Best Group Award Winner
Ayom (Amplifica Records)
Ayom like to call themselves ‘musical seafarers who traverse the Atlantic with a distinctly Mediterranean identity’ – and with the group’s six members hailing from Angola, Brazil, Greece and Italy, it’s pretty much a spot-on description. Jabu Morales, who left her Brazilian home in 2011 and resettled in Barcelona, is a vibrant presence centre stage, and as singer and percussionist she roots the music in Candomblé and Afro-Brazilian rhythms. Yet it’s merely the launching pad for what she calls the band’s ‘black Atlantic’ music. Ayom were born out of her chance meeting with Italian accordionist Alberto Becucci and the Greek-raised Timoteo Grignani, who plays various percussion instruments including the Brazilian bass drum known as zabumba. They were soon joined by percussionist Walter Martins from Angola, the Portuguese-Angolan guitarist Ricardo Quinteira and bass player Francesco Valente.
Their debut (a Top of the World in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue), was recorded in 2019 in an intense two-week session in the home of a Portuguese wine producer south of Lisbon. It’s a joyously eclectic affair that draws on the folk music of Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola and beyond, spiritually bound together by the Afro-Lusophone connection and accented with Mediterranean flavours. Seductive, enchanting, sometimes swinging with a syncopated exuberance and at other times imbued with a bittersweet longing, the melting pot of languages, rhythms and sonorities simmers mouth-wateringly. In an Introducing feature about the band, Alex Robinson called it an album that ‘brings shards of warmth into the room, like tropical sun penetrating grey clouds.’
The group take their identity from the orixá of the tambor that in Candomblé mythology taught humankind to play music and sing. It is the orixá who is pictured on the album cover, flanked on either side by an African drum and European accordion. “Ayom is the connection between male and female, between spontaneity and formality, between the rhythms of Africa and the melodies of Europe. She brings us from separation to seduction, from conflict to celebration,” Morales says with a characteristically romantic flourish. “If Ayom touches you, then please value her. She is a voice of unity. But she’s under threat…” Nigel Williamson