Brooklyn-based ensemble AJOYO are based on an ethos of expansion, bringing musicians from across the world together in rich, internationally-inflected jazz collaborations. Out ahead of their upcoming sophomore album War Chant, new single “Better Love” is a resonant example of how the collective comes together to spread positivity. Lead vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles and New York-based South African guest artist Vuyo Sotashe sing a duet of love and strength in intentional reflection, embracing the possibilities of looking inward for validation instead of seeking it elsewhere.
“‘Better Love’ is a song about the kind of love that leaves space for individuals to grow, together and apart,” explains Charles, “the kind of love that can be quiet and not rooted in expectations. The kind of love that results from an extension of loving ourselves first.”
The meaning behind the song is one of the strong foundations – a perfect fit with the structure of the piece. Jesse Fischer’s keyboards provide warmly synthetic melodies against soft, syncopated beats from Philippe Lemm, known for his frequent use of old Cameroonian rhythms. Bandleader Yacine Boularès lends minimal sax to the mix, adding just a hint of brass, but nothing that overpowers the voices at the forefront of it all. Charles and Sotashe have stunning voices, tones almost impossibly smooth and breathtaking interplay – especially midway through the song, as, wordless, they glide upward, ideally in harmony over Michael Valeanu’s sparse guitar notes. The song ends with Charles at her highest note over Sotashe’s soulful falsetto, a sparkling end to a piece full of light and reassurance.
It seems appropriate for the video to focus on Charles and Sotashe in the studio, swaying in synchrony as they make music together. This is what AJOYO is all about: the process, the exchange, the growth, and empathy that comes from fruitful creative coexistence. “Better Love” exemplifies AJOYO’s work in every way.
War Chant releases 22 May via Shems Records.