Taste of Home
Jazz guitarist Kunle Ayo's 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. Since his trek to the south in 2002, Kunle has performed and recorded with some of the country's best artists - notably Marcus Wyatt (trumpet), Buddy Wells (saxophone), Moses Khumalo, Musa Manzini, Nombulelo Maqetuka, Judith Sephuma and Bayete front man Jabu Khanyile. Internationally, Kunle has also shared the stage with Dave Koz, Kirk Whalum, Al Jarreau and Jonathan Butler. In 2004 Kunle joined internationally respected trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, pianist Don Laka, gospel's First Lady Rebecca Malope and People's Poet Mzwakhe Mbuli into the stellar stable of T-Musicman, the country's leading promotions and event Management Company. He runs his own company, K Cool Productions, and has produced music for talented acts like MXO, Mac Jays, Peggy, Dudu Ndlovu, Mayé and a host of others. 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. But perhaps the answer lies in the meaning of his name. Loosely translated Kunle means ''abundance'' in his native Yoruba tongue. Literally ''kun'' means ''to fill'' and ''le'' stands for ''house''. So in a way perhaps he was destined to literally fill houses with his beautiful music. Born of Yoruba parents in Lagos, Nigeria, Kunle recalls how as a youngster he had always had an affinity to play, starting with drums and thumb piano and later graduating to guitar when he was a twenty-year old accountancy student. ''I could have easily become an accountant but after my father gave me that guitar as a birthday gift I was really inspired and encouraged to pursue music. Brought up in a devout Christian household, it was logical that he would join a gospel band, De Cross and after completing his accountancy studies in 1996, The Compassion Band, the latter, which proved to be an influential outfit that exposed him to the big time. By the late nineties he was part of Lagos's musical mainstream as a groundbreaking guitarist who was experimenting with cool/fusion styles made popular by artists like George Benson and Jonathan Butler while at the same time drawing inspiration from indigenous styles such as Juju, Highlife and Afro-Beat - the latter a traditional/jazz blend that was invented by the late Fela Kuti. By 2000 Kunle was recording and playing with some of Nigeria's internationally respected artists, including Chief Ebenezer Obey, Kayode Olajide and the enigmatic Lagbaja (The Masked One) with whom he toured Europe, North Africa and South America. ''No doubt those tours marked my highlight as a professional musician but I wanted an environment where I could focus and develop my style as a recording artist.'' Hi first album Ayo (Joy) was released in 2002 and was followed by "Sincerely Yours" in 2005. - the polished guitarist with refined sounds is on the rise to stardom.