AYO at MTN BUSHFIRE 2012
The 6th Annual MTN Bushfire Festival is thrilled. No – delighted. Actually, elated -- to count chart-topping, critically-acclaimed, globally-inspired singer/songwriter Ayo as amongst this year’s headliners. She will anchor a stellar lineup on Saturday (May 26) night (time TBD) with her evocative sound she calls “soul and magic.” A perfect sprinkling of musical stardust atop the enchanting spirit that each year pervades our three-day cultural celebration.
Born and raised in Germany to a Romanian mother and Nigerian father, and life-educated in Africa, London, New York and Paris, this rich cultural tapestry defines the singer/songwriter/musician’s distinctive and evocative stylings. Her breadth of experience – including a challenging childhood which led to her living in a series of foster homes – informs profound and introspective lyrics which are embedded in an intricately layered musical cushion. Influenced by such divergent artists as Pink Floyd, Fela Kuti, Donny Hathaway, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, Ayo’s (born Joy Olasunmibo Ogunmakin) 2006/2007 debut album “Joyful -- featuring the hit single “Down On My Knees” -- shot out of the gate like a cannon, achieving multi-platinum and gold status throughout much of the world. High profile American TV programs including “Late Show With David Letterman” and “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” came calling as did celebrated artists such as Kenneth “Babyface” Edmunds, with whom she performed on her US tour.
Having studied classical composition as a child, and embracing violin, piano and guitar with equal aplomb, Ayo’s broad musical strokes painted an even more nuanced effort with her 2008 follow-up “Gravity At Last,” which catapulted to #1 in France on the day of its release. Co-produced with Jay Newland and recorded at Nassau’s famed Compass Point Studios, the album features band-mates Keith Christopherson (bass), Larry Campbell, (guitars and other string instruments), Lucky Peterson (keyboards), Sherrod Barnes (guitar/vocals) and Jermaine Parrish (drums) and firmly solidified Ayo’s public appeal and critical stature.
Released in 2011, (2012 in the U.S.), Ayo’s third offering is perhaps her most accomplished and adventurous to date. Named after her daughter, “Billie Eve,” (and a take on her positive attitude “to always believe”), this self-produced album was recorded in New York and features a predictably eclectic lineup of guest artists, including Lenny Kravitz guitarist Craig Ross, performance poet/MC Saul Williams and David Bowie’s bassist Gail Ann Dorsey. Although still employing her trademark diversity, Ayo tips her toe into the rock ‘n’ roll/blues pool (playing electric guitar) with this effort, which she describes as “more straight to the point… I know they often say that your first album is --and will be -- the most important of all. To me it’s this one… “Billie-Eve” opened up new doors and supports the most powerful and intense lyrics I’ve ever written.”
And doors continue to open for her, as she adds to her list of accomplishments that of UNICEF Ambassador. “Each of us has a good reason to be on Earth, I believe that all is written. I was lucky enough to live my dream and to meet people who could help me do so. I may get misunderstood when I say that, but I always knew I was born to be an artist.”
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Official Photographers - Bram Lanmers and Sydelle Willow-Smith