On the eve of its new album release, waka-about finds out from Funsho Ogundipe what makes the band Ayetoro a musical phenomenon
How would you describe Ayetoro’s evolution in the last 15 years? What is the current Ayetoro brand?
A. The band was formed in 1996 in Nigeria. Our first album ‘Naija Blues’ featured Segun Arinze, the late J T West, Shadrack John and a host of other guest artists. I then relocated to the UK. In London, together with music talents such Byron Wallen the trumpeter, guitar player Jim Mulle, bass player Orefo Orakwue etc, Ayetoro performed at live shows across the UK. In 2007, we formed Ayetoro Ghana with an equally talented group of musicians such as bassist Phillip Acquah, drummer C. C. Frank. Our producer Engineer Panji Anoff lives and works from out of Accra. What you hear now is the new Ayetoro in Nigeria which was formed when I came back in 2010. The journey has been remarkable, with the band playing alongside respected talented musicians worldwide. The one constant about Ayetoro is that it has been and remains open to musicians that understand the music and bring a certain level of quality and creativity to it. Asa toured with us, the legendary guitarist Oscar Ellimbi and bass player Falna King, both from Cameroon, played in the first edition of Ayetoro in Lagos. What remains unchanged is the quality of our music. There are no compromises there. The brand is rooted in tradition yet very modern.
Musically, was coming back to Nigeria from the UK & Ghana, a good idea?
Coming back to Nigeria was a fantastic idea. Home is where it’s all at. We needed to bring all three versions of Ayetoro up to speed and continue our exploration of space music where it started from.
What do you find present and lacking in the Nigerian music landscape with hip-hop dominance? Is there a fan base still for your type of music? What is the ideal Nigerian music scene for you?
On the positive side, the current musical scene in Nigeria has more participants. More investments are coming into the industry daily. We see a reliance on marketing and reality shows as avenues for exposure very much like the Anglo-Saxon model. Also the current generation is very business oriented and keeps their eyes on the ball all the time. Its standard for them to collaborate on each other’s work and this is an improvement on earlier times when overblown egos and a lack of vision were impediments to progress. On the negative side, talent is thin. Not many musicians can play musical instruments or are aware of the technicalities. The reliance on a producer-driven sound means there is less originality and a reliance on gimmickry and less on artistry. Also many of the new generation are not patient or willing to pay their dues. They want it now and feel that Nigeria is America.
Culturally, is Nigeria exporting the right products?
A.No we are not. But again do we know who we are?
At which tourist/historical sites in Nigeria would you like to perform and why?
A. With our name being homage to Yoruba culture, Ayetoro would love to perform at the Oramiyan Obelisk in Ile Ife and the Ijebu wall named after Bilikisu Sungbo. We would also like to play for the people of the original seven Yoruba towns with concerts staged outside the Afin Oba (king’s palace) and end up with an all night concert at the Old Oyo Ile. This would be the Asoju Oba tour where we bring the music to the mass of the people.
What is next for the band? What does the big picture look like?
A. The band is currently refreshing its membership with the aim of bringing the average age down and absorbing modern cultural influences. We are now a world music band with strong Jazz and Afrobeat roots and a global collaborative vision.
The new Ayetoro Album is quite colourful. Can you explain the concept behind the cover?
A. Its cover is a collaborative work involving Prila Paiva a Brazilian artist who is steeped in African culture. It is an esoteric representation of an Ifa story. The new album is titled Asoju Oba, which roughly means the King’s eyes. It is inspired by the writings of the Brazilian author Jorge Amado who exposed Yoruba culture to the Portuguese speaking world.
What should fans look for in the next album and when does it hit stores?
A. The album will be available firstly as digital download on Itunes by mid February, then a vinyl 45 inch and finally as a CD album in stores by March
Judging from your past works, your band thrives on quality, what’s Ayetoro’s secret formula?
A. Why don’t you ask Coca cola to give you their secret formula? If they do then come ask us again.
Where can your fans watch you play in Nigeria?
Find Ayetoro Live on Facebook, like us, get all the info there (music, videos etc) and see where next we’ll be playing.