Yemisi Ariori: 5 Tips For Enjoying Jazz Music for a Beginner

dreamstime_l_46737748I’ll start by stating the obvious: jazz music is receiving less and less popularity in the minds of Nigerians.

Jazz happens to be one of those complex genres of music. It makes use of a lot of musical improvisation, conflicting rhythms, and interruptions in regular flow of rhythm. It also borrows a lot of aspects of African music and American pop. Needless to say, jazz music may prove very hard to understand and relate with, hence difficult to enjoy. Not everyone can understand why there is a song without any words.

It’s no wonder that the younger generation (of which I am proudly a part) will rather just listen to popular/mainstream type genres of music. Whilst this is not such a bad thing, I still strongly believe that jazz music can be enjoyed and is worth exploring.
Let’s share a few tips you can try out if you would be interested in dipping your hands into this genre of music:

Know that this journey is not about your friends
People usually revere people who can relate with jazz music because it is believed to be something for people of a particular level of intellect. So you may somewhat be tempted to go into jazz to impress your friends. Ask yourself; am I really interested in this? It’s not such a bad thing not to be! It’s about you! As tempting and elitist as it is to be able to speak about jazz and the artistes and what ‘this’ and ‘that’ jazz track means to you, you need to know that enjoying this genre is about yourself and not about impressing people. Else this journey will become like ‘homework’. You’ll only appreciate jazz if you set out to listen to it and love it for yourself!

Read about it
There are many materials out there that can gradually expose you to what you’re getting into. Read about the history of jazz, the old artistes, and the contemporary ones. Read about jazz in your own country and your own locality. What you will find will amaze you!

Understand Jazz
All types of music have their own peculiarities. Look out for those of jazz. The one beautiful thing that sets jazz music apart from other genres is ‘improvisation’. Jazz musician tend to play around with improvisations which means that they make up their music, their tunes, and harmonies up on the spot (More like a freestyle type thing)! This is why sometimes when you listen to jazz, it feels like the melody suddenly changes. To appreciate jazz, you need to observe the improvisations and how they’re used. Figure out the instrumentation. Listen to the melody. Observing and identifying will help you get into it even more.

Attend live jazz events
Whether it’s rock, soul, R and B, fuji, reggae or jazz, a live experience is the best way to enjoy it. Look out for events happening around you where jazz artistes are performing. In Lagos, I’ve heard of Jazzhole in Victoria Island (even though I have never been there). I also know of Inspiro Productions’ Annual Lagos Jazz festival and Lagos Jazz Series. Find yourself in such events, and this will help improve your experience

Find other lovers of jazz
Just like every other interest, talking to other like-minded people helps you grow even more. So join a social a social media group, follow a page or a blog. Share your experience. If you do meet a local artiste who would like to be your friend, that’s even better! Talk to him or her about their work and their inspiration. Let them tell you what they were think at a particular event, or while recording a particular track.

I do hope these tips help and will help you open your mind to receive more jazz music.

Bonus Tip:
Sometimes I like to make up my own words to their instrumentation. It helps me feel like I’m in the head of the artiste!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

15 Comments on Yemisi Ariori: 5 Tips For Enjoying Jazz Music for a Beginner
  • Ajebo February 9, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Oh yes! Bless your heart.. jazz is so lovely to listen to…

    • Naija and Alternative Music February 9, 2016 at 6:04 pm

      Thank you very much! 🙂

  • A Real Nigerian February 9, 2016 at 4:48 pm


  • whocares February 9, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    ooooooh I love jazzz Yemisi. I wont lie it took me a while to appreciate it. Jazz listened to cursorily sounds like you put ten drunks kids on a stage and just unleashed them on the musical instruments. You are right. You have to have the patience and time to truly enjoy jazz and decipher the music. Appreciate what each instrument brings to the table and then together the sound is pure eargasm.
    The thing is there are sooooooo many varieties. The classic ones (which I must confess I still find boring), I like the contemporary ones more (I just found out about Roseaux; my lateness does not have part 2), but slowly the older ones are creeping up on me. You are right, it also differs from nationality to nationality. So far French, and the Brazilian are not bad at all. Lagos is actually improving on the jazz scene. I met a musician the other day on one of my waka about missions (Jay Phelps) and he told me he played at the Jazz festival in calabar? I was thoroughly impressed ‘cos I think he is very good (still an up and comer in the jazz world apparently – when is a person supposed to arrive self, when they are 70?) and for him to be included- someone did their homework as that must have been good for diversity and what not. Who went to the calabar festival? was it as good as I imagined it?
    ps: Maumau bar at Portobello road is good for mostly free jazz sesh on thursdays ( free- before 9) good crowd, and artists are usually up and comers with different styles; sometimes there are the seasoned pros as well.

