'No Jazz club that does not know Ayo'
A GO-GETTING fellow such as Nigerian-born guitarist Kunle Ayo must find it easy to succeed in South Africa.
Mzansi, after all, switched from proclaiming it is "alive with possibilities" to simply telling those who live in it that "it's possible".
Ayo's comprehension of the slogans is part of the reason why his name cannot be found on a list of musicians that have not tasted their sweat before an audience in a while.
Instead more than 5000 Facebook friends of the often broad-smiling musician are likely to tell stories of weekly bombardments at this or that gig or event he invites them to.
There's confidence in the artist's voice when he boasts that "there's hardly a jazz club that does not know who Kunle Ayo is".
"There is this particular artist; I went to his house when I first came here 10 years ago. I expected him to have his own studio. He did not. I have my own studio. In Nigeria we grew up fending for ourselves. We were not allowed to rest on our laurels, wait for things to happen or be done for us," he warns.
Ayo's pro-activeness has seen him producing or collaborating with countless artists, including RJ Benjamin, the late Jabu Khanyile, Simphiwe Dana and lately smooth US jazz artist Kirk Wharlum.
"Some artists approached for collaborations felt I was trying to ride on their backs. The idea, for me, is to give birth to something fresh. I come from a place where if you keep doing the same thing over and over people get bored."
Having won several awards such as a Kora and a Metro FM, it pains him that he has yet to secure a nomination for a Sama. The closest, with his five solo albums to date, he has come to the award's processes was receiving a call from the Sama office.
"The purpose of their making contact was that they wanted to see my (resident) permit. South Africa has become home to me whether somebody likes it or not.
"The thing is in the next 20 years or so you are likely to find a Nigerian in power in this country, Bafana Bafana will have players of Nigerian origin because a lot of South African women are married to Nija boys," Ayo reckons.
While the musician - who also dabbles in acting and presenting - believes South Africans are sweet people, he points out that some have not made life easy for him.
"I was sick, dying as they would say, and this doctor I had gone to consult wanted to know if I had drugs after learning I was Nigerian. I felt bad. It was a joke to him but not to me."
Ayo's surfing of South African stages takes him to Wits University in Braamfontein, Joburg, where he features in a concert titled Step n Slide Hip-Hop and Gospel Concert in the Great Hall this evening.
"It's not just a concert, it's a movement, a cultural exchange project that will see us taking Mzansi artists to Nigeria next year," Ayo says.
- The first mishap I had on stage, was when all of a sudden the guitar I was playing flew up into the sky. Apparently, it had rained a little earlier and I didn't know the guitar was wet, so it was electrified.
- Sipho Hotstix Mabuse was the first South African artist I collaborated with at the Blues Room. The curiosity and excitement on his face lingers in my mind.
- I had my first encounter with a local traffic officer in the first week I got here. I was driving without a licence. The officer was kind enough to let me go but not without me parting with my dollars.
- My impression about my first South African girlfriend was that her shape was very fascinating because South African women are more curvaceous.