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The words dayo and bejide are from Africa, which when put together mean “Happiness has come in the rainy season.” These words describe the Dayo Bejide Jazz Project, a collection of musicians led by percussionist, teacher and jewelry designer Modupe Onilu. The band started off as a trio with Onilu’s older brother Baba Ayinde Onilu and their close friend, vocalist and musician Kepha Yahseph.
In an interview, Modupe Onilu said, “One day when someone called me to do my own gig as a band leader, I had to think of a name creative and meaningful so I chose Dayo Bejide.”
Founded three years ago, the band has performed at several venues and events including La Casa de Ibiza, Drink Wine Bar, the Hyatt Regency, government ministries and other organisations. The band has worked with many musicians over the years, which has added interesting variations and influences to its sound. The current band includes Modupe Onilu on drums and percussion, Javed Juman on guitar, Joshua Salcedo on bass, Antonio Mitchell on trumpet and John John Francis on vocals.
According to Onilu, “Musicians come and go in Trinidad. I’m glad to have worked with some of the greatest, and glad they brought their energy and knowledge to create the sound that we have today.”
They refer to their sound as New Caribbean World music, a sub-genre of new jazz. According to Onilu, the band draws inspiration for its sound from early kaiso.
“I won’t say we are a jazz band. Some say (our music is) Caribbean rhythms with jazz chords. My definition is creating jazz music—a conversation between musicians and instruments—using our folk culture and playing from the heart. Playing from the heart brings the most genuine sound to capture the ears of people in the Caribbean audience.”
He added, “The sound of the Dayo Bejide Jazz project is very modern. We have been playing a lot of Afro-soul music with local vocalist John John and we have been experimenting in creating a new instrumental sound using calypso, jazz and other tribal grooves to create a most unique sound on the Trinidad music scene.”
The inspiration for creating the band came from Onilu’s late father JaJah Oga Onilu, percussionist, drummer, musician, craftsman, and pioneer in using organic instruments in Afro-Caribbean music. From this original style, Modupe learned and began to experiment and delve into more electric sounds, fusing it with the organic to create the Dayo Bejide Jazz Project sound.
“I also try to be innovative and try to set trends with my drums. I use a set up I call ‘drumcussion’. It’s a fusion of drum set parts and percussion parts to create a new sound, and in the band, our instrumentation is never the same. I always keep it small and organic sounding.”
Dayo Bejide will play at Fiesta Plaza, MovieTowne, Invaders Bay, Port-of-Spain, on May 18, from 8 pm. Raf Robertson will make a guest appearance on keyboards. Admission is free.