    • Naija and Alternative Music February 9, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      You are even a lot deeper into jazz than I am! I hope you’ll drag me along.. Thanks for reading!

  • Solar February 9, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Your blog is really good. Great writing and content. Not really a fan of jazz but I’ll try the live event out.

    • Naija and Alternative Music February 9, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      Thanks a bunch Solar! Lagos jazz Festival should be sometime in April (not confirmed).. You’ll love it!

  • xag February 9, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Jazz isn’t complex and its not that Nigerians mind jazz. Just that it’s music for chilled people, you know, relaxed people. If you actually listen to the music that sells in Nigeria, you’ll see it’s very much like the Nigerian way of life, gra gra and aggression. That’s why they don’t have time for jazz.

  • Tee February 9, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    hello Yemisi, this is nice article, its good to invited our youth to experience the niceties of Jazz, i do agree that it may be somewhat difficult to understand the complexities in the compositions, especially with the current trend , Jazz is mainly academically structured to balance harmony and melody, it is abstract in its raw form, it is ART , I was introduced to jazz when i was 17, back in Lagos, My uncle who was a captain in the National shipping line used to bring home jazz records when he plays them i used to be inquisitive and wonder how they play the songs and i will listen and same time go through the album to read up on the artist and who played what, it was very interesting times for me, and i was also intrigued by the titles of the tracks , eg,Miles Davis -so what, Bob james -Take me to madi grass, and Earl klugh -good time charlies got the blues, Joe sample – Night flight, Wynton Kelly – dark eyes, Lee Oskar – my road our road. i will sit down and kind of drowned in artistry of the tracks, it was amazing. i wished i could play an instrument but just didn’t have the chance , i did encouraged my kids; 2 studied music both can play Guitar and keyboard, seriously jazz is amazing for music no other can match it, it’s a diligent pursuit akin to religion, i am sometimes lost in jazz, i have over 500 records and over 500 cd and not to talk of digitized albums, like you rightly suggest it is good to experience live performance in other to appreciated and have a feel for the art so to speak. i have seen Bob james , Geogre benson, Grover Washington live in London. it was amazing! , lest i forget to mention my all-time african jazz hero Fela Anikulapo, i will suggest to anyone new to jazz to first look for their favorite tracks which has Jazz version, eg, greatest love of all. ; for the love of you, Anyway welcome to Jazz. . enjoy!

  • Tosin February 9, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Then you now combine it with the outdoors…who could ask for anything more?

  • Isaac geralds February 9, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Go yem yem… Super proud of u girl… As per jazz… I’m proud to be one of Nigeria’s very few artistes who sing really great jazz music. What I do that makes mine more interesting is I take familiar Nigerian songs and add em to my repertoire. But jazz has its crowd amongst Nigerians too!

  • Tochi February 9, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Hi Yemisi,

    You put up a great article. Thumbs up. Like your blog too. Keep up the good work.

  • Totesh February 10, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Great Article Yemisi. Well done.

  • Hephie Brown February 10, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Very nice article Yemisi. This is really dope. I am looking for lovers of electronic music! People think I’m weird when i prefer dancing to that than to “I concur”. I like the person who said Naija’s style is gra gra and aggression. Very few Nigerian “artists” are “musicians”. They should be called entertainers or comedians. sigh.

  • Afolabi Oyawole February 25, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Most contemporary jazz have a hip hop flavor. Hence with more colour. Kamasi Washington, Christian Scott, BADBADNOTGOOD, Heernt, D’ Angelo, Pat Metheney, Snappy Puppy,

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