Sep 17, 2013

Ayetoro - Asoju Oba E.P.

"We make music to make you dance and think as well... to transport you to places beyond the dance floor where your soul will be your pilot." ... Funsho Ogundipe

Ajoke Music & Africa-Related is proud to present the latest album by the internationally acclaimed Afrobeat/Jazz band Ayetoro. The long awaited EP 'ASOJU OBA' was officially launched on September 8, 2012 .

Pianist, composer, arranger and music director ‘Funsho Ogundipe, who has been describedas a maverick in the Nigerian music scene defying any easy pigeonhole says, "Today’s Ayetoro is experimenting with music genres such as Rap, Poetry, Neo-Soul and Blues and what remains unchanged is the quality of our music. There are no compromises there. The brand is rooted in tradition, yet very modern." ‘Funsho Ogundipe

'ASOJU OBA', the band’s 5th studio album which translates to ‘the king’s observer’, pays homage to the deep cultural ties between Bahia in Brazil and the Yorubas in Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana. It features three tracks which showcases the band expanding its musical base to cover contemporary Neo-soul and Hip Hop while retaining its jazz core.

‘Baba don go' is a tribute to Fela Kuti, featuring Lady Jay Wah from Ghana on vocals, Skillz from Nigeria on spoken word, solos by Byron Wallen and Shabakka Hutchings from the UK. 'Seeds in the Pod/Love is my Religion' is where Afrobeat meets conscious Hip Hop, and guest stars rapper Mendo, Caroline Fusi singing the hook with Ogundipe taking piano solos. It was inspired by the Sufi poet Abu Bakr Ibn al Arabi. The album was recorded at Alpha Junes (Lagos), Livingstone Studio (London) and Pidgen (Accra) and mastered by Sonny at Spare Dougal (London). The colourful and symbolic album cover was created by the Brazilian artist Prila Paiva from Sao Paulo.

Ogundipe plays a sweet melody on the piano with a rhythmic fluidity that bridges the gap between Afrobeat, Jazz and Funk with reflections on the past and present of both genres with style and grace. Ayetoro swings a hot eclectic number, sings a witty song about modern life, and then reaches deep for a soulful expression of values in a troubled world.

Oyiza Adaba of Ayetoro’s management says ‘the launch is an opportunity to address core issues surrounding harnessing authentic Nigerian music as export products, as well as give a one-of-a-kind culturally blended show to the band’s loyal fans worldwide who have supported the band for the last 16 years’.

This latest effort solidifies the band’s posterity with working with outstanding artists, great instrumentalists and Jazz musicians worldwide, and sets the stage for a well deserved local and international recognition.


With Asoju Oba, Ogundipe takes Afrobeat to a new level 

OVERLOOKING the lagoon along Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, Ember Creek resonated with exotic Afrobeat sounds last week Saturday. The occasion was the album launch of Asoju Oba, Funso Ogundipe’s latest Afrobeat project – with Aiyetoro in actual performance. With an audience that also included Lagos State commissioner for culture, Mr. Hollaway, devotees screamed and yelled appreciatively to the dynamics of Aiyetoro’s new music even as the soaked up wine and soft drinks to fuel their unquenchable appetite for more music.

Parading a front line horn section of tenor saxophone, alto saxophone and trombone, with of course a formidable rhythm section which featured the bass guitar, an emphasized conga drum and a busy talking drum, Aiyetoro reached out with a brilliantly formidable sound. And of course, the sound of the electric piano played by Funso Ogundipe himself served as the rallying point for all the instruments as he filled in with single notes and chorded solos that were carefully selected and articulated.

The problem with album launches of this type is usually the ability to match recorded quality with live performance. The situation was quite different here as the live performance became more appealing and attractive – on account of the bands level of musicianship.

As I told the crew of ‘studio 53’ who came to cover the event, Afrobeat is by tradition a fusion of elements of African music with jazz. But what marks Aiyetoro’s new approach out as a unique dimension is the deliberate effort to introduce jazz to the music in order to internationalise it. I am not given to the song by song, bar by bar dissection of music when it come, to reviews and appreciation, but suffice it to say that the new Afrobeat is full of dynamics, surprises, unpredictability, release and suspense, criss cross rhythms and what have you.

