KUKU- Ifé (Love), from the Album Unexpected Pleasures
A native of Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria, KUKU grew up in Lagos, Nigeria listening to the assorted sounds of American soul, folk, and jazz music, as well as the sweet African rhythms of artists like King Sunny Ade, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Mariam Makeba and Aruna Ishola. KUKU moved to the US in 1993. After years of odd jobs, college, serving in the US Army and working as a graphic designer, in 2002 he found Bar Nun, a weekly open mic in Washington, DC’s U Street. It was there that he picked up a guitar for the first time, taught himself to play and began building a following singing in the U Street music/poetry open mic scene. As his reputation grew, he rapidly worked his way into the club, schools and café scene. Busking and touring while maintaining a full-time job, he released his 2005 home recording EP, “Love Sessions,” which has sold more than 4,000 copies. KUKU recalls, "I remember calling off sick from work several times while I was on a bus or in an airport heading to the next gig." His captivating performances, featuring an effortless blend of his Yoruba tongue and a uniquely soulful acoustic rhythm coupled with his tireless off-stage work ethic, led to an invitation to perform at the Kennedy Center in 2004. This would not be the last time.
2006 saw KUKU release his first full-length recording, “Unexpected Pleasures,” featuring the enchanting “Ife” and “Perfect Reality,” which continue to be favorites among fans. Produced by friend Alexei Tsybine Jendayi, “Unexpected Pleasures,” as KUKU would describe in an Atlanta radio interview, is an album that marries the sound of the likes of Bill Withers with King Sunny Ade with KUKU being the officiating priest. He labeled his minimalist acoustic guitar driven sound “The Afro-soul Acoustic Experience.”
Between touring and by mid 2007, KUKU began recording and self-producing new materials with a new album in mind. Then on Friday, July 20th, 2007, KUKU met with Jendayi. That evening – in only two hours – he recorded a suite of songs live with just an acoustic guitar. His most intimate album yet, “The Absence of Cool”was born right then and there. Engineered by Jendayi, this record captures the true essence of KUKU's emotion-filled performances, his connection with his audiences, some of his comedic banter, and those perfect imperfections a polished studio recording often lacks. With more songs in his native tongue than his previous recording, the album further bridges the gap between KUKU’s western influence and his native roots.
Hailed by a fan as "the African Music Medicine Man," this Yoruba, DC-based troubadour has been touring extensively since the release of his debut recording “Love Sessions.” His enchanting sound has landed him on the stages of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music series-AfroFolk Live; New York’s SOB’s; Georgia Music Festival; Philadelphia’s World Café; and the Temple Bar in Los Angeles to name a few. In October 2007, South African guitar maestro Mongezi Ntaka (former and original guitarist for the late Lucky Dube band) joined KUKU as he launched “The Absence of Cool” at his third Kennedy Center appearance. The album concept asks listeners to stop enslaving themselves to the concept of “cool,” – with cool being the absence of emotion – and instead join him on a musical journey to the raw emotions deep in their souls. Happily independent, KUKU enjoys the artistic freedom that most major labels often deprive, but his biggest challenge is still getting his music heard by millions of eclectic listeners across the world without a machine. What he lacks with the backing of a machine, he makes up for as a tireless worker with a good heart. And with the digital age in full-effect, his music is reaching far more places than he has yet to visit. KUKU recently played at Washington DC’s correctional facilities. He calls this is the highlight of his existence. The story continues . . .