By Vivian Onyebukwa
It was a moment of fun and relaxation when Adedeji Adetayo presented his new album, “Yoruba Odyssey”, at a live concert. The two-day event, which took place at Alliance Français, Lagos, was a first act in the pre-promotional tour of the album.
“Yoruba Odyssey” is a project that goes back to the core of his very roots. It is a progressive jazz-funk record, influenced with vintage Afrobeat and Yoruba eclectic sounds, that greatly reflects Adedeji’s days growing up in the metropolitan city of Lagos.
It is a 10-track, educating, entertaining, feel-good funky album that chronicles his interpretation of the music and artistes that influenced him. From soul to jazz, to blues, to funk, you can hear his love for a variety of music geniuses.
“My kind of music is a fusion of afro, jazz and soul. It is what I call pan-eclectic progressive African music. In that sense, I like to blend a lot of our culture, mostly borrowing more from the Yoruba cultural music. It is a fusion of all the people that have been before me, Fela, Ayinla, Arinosola, and all the music that I grew up with. My knowledge of jazz and funk that I have been exposed to, and a lot of music from around the world.”
The line-up on the recording are all wonderful musicians, giving their best approach to Adedeji’s complex compositions. The lyrics are sung in Yoruba, English and Pidgin.
“Yoruba Odyssey” was recorded in three days in Lagos in one of his visits to Nigeria at the legendary Afrodisia/Decca Studio, that has housed giants like Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and many more. The album presents authentic and personal ideas with tremendous harmonies and tight arrangements. The nine-man band includes some of Nigeria’s best studio musicians. The grooviest rhythm section and a splendid horn section add to the afrobeat-influenced sound, together with the beautiful male and female backing vocals that clearly have references to Adedeji’s gospel upbringing.
Adedeji Adetayo started singing in a church choir in Lagos at the age of six and by the age of 10 the talented singer became the leader of the choir. From 13 years old, he was already a highly sought studio singer and recorded and performed with local Nigerian stars like Imoleayo, Pasuma, Obesere, Gbenga Adewusi, Sound Sultan, and Sammy Okposo, to mention a few.
At 15, he picked up the guitar and, three years later, he was also working as a professional guitarist. When he was 18, he took a music theory exam at MUSON College, Lagos, and then went to The Polytechnic of Ibadan to study Music Technology, and finally continued to study music at the University of Lagos. It became a short visit as he was too busy with his professional career. Later, he graduated from London College of Music with a licentiate in guitar performance and further specialised at the Prins Claus Music Conservatory in The Netherlands with a bachelor in Jazz Music.
Since then, the gifted musician has recorded and shared the stage with Tony Allen, Lionel Loueke, Gene Jackson, Lagbaja, Ayo Bankole, Paco Sery, Keziah Jones, Fred Wesley and Fra Fra Sound.
Describing Nigeria’s music industry, he said, “I am really proud with what the guys are achieving with the minimum support in terms of art development in the industry, because it takes a lot of love and guts to do what they do. We have a Nigerian Grammy Award winner now and that’s a good thing as well. But the good thing is that there are a lot of unique sounds. I would also want more exposure to different Nigerian music, not just popular music that is mostly played on the radio, because there are a lot of talented acts there that are hidden, or don’t have the kind of opportunity that the rest of the guys have. That is what I would really love to see happen, because in the past it used to be that we had different juju musicians but everybody sounded different. We had a lot of highlife musicians but everybody sounded completely different. Osita Osadebe is different from Oliver De Coque. Chimezie is different from everybody. The same with Sunny, he is different from Obe. Even fuji artistes sounded a lot different from each other.
“So, it will be nice to bring that kind of thing back, where we actually develop our traditional music, and take it to the international standard. This is something which Fela did and a few others. However, it is going great. There is a lot of followership with Nigerian arts.”
He advised upcoming artistes to believe in themselves, be honest and keep doing what they do.
The producer of the music, founder of One World Records, Carolina Vallejo, described Adedeji’s music as amazing: “When you are somebody who works with music like I do, you hear a lot all the time. For me to like music, I’m spoilt because I grew up with it. I went to concert with James Brown, Angelique Kidjo. I’m spoilt with music with great artistes. So, Ayodeji, to me, has come to be, in my pinion, one of the best guitarists of the world at this moment. I believe he is as well a singer. Incredible, he is down-to-earth, and a master of what he is doing. He is like an expert. I haven’t had one time he plays a wrong tune or sings a wrong note. Every time, he makes a new surprise, and I discover something new that he can do. And I look forward to that moment and I get it every time. That’s good music, that’s music for life”.