AKA Trio is the result of a strong friendship between three talented musicians from different parts of the world. Antonio Forcione (Italy), Seckou Keita (Senegal), and Adriano Adewale (Brazil) all met in the UK and formed a natural bond over hanging out, cooking, and playing soccer together. Each individual has worked extensively with a diverse array of artists, touring the globe and recording a number of cherished releases. Collectively they have created something that sounds natural right away, translating their fun and passion into JOY, an album that reflects their musical union.
Forcione (guitar), Keita (kora), and Adewale (percussion) seem to work effortlessly with one another. They have played on and off together for the past eight years, but finally found the opportunity to meet in the studio last September. They read each other well and often sound like more than three musicians, supporting the compositions with tender harmonies. Each song is written independently, besides the title track, but they are all fostered by the group.
“Joy” is a spontaneous instrumental track that unfolded for the trio in a matter of moments. It explores the feeling of playing music with friends and feeling secure in their musicianship. The tender tones of the guitar, kora and hand percussion feel subtle and powerful at the same time, all joining together as companions.
Keita is well known for his kora playing, but his vocals express a range of emotions on “Kanou.” His voice can shift from soft to commanding quickly, adding lots of passion to the piece. This is a love song that reflects on the idea of an ideal partner, eventually realizing that no one is perfect and the imperfections are what make us human.
“Baracoa” is a small town in the far east of Cuba where Forcione connected with the people and the atmosphere of children playing with total abandon, old cars, and the smell of asphalt and gasoline. It all reminded him of growing up in Italy and he delves into that feeling on this sweet track.
Adewale composes the beautiful “Midnight Blooming” that settles in softly and slows the pace down. The laid back feeling evokes the scent of night blooming flowers Adewale smelled back in Brazil on late night walks home. The song gives gratitude to love and features nice vocals from Keita.
Forcione captures the feeling of playing endlessly as a child, making simple things into elaborate toys with imagination on “Il Bambino E L’Aquilone.” The tune runs along cheerfully with Keita’s fine kora playing and Forcione’s guitar voicings.
“Saudade” is a standout track, written by Adewale, and sung precisely by Keita. It addresses the feeling of longing for something lost, something the Portuguese call saudade. The slow piece leaves space for the tight plucked strings of the kora and supportive guitar phrases with steady percussion. Keita’s vocals soar and draws the listener in to this striking arrangement.
“Empathy” addresses the reality that empathy and humanity are often neglected for the drive to make money. This supple track pops with simple percussion and Keita’s vocals and kora trading passages with the guitar.
Keita’s greatest inspiration as a boy was his uncle, Jali Solo Cissokho, a great kora player who eventually invited young Seckou onto the stage to join the musicians and led him down the path to becoming a performer. The lyrics remind listeners that there are always people out there who can open doors for you. It’s important to remember those people and Cissokho gives tribute to his uncle on “Uncle Solo.”
“The Beautiful Game” is about Adewale and the group’s love for soccer. In particular, the freewheeling style of the Brazilian stars of the 1960s and 1970s like Pelé. The trio play off each other like a team, switching roles and taking the lead or settling back at times. Some tight Brazilian percussion gives a nice nod to Adewale’s Brazilian roots.
The record closes with the gorgeous “Choix de Joie,” a reflective song Keita wrote to find his way through all the suffering that goes on around the world. His “choice of joy” includes all of the little things that make you happy, a long stroll, listening to music, or attending a festival. The feeling of pleasure that accompanies good friends and living life to the fullest. That is what AKA Trio share successfully on JOY. - Alex Brown