By Shout Africa Correspondent
The charismatic jazz guitarist Kunle Ayo, born of Yoruba parents in Lagos, Nigeria has joined South Africa’s leading booking agency Southern Pulse.
The 2004 Kora Award winner’s (for Best Male Artist – West Africa) virtuosity with the strings has earned him several musical accolades and even comparisons, with giants of the contemporary school like George Benson, Earl Klugh and locally-based Jimmy Dludlu. His guitar work pulls at the heart-strings-soulful as it is cheerful, funky as it is jazzy.
A dazzling live performer, Kunle was part of the 2006 Joy of Jazz Guitar Summit which included guitar masters Jimmy Dludlu, Alvin Dyers and Louis Mhlanga. Kunle has performed and recorded with some of South Africa’s best artists – notably Marcus Wyatt (trumpet), Buddy Wells (saxophone), the late Moses Khumalo, Musa Manzini, Nombulelo Maqetuka, Judith Sephuma and the late Bayete front man Jabu Khanyile.
Internationally, Kunle has also shared the stage with Dave Koz, Kirk Whalum, Al Jarreau, Norman Brown and Jonathan Butler.
As one of the most sought after performers Kunle has appeared in lots of jazz concerts, notably Joy of Jazz, Jazz By The River, MACFEST, Mapungubwe Jazz Festival and Joy of Jazz International Festival. But what makes him such an exceptional stage performer? ”What makes my shows special is the positive response I receive from the audience. My philosophy on live entertainment is that I don’t play for the people but I play with the people”.
Kunle has released 4 albums since moving to South Africa in 2002 and is currently working on the fifth album to be released soon. His second album earned him a Channel O Award for Best Jazz Video (2005) from his groovy track “Slowly But Surely”
Here is what some of his friends say:
‘KUNLE! It’s a good thing we in the States don’t know what that name means, because once you hear his incredible, energetic, world-beat, soulful, jazzy, uplifting music, you’ll still be baffled anyway! What is a Kunle?! Just listen and be transformed.’ KIRK WHALUM
“Kunle has a rare combination of gifts—he is able to tell a story simply with a melody on guitar and at the same time, fill the ears of a listener with an incredibly authentic musical point of view. His passion feels rooted in his love for his homeland and his distinct appreciation for humanity. The music he makes is a thing of beauty”.