Afrosonics' Global Groove

Dayo Ayodele mixes genres, cultures


When Dayo Ayodele was a child living in Nigeria, he saw a commercial on TV.

"It's a Coca-Cola commercial--the one that talks about teaching the world how to sing perfect harmony," he said. "It's an old, classic Coke song, and they played that a lot in Nigeria."

The commercial suggested a world far beyond anything he'd experienced. What he liked most about it was the image of people of different races and cultures holding hands.

"That ad really stuck in my head," Ayodele said, suggesting "that it's a big world and we all have to live in peace and unity."

After he had moved to Boise, Ayodele drew on that idea to start Global Lounge, a nonprofit that seeks both to foster cultural awareness and to help refugees and immigrants acclimate to life in the Treasure Valley. Ayodele also brings that spirit to his band Afrosonics, which combines African music with funk and jazz. The band headlines Radio Boise Tuesday at Neurolux on Dec. 17. Opening duties will be shared by local groups Rosa dos Ventos and Henchmen for Hire.

Afrosonics' fusion of musical genres reflects the influence of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, who pioneered Afrobeat, a fusion of African and American music. Ayodele's mother grew up with Kuti--as a girl, she lived in a Christian boarding house run by Kuti's family.

Ayodele never had a personal connection to Kuti--the musician's politics were too radical for his parents--but he recalled that "there [were] a few times that Fela came around the house and said hello to my mom and stuff."

But Ayodele did grow up listening to Kuti's music. He also considered Kuti "the main news source" during a time when Nigeria suffered from strict censorship, military coups and high-level governmental corruption (though Ayodele said he didn't learn the full extent of the country's troubles until after he'd left).

Although Ayodele's parents forbade him from playing music (they wanted him to study medicine), he learned African drumming from his grandmother and at the Anglican Church services he attended as a boy. Ayodele came to America to study film, taking classes at Columbia College Hollywood and USC. After graduating, he worked as an editor and a production assistant. He also exported American albums to England for Liverpool-based independent label 3 Beat Records. But when his ex-wife and daughter moved to Idaho in 2004, Ayodele followed them and changed his career to banking--"it was the first job available here," he said.

With his daughter's future in mind, Ayodele founded Global Lounge in 2006. He thought of the various ethnic groups living around them in Boise and asked himself, "What's anybody doing to bring these people together? And there was really nothing."

At first, Ayodele concentrated on his band United Roots, an Afrobeat/reggae outfit which formed that same year. The group built a respectable local following--it landed a gig as house band at Reef "because we always packed the house," he said--but when it broke up in 2009, Ayodele started devoting more energy to his work with Global Lounge.

During the past few years, Global Lounge has hosted workshops at places such as the Treasure Valley YMCA on a variety of topics, including breakdancing, Capoeira, Japanese art and Bosnian folk dancing. The organization has also put on larger events such as the World Village at this year's Hyde Park Street Fair.

Through events like these, Ayodele said, Global Lounge seeks to serve both as a "cultural hub for the Treasure Valley" and "an ambassador to the new arrivals or the immigrants. ... [An event] is just to kind of show that it is a welcoming community: 'We appreciate what you bring. We love that you're here.'"

According to Executive Director Donna Kovaleski, Global Lounge uses the interconnectedness of the Treasure Valley's various groups to its advantage.

"There's so many webs that are woven in the community," she said. "You want to be talking to the Irish dancers, but one of them actually has a connection to some Indian musicians, who have connections to classical Indian dancers ... and it just goes on and on."

Ayodele relied on those same webs to form the Afrosonics' current lineup. Members of the band include percussionist Muntaga Bah, a former member of United Roots; percussionist Cathima Kodet, a young Gabonese refugee whom Ayodele has been mentoring; bassist Matt Fabbi; drummer Ricky Martinez; guitarist Brad Nelson; and keyboardist Todd Dunnigan, who played in local new wave band Methods of Dance in the '80s and founded Audio Lab Recording Studios with House of Hoi Polloi's Steve Fulton in 1992.

Playing in Afrosonics creates a kind of culture clash.

"I came with [an] African background; I don't read music," Ayodele admitted, adding that "it's kind of really funny to communicate with people with a Western background [who are] classically trained, but it's really cool."

"There's not a lot of groups like this," Fabbi said. "It's kind of one of those things where you come in, sit over there jamming, and it's like, 'That was different.' It's the hardest you've ever played in your life, but it's also some of the coolest [music]. It sticks [in] your head the longest, in my experience."

The band's interactions reflect the dialogue that Global Lounge seeks to build.

"Somebody will play something, somebody will listen and they'll respond in their way," Kovaleski said. "Even if it's an Indian-sounding guitar from Brad; he's trained in India ... so his music has a different flavor [than his bandmates']. But I think it's just kind of that call and response in music and style."

Ayodele has high ambitions for the future. He wants to set up a gallery for ethnic art, a studio for recording immigrant musicians and a center exclusively for Global Lounge programs (the next event will be a free salsa dancing night at the Treasure Valley YMCA on Friday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m.). Global Lounge will soon start working on fundraising for next year's World Village.

But Ayodele won't forgo his own art; he also hopes to record an Afrosonics album soon. Making music, he said, gives you "more of a voice. ... It's about the expression of emotions. And when you have people on the same page with you, they're able to understand you."