New York-based acoustic trio Voyagers create musical magic in the form of grooving traditional African & contemporary African-inspired jazz compositions — without drums
Steeped in tradition, alive with improvisation, and imbued with rare jazz magic, New York-based acoustic trio VOYAGERS combine traditional African music with their own original African-themed compositions on their debut album Chasing Light (officially out April 1, 2022, on Lion Songs Records).
Featuring kora maestro Yacouba Sissoko from Mali, Austrian saxophonist Edith Lettner, and American guitarist Banning Eyre — three world-class musicians who’ve long had their own well-established musical careers — the Voyagers trio combines a high level of talent, virtuosity, stage presence one would expect with something else quite unexpected. With kora, saxophone, and guitar so perfectly linked in rhythms and melody, Voyagers manage to create engaging traditional African music & contemporary African-inspired jazz compositions without drums.
The result is pure, grooving musical magic, alive with spontaneity and a sound and style so entirely their own.
Yacouba is a kora musician in the Griot tradition from the renowned Sissoko family in Mali, while Lettner is a jazz musician and a veteran collaborator with several West African musicians, both in Austria and Senegal. And Eyre has a long history of forays into African guitar and is a Senior Producer for public radio’s Afropop Worldwide. All three are talented, seasoned and respected musicians who each earned their respective stripes long before they came together as Voyagers.
Since first meeting in New York in 2013, the trio has been honing their unique sound and performing together to the delight of audiences whenever all three were in town at the same time.
But they limited their performances to smaller, intimate NYC jazz and world-music venues such as Farafina, Barbes, and Silvana where people came for the music and not the hype. And the people did come, and they loved them.
As word got out and with the encouragement and support of many in the New York music scene (like producer Abby London-Crawford), the trio came to recognize that the music they made was truly special and unlike any other. The time had come for VOYAGERS to share their music with a wider audience.
In two days in February, 2020, they recorded all the tracks for Chasing Light and began to make plans for branching out—booking US events outside of NYC, and touring internationally. As it turned out, the emergence of the Covid-19 virus stymied, delayed that process for a year. But with the start of 2022, creativity is once again afoot. VOYAGERS has embarked on a new voyage, heading toward new places, new people, new inspirations, and as is their way, they are charting their new course by ceaselessly, joyously, chasing the light.
The album includes a mix of traditional African songs and contemporary compositions by members of the trio. On “Danama” a West African song from the Jeli (Mande griot) tradition, Yacouba sings about confidence and trust, noting that just because someone talks beautifully and dresses perfectly does not mean they are a good person. “Danama” is someone you can trust. Edith plays the Armenian duduk on this track, which the band considers the introspective, meditative soul of this album.
A fusion between folky American fingerstyle guitar and Mande technique from Mali, “Waiting for Spring” is a track Banning had been playing as a solo piece for a year or so before introducing it to Voyagers. Edith and Yacouba instantly found their places in it and it added a new dimension to the group’s repertoire. And “Today is a New Day” is a song composed by Edith before COVID descended yet perfectly captures the optimistic mood the album aims to convey as we move beyond the pandemic. Banning’s guitar gives the song a Congolese flavor in a tight lock with Yacouba’s shimmering kora.
Voyagers’ debut album Chasing Light will officially debut at the group’s release events in New York City on March 30, 2022 at the ZÜRCHER Gallery, 33 Bleecker Street, New York; and Friday April 1, 2022 8 PM at Soapbox Gallery, 636 Dean Street, (Bet. Carlton & Vanderbilt), Brooklyn, NY