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The artist’s chosen name, Ayo, means “Joy” in Yoruba, one of the languages spoken in Nigeria. Singer-songwriter Ayo, is the ultimate product of cultural diversity with her Nigerian and Romanian roots, her German nationality and her long stays in the United States, London and Paris.
Ayo was able to draw meaningful correlations from these multicultural influences that enriched her musical universe, an atypical blend of soul, folk, reggae, rap and pop that catapulted her to worldwide success, with more than a million and a half albums sold in 40 countries, even before the release of her fourth album, Ticket to the World, in October 2013. See opposite for some of the influences that nurtured her eclectic musical universe.

Ayo in a few words

Ayo, whose given name is Joy Ogunmakin, writes the lyrics and composes the music for her own songs. Exposed as a child to the musical influences of her father, a DJ in the 1970s, Ayo began her music education by learning to play the violin and piano, and then she learned the guitar. Although this was not generally known, she got her start performing in rap clubs, before becoming one of the main figures of Europe’s folk and soul scene. 

Ayo was born in Cologne, Germany, in 1980 of a Romani mother from Romania and a Nigerian father and spent her early childhood between Germany and Nigeria. Constantly on the road, she lived in Hamburg and then in London; today, she divides her time between New York, which appeals to her as a cultural melting pot, and Paris where “she feels as at home”.

She gained recognition with the general public with her first album Joyful  in 2006. Down on my knees and And it’s supposed to be love”, written by Abbey Lincoln, brought her public recognition. These twelve titles produced by Jay Newland, Norah Jones’s producer, were responsible for Ayo’s success in France, Germany, Italy and Greece.

Her popularity was confirmed in 2008 with the album Gravity At Last, in which Ayo touches on such problematical topics as corruption, politics and her family. In Billie-Eve, her third album, she wins renown for her brilliant tribute to Michael Jackson, a legendary figure from the music of her youth, with a remake of his hit “I want you back”.

In 2013, with her album Ticket to the World she returned to her first loves, rap and soul, composing songs with stronger pop accents. Music is universal for Ayo, a means of discovering the world; with Ticket to the World she invites us to discover her own personal universe. As a committed artist, in the album’s title song Ayo denounces the difficulty of obtaining a visa, which can imprison people inside their own borders.


Interview with Ayo

On January 29, Ayo was on air on Vivoice's "Culture Webradio Cast", to share her artist's world and her sources of inspiration. Listen to the podcast (in French) :


Credit: © Bernard Benant
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