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Jazz Quartet Adds Bossa Nova to a Soft Benin Sound

  • Heather Maxwell

Jomion and the Uklos play a song during their performance on Music Time in Africa for host Heather Maxwell of VOA's Africa 54. (Photo by David Byrd)
Recent special guest performers on Music Time in Africa on VOA's Africa 54 were Jomion and the Uklos. The members of the group are three brothers from Benin: Jomion is the eldest and the leader of the jazz group which includes brothers Matthieu and JB and Jomion’s daughter, Rose.

The brothers grew up in Cotonou, Benin. Their father was a composer, and vodun percussionist, and their mother was a traditional singer. In their early years the sons played in a church in Benin where their father was pastor.

Jomion performed for many years in Africa, Europe and the United States – including Carnegie Hall - with his Gangbe Brass Band. During that time the talented trumpet player developed a particular style of Beninois jazz he calls whedo, a blend of Benin’s bossou hoho and Latin American bossa nova. The rhythm joins the sounds of trumpet, drum set, guitar, and piano with those of Beninois traditional percussion instruments like akpezin, kpahle gbon, and the talking drum.

In 2008, he re-formed the family’s Uklos band and recorded the album, Yokpole. The group began their U.S tour last year, stopping to conduct a master’s class and a concert at Harvard University before coming to Maxwell’s Music Time in Africa.