AJOYO – War Chant


Title: War Chant 
Artist: AJOYO 
Label: Shems  
Format: Digital 
Release Date: May 22, 2020 


Celebration and protest, traditional and contemporaryJazz-world ensemble AJOYO’s sophomore album War Chant is filled with seamlessly blended contradictions. Like their self-titled 2015 debut albumWar Chant brings high energy, celebratory music, but this time with a social and racial justice aim. Using their own immigration stories as a foundation, the six-member Brooklyn-based group, organized by Tunisian-born saxophonist Yacine Boularès, cultivates empathy and calls for action. 

The title eludes to the album’s challenge of current American leaders and the oppression, xenophobia, and greed that they perpetuate. AJOYO manages to blend this heavy message with upbeat African-inspired rhythms and soulful vocals. The opening title track, featuring vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles, pulls from Cameroonian influences and traditional jazz themes to create a protest song aimed squarely at President Trump’s “words of hatred.” Other tracks, such as “Somber Joy” and “Same,” are less pointed but focus on more general issues of relevance like the roots of mental illness and xenophobia. Songs like the electronic, dance-oriented “Syzygy,” featuring vibraphonist Joel Ross, function as a call to action for listeners to come together in support of this mission. 

Not shy of musical confrontation, War Chant brings important messages regarding political misrule to the forefront, each scathing critique beautifully supported by jazzy rhythms from around the world. 

Reviewed by Chloe McCormick