The Culture Joint

Fragrance of truth and emotions: ‘Chapter Red’ by Maayaa – Review


If you are an active Twitter user and follow a lot of conversations on Ghanaian Twitter, you might have come across her tweets, and you will either become a fan or not like her.

Well, it all depends on where you stand when it comes to fragrances. To tell you the story of Maayaa, I would have to take you back to 2017 when I first heard her song “Limbo.”

At the time, I thought she was part of the VI music team, which had artists like Adomaa, Robin Huws, Akotowaa, and Reynolds The Gentleman. Limbo was one of the most beautiful songs I had heard at the time. 2017 is by far the most amazing music year we have had as a country in the last decade.

Months down the line, after some “controversial” pictures had circulated on the timeline, Maayaa would release her second single “You”, another brilliant piece in the build-up to what is, in this writer’s opinion, the best debut project by a female artist in the last decade.

On a very chilled August dawn in 2018, as the good book describes, the thief will come in the silence of the night to steal. Well, Maayaa did come like a thief with her debut project, Chapter Red. The only thing she stole were our hearts, ears, and love.

For those who missed out on Chapter Red, this article is for you. Despite being involved in some controversial moments on the TL, there was general acceptance and agreement on how great the project was. A wise man once said, “Anger is short-lived when food is ready.” As the Gen Zs say it today; Maayaa did cook on Chapter Red.

The title and artwork of the project may seem very simple, but they carry a much deeper meaning. There are different connotations for the color red. From love, blood, danger, seriousness, passion, drama, health, and intensity. Listening to the project, there is a connection between each song and an emotional connotation.

In the song “San” with Akan, there is an outpouring of pain, sadness, broken trust, and to some extent, someone who lacks the courage to love.

The song starts with Maayaa, born Delores Maame Yaa Larbi, talking about how she kept listening to others instead of trusting herself. Which indicates a lack of courage, self-esteem, and belief. She does admit to not doing right by him “Na wo ne mete fɛfɛɛfɛ, wanyɛ me bone. I did you wrong and now you are gone. Mendi me bohyɛ so.” 

She goes on to talk about how her attitude drove him away, and he’s now with someone else, but she believes that the person doesn’t love him as much as she does. Which comes off as selfish and manipulative. She shows some vulnerability in her attempt to get him back.

However, I applaud a woman who learns from her mistakes and wants to correct them. Akan comes in and amplifies her plea to get her lover back. He plays on the love they shared in the past in the hopes of hitting a nerve that would rekindle their love.

“More” shows some passion and intensity. This time around, she takes the bull by the horn, and she’s the one asking for something deeper and stronger. She does not hold back in expressing her desires. While she asks her love interest for something more beyond their present casual agreement. 

“Lay next to you five times a week, you know exactly what to do to leave me weak. But that’s all there is to this. We can be more if you want it. More when you are ready.” 

She does admit that love can be scary, confusing, and uncertain, but this time around she is very confident about how she feels for him. “love makes you foolish, promise it’s worth it, maybe it’s not, I’m making shit up; I should just give up, but I can’t and I don’t want to”. This writer will like it to be known that if someone was this expressive about them, they would fold easily.

“Perfect” is a very beautiful song. It talks about self-love, being bold, and trusting your energy. People will try to deem your light just because you appear different, but Maayaa says, “They don’t understand your heart. Don’t stop loving who you are. You’re perfect just the way you are.” Keep your head up high, don’t listen to that inner evil voice, and know that you’re perfect. Despite not constantly receiving the love you give, do not let that break you. Never shy away from letting your light shine.

“Ride’ is where the lust, danger, sex, and intimacy are. It highlights how well-skilled Maayaa’s writing is. Her ability to create vivid images in a listener’s mind with her words is one of her biggest traits. She is a very daring lover. Because why is this girl asking someone to go to an isolated place with her where no one knows? What if she’s going to use him for rituals? And all this in the name of “they say life is short, them nor lie. Let us make each moment count” . Ei Maayaa, the explorer… Listening to Worlasi, you will understand why Maayaa is daring in her love.

After all, iron does sharpen iron. It is a case of Dora meeting Diego. On the other side of the coin, the song encourages listeners to be unapologetic in how they love. Sometimes, all you need is some space where you and your lover can “Busking in our glow.” The song creates the right atmosphere and mood to make some very memorable, life-changing magic. 

If there is any song that truly is a reflection of how great an artist Maayaa is, it is the last song on the project “Ensu”. This song carries a bundle of emotions, but on top of the bundles of emotions are sorrow and pain. The title of the song is very ironic if you take into account the contents of the song. Because why are you asking us not to cry? Each time I listen, I can’t help but cry inside. The chords at the beginning of the song, the mood of the song, the tone of her voice, and even the opening lines will get you sobbing within.

The song channels rage, anger, sadness, death, intensity, and too many emotions for one person to handle. There is so much anger in knowing that someone who was meant to be your forever is not going to be anymore, and there is nothing you can do about it. The saddest and ironic part is that the person you are losing is asking you to be strong for them and yourself. “I love you too much to watch you suffer/ Me mmrɛ na aba ewieyɛ Owuo na ɛte yɛn tɛm” To her, her time is up, and it is death that is separating you two.

After all this, she still tells you to “Ensu” (Don’t cry)  which in another way is selfish of her. Because if you know how much you mean to me and you know how painful it is when someone dies, why are you asking me not to show emotion by not crying? Death and crying go hand in hand. Even if the tear is one of joy, there is a wave of sadness that envelopes you when someone dear to you dies. 

The death in the song does not have to be physical. We all experience death in different forms. In another instance, the death in question is an emotional death, where all the feelings you have for someone just die. Either way, death in all its forms takes a toll on you, and you may never recover from it.

Looking back now, Ensu was a warning to fans of Maayaa. The opening lines of the song, when translated, mean, “I know I promised that we will live forever” She treated us to an amazing musical experience that was not going to be forever. This was her way of saying goodbye. Just like Ensu, her last solo song “See” released in 2019

Over the years, she has made appearances as a featured artist on Robin Huws’s Run (2017), Jay So’s 0106 (2019), Kojo Cue’s For My Brothers (2019), and  Written in The Stars ( The Perfect Picture Sound Track) 2020. In 2023, she may be known as the Fragrance Vigilante, but before her new role, Maayaa was and still is one of the best artists in the industry.

Her silky/smooth voice, writing, delivery, and overall artistry still linger in my mind whenever I see her tweet. So if you come across people asking for music and pushing her to drop music, it is because, some years ago when the Ghanaian music industry was transitioning and ushering in fresh blood, Maayaa was one of the voices that ushered in that phase.

She may or may not be retired, but legend has it that, she will come like a thief one dawn and steal our hearts again with more music. Until then, stream Chapter Red.

Written by: Nana Kojo Mula

The Culture Joint