Kunle Ajayi is one of the most celebrated saxophonists in Nigeria. He performs daily in churches and big events to the awe of his listeners and admirers. A foremost player of jazz music, he spoke to ENCOMIUM Weekly on the explosion of jazz music to Nigeria and other issues.
How long have you been in the music industry?
I have spent over 30 years in the industry.
How did you start playing sax?
I had a problem with my lungs. At a point, I prayed and I told God that if He would heal me, I would blow an instrument to Him. I had been playing other instruments before, but I had that problem and I couldn’t blow any instrument anymore. But by the grace of God, I am healed and here I am now, blowing sax.
How long ago was that?
That was over 20 years ago.
Why the choice of sax?
Saxophone is next to the voice and you make use of your lungs. I chose it because of the problem I had with my lungs and I had gleefully watched Fela play it.
How did you learn it?
I taught myself.
It wasn’t so easy and it depends on interest. Luckily, I read Music and I have the talent, so I taught myself.
How will relate sax and jazz?
You can’t separate them. A lot of jazz artistes like Kenny G play sax because you can cry with it, you can grow with it. It’s a means of expression and like I said earlier, it’s next to the voice.
What’s the place of jazz in the Nigerian music industry?
A lot of people don’t appreciate jazz, especially in our contemporary music. A few intelligent people appreciate jazz. Very soon, people will be enlightened and jazz will be more appreciated.
What’s the essence of jazz?
At times, I don’t want to sing, you just want to listen to music. Jazz is like a free music, free-styled music that most times anything you play goes.
Will that mean there are different types of jazz?
Yes, there are different types of jazz music.
Let’s know them?
We have easy listening, there is the classical and we have the chronic jazz. What Kunle Ayo is doing is infusing Africa music into everything, not that kind of easy jazz you listen you, like modern jazz.
What of the jazz brands do you play?
I play instrumental music.
Why don’t we appreciate jazz in Nigeria?
It is because of understanding, the people and the place we are. A lot of Nigerians don’t relax. You can use jazz to relax and meditate, you can use jazz to think, not just dancing all the time.
Nigerians love to dance, but they don’t relax, so they don’t understand what jazz is all about.
What’s been your relationship with your spiritual father, Pastor Enoch Adeboye?
Pastor Adeboye is my daddy and when I had problems with my lungs, he was the one that prayed and it was through his testimony that I got healed. He was the one that gave me my first musical instrument, a recorder. That was highly prophetic to me, because I could not blow anything then. I still have it with me till date. It was the first instrument I learnt how to play.
You always play the sax before the ministration of Pastor Adeboye at every Holy Ghost service, how do you feel about this?
It’s an honour. It’s not that I am worthy of such, but it’s an awesome moment that I take seriously.
How do you get inspiration to play?
Through the word of God, through nature, things that happen and things that God interpret to me.
How will you describe yourself?
A very normal being like you.
What keeps you busy outside music?
I don’t do any other thing. music is my business.
Then how do you generate funds?
I play in churches. I am a music director. I direct the choir and I play for daddy.
Did your growing up shape your career?
I am from Idi Oro in Mushin. I am like an alakara boy, I schooled in Idi Oro for my primary and secondary education. I later proceeded to Lagos State College of Education, I studied Music Education.
What’s your comment on Kunle Ayo?
He is like a younger brother to me. He was with us before he left for South Africa.
With the state of the industry, where do you see jazz in the next few years?
The first time I released an album, people said ‘he’s just playing and blowing all though.’ But it sold millions. We have people who appreciate it. Just do it, you will find people who will appreciate it.
SHADE WESELEY-METIBOGUN and REBECCA AKINKUNLE
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, November 29, 2011