Like Britain’s Soweto Klinch whom I saw for the first time in 2004 at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Capetown, South Africa, Aiyetoro has introduced hip ho and rap to jazz and Afrobeat. While Soweto prompts his ‘rappers’ with the dexterity of his alto saxophone, Ogundipe compels his two ‘rappers’ with piano statements and well articulated riffs created by a horn section whose overall sound reaches out brilliantly and effectively because of the clean tones that the instruments elicit.

Funso Ogundipe’s Afrobeat is devoid of vocalization, the type that has come to be associated with politics and protect (as established by the music’s icon and creator himself, but Aiyetoro makes up for this with various dynamic elements – to hold the listener spell bound. The band is so busy that the songs are interpersonal with variations – as if it is a symphony. The ‘intros’ are very well calculated, followed by melodic themes after which solos that are characterized by sweet phrases and the brilliant tonal conception are articulated. Like Duke Ellington, Count Basic or even Ahmad Jamal of the Ahmed Jamal Trio, pianist and band leader rounds up with thematic configurations – most of which are derived from single notes. The appearances of rappers whose poems are designed to suit the themes of the songs help to take the music not only to a contemporary level where it appeals to the youth, in general terms, the entire approach helps to up date Afrobeat in the process of taking it to a new level.

Yinka Davis, perhaps the most powerful female jazz singer around – is not a member of Aiyetoro but she breezed in to identify with this unique and classy album launch. In her characteristic informal manner, she sang one of the band’s popular songs employing commentaries of her own improvisational source and establishing a rappour with the audience.

One of the beautiful highlights of  Aiyetoros new music is the deliberate effort to Africanise the music – not only with melodic themes and structures but also through the rhythm section. And this is where the talking drums donates – within rhythmic patterns that are specially created for it, the conga bass guitar and the trap drums.

Asoju Oba, the title theme of the CD in Yoruba literally means the kings spokesman, but there is a significant story behind it which will be told in a subsequent review.

However, the tune, Asoju Oba is appropriately dedicated to Thelonious Monk, an esoteric pianist who deserves to be called the king of pianist. It has a sub title, Italy Fingers. The first song is dedicated to the king of Afrobeat, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and it is titled, Baba don go (Baba has gone) while the third recorded song, seeds in a pod/love is my religion is dedicated to the memory of the late great Gil Scott-Heron.

Aiyetoro was founded by Funsho Ogundipe in 1996 after twenty years of piano-playing in different contexts. A large part of that time was spent understudying Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s composing and arranging style with his Egypt ’80 band. Ogundipe also spent time listening to different Lagos-based bands including the Extended Family led by Tunde and Fran Kuboye, Jahstik featuring Majek Fashek, Femi Kuti’s Jazz Quintet and the Art Alade Ensemble.

To date Aiyetoro has released five albums names Naija Blues (1996); something Dey (1998), The Afrobeat Chronicles Vols 1 (2002) and 2 (2006). The latest work, Asoju Oba has taken Aiyetoro’s accomplishments to a new level and a high height.

In 1999, Ogundipe moved to London to seek new challenges. While there, he formed another version of Aiyetoro which featured the cream of the U.K. jazz musicians including trumpeter Byron Wallen, bassist Orefo Orakwe, percussionist Lekan Babalola and Angela Alhucema; tenor saxophone player. Shabaka Hutchings and Ayo Odia. This band would begin the Afrobeat chronicles series in 2002.
In his search for new dimensions in African music and jazz, while he was still in London, we met at Jazz Café’ where the famous avant garde saxophone player Archie Shepp performed.

In 2007, Ogundipe decided to repeat Fela Kuti’s Ghanaian experience by moving to Ghana to work with Ghanaian musicians including the drummer C.C. Franks, bassist Phillip Acquah and Poducer Panji Anoff. The result of this whole Ghanaian experience is evident in the latest album, Asoju Oba where each of his outfits based in London, Accra and Lagos contributes a track.

For Ogundipe, music is Art and Art is life. His musical heroes are Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Duke Ellington and Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

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