The best recorded music is sometimes the result of life altering circumstances stimulating the creative impulses in receptive musicians, which then take the idea into the studio. By chance, multi-reed player and composer Yacine Boulares was turned on to the infectious rhythms of Cameroon, leading to the record Ajoyo, a delightful hybrid of expressive vocals highlighted by regional bikutsi and makossa tempos, with a strong dose of afro-beat thrown in for good measure.
Surrounding himself with an international cast of hand-picked accompanying musicians, Boulares composed a series of songs based around West African polyphonies leaning toward a jazz sensibility presented by featured vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles. Charles adds a silken charm to the music, and sets the tone with her inspired interpretations. From the accelerated pace of "Jekoro," to the sentimental "Idanwo," and into the percussive "Benskin," and "Tashikere," numbers, Charles displays a mastery of tempo and tone, and exhibits why she is a rising star in the jazz vocal realm.
The rest of the band also rises to the occasion on instrumentals and kicks into high gear on "Chocot," and fuels an afro-beat frenzy into "Soke Ijo." The real joy in this ensemble is how they flow seamlessly throughout the record in the true sense of an interconnected ensemble. Everyone played their role to perfection without stepping out of the projected concept. With a blend of European and African cross cultural players in the lineup, the music exudes sophistication, yet responds to a primordial pulse.
Having paid his dues in what he calls "math music," and playing by numbers, Boulares discovered himself in the wake of his experimental foray into African music, and came out the other side a renovated and inspired musician.Ajoyo represents an engaging synthesis of what is possible when positive and creative forces are allowed to develop and mature.
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