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Joachim Joe Amouzou, King of Afro Jazz

By  | 9 September 2007 at 22:00 | 977 views

Western jazz is said to have strong African roots. Jazz is thus one of Africa’s gifts to the world, transplanted in far away shores along with the unwilling victims of the nefarious and inhuman trans-atlantic slave trade. But over the centuries calm has been restored to large chunks of Africa and the rest of the world. Now jazz has risen to the top of the sky, as a significant part of the world’s cultural heritage.

It is perhaps this connection between jazz and Mother Africa that sometimes compels some African musicians living in the West to do a combination or fusion of jazz and African rhythms to produce a potent and exhilarating musical experience.

One of these African musicians is without any doubt British Columbia’s Joachim Joe Amouzou. Born in the Togolese capital of Lome (West Africa), Joe, as he is popularly known, started life as a civil servant, working in the planning department of the Togolese Education Ministry.

“But I was always interested in music, playing in a band in Lome in my spare time. I was playing with Echo National du Togo or Togo Star. I was on guitar and vocals. My parents were also musicians,” he told me recently at his Coquitlam residence.

Joe immigrated to Canada in January 1981 and has lived here ever since. In Canada he studied Business Administration by correspondence and later worked as a salesman in a company called Budget Promotions.

In 1996, while continuing to play music in his spare time, he set up a clothing business called Concrete Jungle with a couple of stores in the Lower Mainland. But the music bug was still tormenting him. Little by little he began to realize that music was indeed his calling.

In 2003 he closed down his stores and took up his guitar full time. He also registered for a jazz course and started a serious study of music.

“I studied music on my own, especially jazz, which I am very much interested in,” says Joe, who is an avid fan of Manu Dibango, a great afro-jazz musician. Manu is actually one of Joe’s mentors. He visited him in Paris in 2004 and they did a couple of radio shows together.

Joe’s first album Singing for Love, came out in 2004 and was well received. He was working on it for four years, mixing North American jazz rhythms with the pulsating sounds of Africa. This album was a big hit in Ghana. On a visit to that country, Joe played it just before the start of a debate between political leaders on national radio.

On Saturday August 25th Joe and his band did a highly successful live concert at the First Christian Reform Church in Burnaby that also featured reggae hip- hop stars Indidi Cascade and Deanna Teeple. Joe was simply fantastic on stage as he belted song after song from his albums.

Joe’s second album, Mist of Charms, came out last year to national and international acclaim. It’s wowing music lovers not only in Canada and the United States, but also in places like Japan, Germany and France.

Joe’s music is available in 40 online stores and on myspace. It’s also available at Rossignol Records, Zulu Records and Sophia bookstore in Vancouver.