Q&A: Tunde excited to perform on African soil at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Paul Tucker and Tunde Baiyewu, members of the Lighthouse Family.

Paul Tucker and Tunde Baiyewu, members of the Lighthouse Family.

Published Apr 18, 2024


We recently chatted to songwriter and Lighthouse Family singer, Tunde Baiyewu, about his upcoming tour to South Africa as part of the 21st celebrations of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) happening May 3 and 4.

Baiyewu shares that his visit to Cape Town is timeous, as he’s releasing a new album soon, that also features South African players and other African artists.

Q: Tell us about the significance of the timing of your visit to South Africa?

A: “On my record that I've just made, it features quite a few African artists on it, so it's not just me. It's a bunch from all over Africa, and especially South Africa.

“There are some pretty, pretty good artists that are featured that I collaborated with that are going to be on this record. So, it kind of it works out perfectly.

“I've always wanted to work with other African artists. The situation when you're in a band, like with Lighthouse Family, is that it’s really difficult to do, because everybody in the band has to be that general consensus.

“There are tons of African artists that I still want to do stuff with, but all that is in the future. So the way it's worked out now (coming to Cape Town) - it couldn't have been better. It's like perfect, you know, because it ties into the record. And just the timing of it. It's like, Yeah, let's go!

What band will you be bringing to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival?

“Well, it's a small unit, because it's just me and three other musicians. So, there’ll be four of us on stage. But we make a big enough sound. I always use the analogy of, if you look at bands like U2, and I remember I used to look at them and think, wow, they're only four or five of them on stage making such a loud noise for such a small setup.

“So, yeah, it's not that it's not going to be like the way we used to do it, especially in the early days of Lighthouse Family where we'd have about nine people or something like that on stage, but I like it as it is, as it’s a small unit but it doesn't take away from the emotion that we try to express with our sound and music on stage.”

What material will you sing, more from the solo years or from the Lighthouse Family era?

“It will be a combination of both. The funny thing for me is I don't really make any distinction, because, to be honest, a lot of Lighthouse Family songs we wrote together. They're my songs, as well as they are the group Lighthouse Family. Those are the songs that generally people tend to associate me with and recognise instantly straightaway.

“So definitely, we will be doing some Lighthouse Family songs, but we'll be mixing them in with some of my own solo material as well. And I might pick one or two things from my new upcoming record as well.

“Considering with Lighthouse Family, we got signed in 1993, there's a huge catalogue to pick and choose from, and in terms of performing live, my solo stuff as well. So, why not give everybody what they expect and what they recognize.”

Has your Nigerian heritage influenced your musical expression, or have you generally been drawn more to the European pop style?

“Oh, definitely my Nigerian heritage. I was born in London, but when I was about five I went back to Nigeria because my biological father passed away, so my mother relocated back to Lagos with my sister and I.

“From the age of about five the whole environment of Nigeria, and Lagos in particular, is seeped into and has become part of my DNA. So I grew up and lived in both the city of Lagos as well as in a very rural area growing up as a kid.

“I remember then you’d just be surrounded by, apart from the food and the sense of the sights and stuff like that, the sounds, the music. Sometimes you'd see a whole commotion on the main road and it would be Fela Kuti going past in his car with his entourage - as a kid, you'd see things like this.”

“So the music definitely, then the language and the culture, I feel influences me more than my European or English side. I realised at one point when we were making Lighthouse Family records, especially when we were writing the songs, a lot of my melodic ideas would come from the language.

“So, I would say something in Yoruba in my head, and then find the melodic equivalent of that phrase, and that's what I've come out with.

“And I suppose those kinds of things make what you do a little bit unique for you as an artist. So, without a shadow of a doubt, the African side of me seriously impacts on what I do.”

Please visit the website for more information: www.capetownjazzfest.com