Ajoyo (Ropeadope RAD264, 2015)
Ajoyo is a superb new Afro-rooted band. Their debut album Ajoyo is one of the finest recordings in this category I’ve heard so far this year. Ajoyo mixes Cameroonian traditional rhythms with Afrobeat, soul and contemporary jazz.
The multinational band features artists from various parts of Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean and the United States. The music selection is varied, from call and response songs to beautifully composed instrumental sections.
The band les led by French multi-instrumentalist and composer Yacine Boulares . He recruited emerging jazz vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles, who crosses jazz, soul and Afrobeat boundaries with ease.
While I find many Afrobeat bands monotonous, Ajoyo goes far beyond Afrobeat, with extensive jazz excursions, featuring memorable multi-reed solos by Boulares and guitarist Alon Albagli who delivers a fabulous jazz fusion solo on ‘Idanwo.’
Boulares grew up in Paris, born in a family of Tunisian heritage. “It was a challenge for me to understand my Arabic heritage,” recalls Boulares. He traveled to Tunisia during summers to study Arabic and discover more of his heritage. He showcases that Tunisian influence on ‘Houb Ouna,’ a composition that blends Tunisian rhythms with sub-Saharan elements, following the path of slaves and migrants from the south to the north.
Thanks to a Fulbright scholarship he moved to New York, where he met influential Cameroonian drummer Jojo Kuo who encouraged him to combine Cameroonian beats with jazz. For the debut album, Boulares recruited Cameroonian bassist Fred Doumbe, New Orleans trumpeter Linton Smith, Barbadian percussionist Foluso Mimy, French drummer Guilhem Flouzat, Israeli guitarist Alon Albagli on guitar, Turkish-German keyboardist Can Olgun, and American vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles. Co-producer Jacques Schwarz-Bart contributes tenor sax on one piece.
Ajoyo is a splendid debut album by one of the most interesting new bands in the New York Afro-rooted world music scene.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.