All that jazz: Kunle’s Best of Both Worlds

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He is one gentleman who is absolutely passionate about and thoroughly enjoys what he does. He thrills audiences, especially the female members, with his infectious, sunny stage presence.

Nigerian jazz guitar great, producer and TV personality Kunle Ayo always delivers performances in a playful manner characterised by the ever-present smile.

This writer caught up with him recently at the October International Jazz Festival and spoke with him about his work in the last two years.

The South Africa-based Kunle recently released Best of Both Worlds, a diverse album with authentic African jazz.

Showcasing his versatility, the album is a fusion of the Apala style from Nigeria and South African maskandi music. It is a product of the African Renaissance and Kunle drew his inspiration from the influences of Nigerian, Zimbabwean and South African sounds.

The 12-track album is a treasure and sheer pleasure to listen to; it presents the guitar master’s lyrical style of playing in new and exciting ways.

The song Best of Both Worlds is an instrumental with a rich fusion of sounds; combining Kunle’s characteristic and bold solos with some ululations.

A particularly enjoyable song is Words in My Head, a cool, laid-back track with fantastic vocals and a prominent lead guitar. Happy Day is a sunny singalong song that brings out Kunle’s depth as a vocalist.

The album also carries some extraordinary and cool instrumentals including Devotion, Let’s Celebrate and Todii, Kunle’s interpretation of the song composed by Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi.

The jazz maestro said “Todii is a special song for me. A few years ago I wanted to do a project celebrating the great African artists including Manu Dibango, Oliver Mtukudzi and Salif Keïta. Other commitments diverted my attention from the project and I never finished it, but Todii stuck to me, I could not let it go.

The song gets people dancing anywhere in the world.

“Doing a new version of great songs is a nice way of letting other artists know that it is good to celebrate our forerunners who gave us great music; we don’t celebrate one another enough and I would like to encourage the preservation and development of our music through different interpretations of some of the continent’s great music.”

Kunle also shows innovation and diversity in the track E Dey Possible, a hip-hop-jazz track that features rap artist JR.

On Outro Kunle’s unique creativity is demonstrated when he fuses drumming Apala style with his sunny guitar style to create a fantastic sound.

In the last two years he has also produced Judith Sephuma’s new album called I’m Living Testimony and co-produced South African artist Asanda Bam.