Track of the Week "Mau Vivi" (meaning “God is sweet”) is the title track of Jo Lanre Kunnuji's EP recorded in 2011. A jazz-infused Ogu gospel song, Kunnuji's composition is made with rhythmic and delicate guitars interspersed with percussive rainfall following a simple, yet textured line of vocals. A complex arrangement that is deceptively subtle, this well-rounded piece is as worthy of the praise it embodies. The original track was recorded in Lagos, with Dotun Bankole on tenor sax, David Oladipupo on bass, Segun Olasehinde on guitar, Sola Bankole on piano, Yemi Ojole on vocals and Kunnuji himself on percussion.
Kunnuji is revisting the track under the banner of the newly formed "Jo Kunnuji Experiment", also nicknamed Mau Vivi. The new band, based in the Mother City, comprises Robin Fassie on flugelhorn, Zeke Le Grange on tenor sax, Dannie McKinnon on bari saxophone, Graham Strickland on double bass, Joe Bolton on piano, Cameron Claassen on drums and Zoe Modiga on vocals. They are currently working on recording the rest of Kunnuji’s arrangements as part of his master's in music research, which should be released later in the year.
The Ogu-born trumpeter and composer from Badagry, Lagos, is the last child in a musically inclined family of six. Listening to his father play a host of recorded music while growing up laid the bedrock for his musicality. Other influences include a mixture of gospel as a choirboy, drumming and South African music, particularly the 1974 stylistically diverse musical Ipi N’tombi, a family favourite.
After completing a degree in sociology, Kunnuji decided to take this musical inclination further by researching the music of the Ogu people, who had been severely marginalised by the Yoruba-centric culture of Nigeria. He subsequently completed a Masters in Music at the University of Cape Town on Ogu music.
The result of this very personal quest for cultural renewal through music is a beautifully composed intermingling of the Ogu call-and-response phrases and single melodic lines, with jazz harmonies that the older generations of Ogu people would easily recognise and younger generations would find new pride in. This makes for an enlightening read in his master's thesis and a series of well-crafted tracks peppered with flavourful percussive tones.A full album with the Cape Town band will be released later this year but he's already performing it around Cape Town.