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Interview: Kunle Ayo Africa’s most celebrated Guitarist talks 10 Q, s with Alt Africa

Interview: Kunle Ayo Africa’s most celebrated Guitarist talks 10 Q, s with Alt Africa

Kunle Ayo is one of the most sought after musicians on the jazz scene today and Africa’s most celebrated guitarist. Born in Lagos, his Yoruba parents may have predicted the making of a star naming him Kunle which means “abundance”. He started with drums and thumb piano at an early age later graduating to guitar in his late teens. By 28 Kunle Ayo was recording and playing with Nigeria’s internationally respected artists, like Chief Ebenezer Obey, Kayode Olajide and the enigmatic Lagbaja (The Masked One) with whom he toured, Europe, North Africa and South America. A regular at jazz festivals, notably the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz International Jazz Festival, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Mapungubwe Jazz Festival in Limpopo, Tzaneen Jazz Festival, Ekurhuleni Jazz comes alive and the Calabar Jazz Festival in Nigeria.

  1. What is the inspiration behind your current album Atunse: The Revolution?

Yes, Atunse: The Revolution, my most recent album, I’ll say that the songs are pretty intense. Lol. The songs are interesting in that I wrote them at different times and each talk about issues that matter to me at each given time. I really love the album is it speaks my heart. The inspiration behind the album is just my experiences, the pain, the joy, the ups and the downs of life gave the album it’s voice.

2) There is something infectious and up tempo about your music that evokes that sense of happiness. What inspires your sound?

Being a proudly African musician, I’ll say my style is shaped by my roots. Though I’ve spent time understanding the rudiment of western music, I consciously allow my African root to take precedence. I’ll say I’m a fusion Artist

3) You are a Nigerian Artist living in South Africa, where were you born and how long have you been in SA?

I was born in Lagos Nigeria and I moved to South Africa in 2002 and I’ve lived there ever since.

4) You have just released your 6th album. What would say if any has changed or developed from the 1st album to the 6th?

I’ll say that every album showcases a stage and phase of my life. I believe that I’m growing and understanding music in more ways now so all my records speaks about where I was at the time.

5) How long have you been playing the guitar for?

I’ll say 25 years now. I first picked the guitar year 1992 but my solo career started in 2002.

6) Growing up did you always think you would be here today an accomplished musician?

If I was told as a child that I’ll be a musician, I would have laughed cos nothing around me suggested that to me. I just followed my heart and I’m so glad I did.

7) What was your childhood like did your parents encourage this journey?

My dad had always been supportive but my mum didn’t understand it at first so I had to complete my studies before given a chance to do ME.

8) What was your earliest memory of when you realised that this was the path you intended to take?

It was in 1996 when I had finished studying accountancy that I wanted to try and see but by the end of that year, my mind was made up cos of the joy and fulfilment I felt.

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9) Who inspires you in the musical space past or present?

My earliest inspirations were Earl Klugh, Jonathan Butler, Lee Ritenour and later I discovered George Benson, Pat Metheny, Joe Pass. But when I started recording my projects I then started finding African artist irresistible.  People like Salif Keith, Yousour N dour and recently Richard Bona to mention a few.

10) What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into music.

Persistence, Passion and Pursuit. Don’t give up, keep reinventing yourself and be happy always. Lol

Kunle plays London Jazz Café Sunday April 30th. Tickets:

Album: Atunse: The Revolution is out now. Buy:


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