Ayo (born as Joy Olasunmibo Ogunmakin on 14 September 1980 in Frechen near Cologne, Germany) is a Nigerian-German singer-songwriter. She uses the Yoruba translation Ayọ or Ayo. of her first name Joy.
Her debut album Joyful, which was first released in 2006, reached Double-Platinum status in France, Platinum in Germany and Poland, Gold status in Switzerland and Italy and Greece. The album was released in the United States on 20 November 2007 by Interscope Records.
She has a son, Nile, who was born in late 2005 and a daughter, Billie-Eve, born July 2010, with her partner, the Afro-German reggae singer Patrice. At the end of 2007, she moved with her family to the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan in New York City.
The president of UNICEF France, Jacques Hintzy, announced on 4 February 2009 that the singer was named patron of UNICEF to promote the right to education for all children in the world.
The French production company MK2 produced 2009 the film Ayo Joy a 90 minute documentary about the singer and her life. The film was directed by Raphaël Duroy and is due in cinemas in early 2010.
Ayọ was born as the fourth child of a Nigerian father and a Romanian mother in Cologne, Germany but as a baby lived for a short time in Nigeria. She has one sister and two brothers. When she was about six years old her mother became addicted to heroin and spent some time in jail. After her parents divorced, she and two of her siblings spent periods of time in care and with foster families. When she was fourteen she was considered old enough by the authorities to live with her father again.
At the age of six Ayọ played the violin for a short time, then turned to the piano and later taught herself to play the guitar. When she was about 15, she wrote her first song, which was about her mother, and which helped her to cope with her traumatic childhood. Her musical taste was influenced by her father's large selection of vinyl albums which included Pink Floyd, Fela Kuti, Donny Hathaway, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley. When her father, who worked part-time as a DJ while studying engineering in Germany, discovered her singing talent he recorded a first demo tape with her in a studio and allowed her to drop out of school at the age of eighteen.
At twenty-one Ayọ moved to London and later lived in Paris and New York. During her time in Paris her musical talent was noticed by a broader audience, and she gave her first solo concerts, opened 2002 for soul singers Omar and Cody Chesnutt, and signed a contract with Polydor Records.
At the Paradiso (Amsterdam), 13. September 2007
Shortly after giving birth to her son Nile, she recorded her first album Joyful in January 2006 in the New York Sony studio. The whole disc was recorded in just five days under live conditions, with a group of musicians organized by her producer Jay Newland. The album was released in June 2006 in Europe and Korea and in November 2007 in the United States and Japan.
At the end of 2007 Ayọ started a concert tour through Germany and the United States. On her American tour she performed with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. On 10 January 2008 she appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, and on 26 January 2008 The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, performing her song Down on My Knees. In June 2008 the singer started her second tour through the United States and Canada.
On 10 March 2008 Ayọ started recording on her second album Gravity At Last at the Compass Point Studios in Nassau on the Island of New Providence, The Bahamas. She is co-producing the album with Jay Newland. Her band includes Keith Christopherson (bass), Larry Campbell (guitars and other string instruments), Lucky Peterson (keyboards), Sherrod Barnes (guitar/vocals) and Jermaine Parrish (drums). The album with 13 tracks written and composed by the singer was recorded in only 5 days and was released at the end of September 2008 by Universal Music France. The album reached number 1 on the French album charts in October. On 21. November 2008 Ayọ started her promotion tour for the album in Berlin which includes around 30 concerts in five European countries. In 2008 Ayo won an EBBA Award. Every year the European Border Breakers Awards (EBBA) recognize the success of ten emerging artists or groups who reached audiences outside their own countries with their first internationally released album in the past year.
Ayọs third album Billie-Eve, named after her daughter, was recorded in New York with the cooperation of musicians like Craig Ross (guitarist of Lenny Kravitz), the rapper Saul Williams, Matthieu Chedid and Gail Ann Dorsey, bass player of David Bowie. The album is first released on 7 March 2011 in France and Ayọ starts a promotional tour through France and Poland on 21 March 2011. Ayo signed with MBM Records in 2011 in the US. Billie-Eve was released in the United States on 20 March 2012.