Every other Thursday we have our Mics and Beats segment where we feature musicians. Our Mics and Beats artist is Multi-Award winning Nigerian born Jazz guitarist, Kunle Ayo. Kunle Ayo, one of Africa’s most celebrated guitarists, has earned several musical accolades, even comparisons with giants of the contemporary school like George Benson, Earl Klugh and Jimmy Dludlu.
Kunle Ayo has just released his new album “Atunse the Revolution”. His 6th studio album featuring internationally acclaimed musicians like Bra Hugh Masekela, America’s great Saxophonist Kirk Whalum and Zimbabwean guitar giant, Oliver Mtukudzi. The album comprises of smooth African contemporary jazz which is ethnically influenced. Due to the demand for diverse styles of Music, Kunle Ayo stands out as one of the artists who has retained his roots as a Nigerian Jazz Guitarist.
One of the songs to watch out for is “ILE” (which means home in Kunle’s native Yoruba tongue) in which he featured Zimbabwe’s Guitar Giant, Oliver Mtukudzi. Ile features the unique talents of both guitarists, whose natural in-studio chemistry makes for a smooth blend of the best that African jazz has to offer. The song, performed in Shona and Yoruba, talks about the importance of home and that feeling of comfort and safety of being at home. Ile inspires a longing for the familiarity of home, regardless of how close or far it is.
Kunle was born and brought up in Lagos Nigeria. His Yoruba parents named him Kunle which is loosely translated “abundance” in his native Yoruba tongue. Literally “Kun” means “to fill” and “le” stands for “house”. In a way perhaps he was destined to literally fill houses with beautiful music.
Kunle Ayo started by playing drums and the thumb piano. He started playing the guitar when he was 20, going professional at the age of 28. This is when he started recording and playing alongside Nigeria’s internationally respected artists such as Chief Ebenezer Obey, Kayode Olajide and the enigmatic Lagbaja (The Masked One) whom he toured Europe, North Africa and South America with.
Since his arrival to South Africa in 2002, Kunle Ayo has performed and recorded with some of the country’s best artists – notably the late Jabu Khanyile and international artists such as Kirk Whalum, Al Jarreau and Jonathan Butler. He has produced music for talented musicians like MXO, KB and Simphiwe Dana to name a few. Kunle Ayo is currently putting the finishing touches on the legendary Hugh Masekela’s forthcoming release.
Kunle Ayo’s albums include “AYO” (JOY), “BEYOND BORDERS”, “SINCERELY YOURS”, “A TASTE OF HOME”, “BEST OF BOTH WORLDS”, “JAZZIN UP HIS PRAISE”, and now the just released ATUNSE which was released on 30th April, 2016.
Kunle Ayo is an Ambassador for One Organisation alongside 18 other musicians including D’Banj, Femi Kuti, Omawunmi Magbele, Liz Ogunbo, Vicky Kimani, Buffalo Soldier, and Diamond amongst others. Their Do Agric Project which featured the incredible Pan – African “Cocoa naChocolate song”, was recorded and released in 2014.
In March 29, 2014, Kunle Ayo got London to a standstill during his Kunle Ayo Live in London Concert and DVD recording. The concert took place at the Swanky Under the Bridge in London. The concert was attended by the who’s who in the UK entertainment industry. The DVD will be released this year.
Kunle this year has performed at a couple of concerts this year. These include Safaricom International Jazz Festival in Kenya, the Ugu Jazz Festival held in Durban, Eldos Jazz Festival, Lesotho Tourism Festival and the Calabar Jazz festival in his hometown of Nigeria. He’s also playing at the Jazz Clubs in Johannesburg including The Orbit Home of Jazz and Winnies Jazz Club to mention a few as well as corporate functions and private parties.
Kunle has his own production company, K Cool Productions which he started in 2005. He has produced music for artists like MXO, KB, Simphiwe Dana, Dudu, Judith Sephuma and Asanda Bam.
K Cool productions has also produced a few TV programs namely Sound Sessions with KunleAyo, Purple Stripes and African Sounds aired on Africa Magic channel on Dstv.
What are your other interests outside of music? What do you do to relax outside of music?
Watching movies and spending time with family.
What keeps you going as a musician?
Every day is a new day and new experience.
If you were to perform with anybody/group in the world, either dead, alive who would it be? (You can name a couple of people)
George Benson, King Sunny Ade and Earl Klugh to mention a few.
What are your up to date performance plans? New releases? Tours? News?
My new album Atunse was released last month on 30th April.
The long awaited Live DVD recording titled “Kunle Ayo Live in London” was released on April 30. It features Mobo award nominated artist, Femi Temowo, Multi-award winning Alto Saxophonist, Soweto Kinch and a host of others.
If you would like to interact with Kunle Ayo you can find him on twitter @Kunleayo. You can also check out his YouTube channel. You can find Kunle Ayo’s new album on all music platforms like iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, cdbaby etc.