances are welcome, they serve mostly to put finishing to Asuquo’s stellar vocal work.
Chocolate City singer Nosa who appears on the worship song, No One is the sole home-grown guest. Grammy winner Aaron Lindsey invokes black gospel soul on Highly Lifted and Clare Hendershot pulls double duties on Oh how I love and Praise to the Lord.
Seeking diverse avenues to spread his message, Asuquo breathes new life into his acoustic, delicate cover of one of contemporary gospel’s most irresistible numbers, Sinach’s More of You. He also attempts the 2003 Hillsong Worship tune, Here I am to Worship from their Hope album.
For You leans toward the monotonous in its expression of intent but it is only the most absent minded of folks that will be bored by the challenge of sitting through. The songs are soothing and wash over the most difficult sceptics if not with the skill of the songwriting,-so subtle, it is near unmissable,- then with the quality of production and detailed attention to craft.
It is a masterwork from an artist who considers excellence a calling card.
Praise and worship never sounded better.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, film/music critic and occasional ruffler of feathers. His writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. He has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments and City Press. Okiche also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He participated in the 2017 Durban International Film Festival as part of the Talents Durban. He tweets from @drwill20.