Douyé, The Golden Sèkèrè Review
Reimagining Jazz Standards with Cultural Heritage: Douyé’s The Golden Sèkèrè
by Ferell Aubre
As the record needle gently lands on the first track of Douyé’s album The Golden Sèkèrè, palpable rhythmic energy dances up from the record grooves, promising a world jazz experience that transcends borders. This delightful offering by the Lagos-born, Los Angeles-based singer effortlessly bridges the divide between the Great American Songbook and her Nigerian roots, presenting a version of jazz that’s distinctly her own.
Douyé’s talent for breathing fresh life into tried-and-true standards is clearly showcased in this 14-song collection. This album is a repetition of familiar tunes but a reinvention – a bold blend of Western jazz lyricism and the polyrhythmic richness of her African heritage. This is a tribute to the spirit of jazz, from the syncopated heartbeats of African drums to the silky stylings of the West.
Douyé’s voice, timbre as dark-roasted coffee, winds through the album, painting pictures with words and notes alike. It takes center stage, backed by impressive jazz virtuosos like trumpeter Sean Jones, guitarist Lionel Loueke, and bass legend Buster Williams. Yet, the authenticity lies in the underlying percussive presence of the talking drums and sekèrès, echoing her roots and creating a delightful sonic landscape that’s both captivating and unusual.
The album opener, Ray Nobel’s classic standard “Cherokee,” sets the stage with a buoyant blend of jazz and African rhythms, a fine introduction to Douyé’s seamless fusion of musical worlds. She continues to take us on a transformative journey, making stops at familiar classics like Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” the romantic ballad “I’m Confessing That I Love You,” and swinging numbers like “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”
However, the album’s crown jewel is Douyé’s daring reinvention of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Her infusion of Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti’s influence into the song’s festive version is a genius stroke. Paying tribute to her other musical mentor, Frank Sinatra, the track erupts with a 15-piece band, resulting in a jubilant sonic feast that’s nothing short of electrifying. The soulful, quieter finale of the same song later on the album showcases the versatility of both Douyé’s voice and her musical vision.
As the needle returns to its cradle after traversing the tracks of Side Two and completing our journey, one is left with the unshakeable impression that The Golden Sèkèrè is a moving collection of tracks— a resounding tribute to Douyé’s rich cultural roots, proof of her musical ingenuity, and a celebration of her talent. This is a world jazz album with a poignant journey from the heart of Nigeria to the jazz-infused streets of America, narrated through the transformative power of music by our transcultural host Douyé.