Ayo And Away We Go

Paris-based promoter Alain Lahana readily admits he’s not known for going for new young acts, but his decision to make an exception in the case of 26-year-old Ayo is already paying dividends.

"I got a call from the head of Polydor [Universal] telling me I must hear this new act, and I just told him that I don’t do new acts," Lahana said. "He insisted on sending the stuff over and I listened to it and called him back and said, ‘Let’s go.’"

A meeting between Lahana and Ayo (real name Joy Ogunmakin) was set up for the following day.

Since then, her debut album, Joyful, has shifted more than 300,000 units in France.

"Taratata," France 2 TV network’s main live music program, was so keen to get her on that Lahana put a band together especially for the show, as all the musicians on the album had gone off on tour with another act or were working on other projects.

The shows started in September and included three sellouts in the 400-capacity Paris Casino, followed by 17 provincial shows in rooms ranging between 600 and 1,800 and then a return to the capital for a sold-out 2,500-capacity Olympia.

Lahana will be missing ILMC because it’s the weekend of France’s Victorie de la Musique awards, and Ayo is nominated in two categories. Her spring tour starts a few days later.

This time the seven provincial shows have been upped to capacities nearer to 2,000 and the four Paris Olympia dates are already sold out. She’s on nearly all the bills of France’s best summer festivals.

The meteoric rise to success is made even more remarkable by the fact Ayo sings in English, a definite disadvantage for someone trying to win over the French domestic market.

Genesis, Iggy & The Stooges, and Patti Smith are among the international acts Lahana is promoting in the coming months.