At first you don’t know what’s happening. The musical elements don’t immediately mix, but then it hits you: The sleepy twang of slide guitar lulls you as the slow, seductive come-hither finger-curl of Ayo’s wispy, Sade-meets-Billie Holiday voice finishes the job off. She’s pleading to a leaving lover, an unworthy one at that, in “Down on my Knees,” but he’s the only one she hasn’t won over in the four- minute intro to her reggae, folk and soul-infused debut album.
With Joyful, the Afro-German songwriter – already platinum-certified in Europe – candidly muses on the traditional ballad topics of family, motherhood and hitting rock bottom, but mostly she talks about love and all of the plentiful and needy forms it takes. Ayo digs in deep, recounting all of the inflicted scars in a soft, sweet tone that belies the underpinning of an emotionally roughed-up soul. The lyrics feel as if they were worked through as they occurred, and they pulse with beating life. The record is dedicated to her Nigerian DJ father, and the reggae and Afrobeat she was weaned on inspire a kind of cool, mellow Caribbean flow here. The bohemian folk elements are picked up from a Romanian gypsy mother, and play as yet another strength on this piece of art dotted with hopeful tenderness. “Life is not a fairy tale,” she warns on the back end. “Life is about more, ’cause life is real.”
Ayo brings modern, unexpected flair to the genre. Up-picked guitars and drum basics get thrown into a tumbler with harmonicas, electric piano, accordion and even mandolin to produce a layered, natural sound seamlessly threaded together by producer Jay Newland, whose Grammy-winning résumé comes courtesy of Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me. As a debut, it doesn’t exactly scream out “Here I am” from the top of a mountain, but stands as more of a gentle statement: “I’ve been waiting here for a while now. What took you so long?”
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.