Biodun Kuti is Paul Simon's guitarist, and is known as the "Jimi Hendrix of Nigeria"
Biodun Kuti grabbed the guitar at the early age of fifteen and started playing in churches, with his father’s band, and other local bands in Lagos, Nigeria. Descended from an ancestral lineage of Yoruba musicians, Biodun’s childhood was bound with Juju, Highlife and traditional drumming. “I grew up in a house in Lagos where you could find guitars in every corner of the house, and all of my brothers are musicians as well,” says Biodun. “My grandfather was the chief of the village of Ifewara – right next to Ife (in the state of Osun) which is believed to be the cradle of the Yoruba people. His house was filled with a hundred different traditional Yoruba percussions. So it was that I was brought up in both traditional and modern Yoruba music, finding a fluid style of guitar playing inflected with jazz and funk elements.” Biodun, brother Kayode, and Ik have played together for years. Along with American guitarist Jon Dichter, the New Nigerian Gypsies produce a unique and original sound with very deep West African roots.
In 2013, Collaborating Artists Mark Stewart and Jamey Haddad — both members of Paul Simon’s touring band — were deeply impressed by the cohort of musicians they met at the OneBeat residency. In particular, one musician stood out to them both, Nigerian guitarist Biodun Kuti — in fact, after Jamey Haddad returned home from visiting the residency, he immediately and excitedly asked Mark if he could imagine Biodun playing in Paul’s band, “in some other dimension” or circumstance, he had said. Five years later, after the tragic passing of Paul’s longtime guitarist, Vincent Nguini, Mark and Jamey both advocated for Biodun to have a chance at joining the final tour. “There was a feeding frenzy — a lot of guitarists were hoping to get that call,” says Mark. “But Paul was ambitious, and he hoped to find a great African guitarist who could lend the gravitas necessary to be on stage left. And so he aimed high — and after awhile, the list came down to just two guitarists. The first guitarist was brilliant, and after spending three days playing with him, Paul said he didn’t know how anyone could do better than that. And then in walked Biodun. And there it was — within an hour, I think Paul knew.”
Biodun continues touring with Paul Simon, and will be with him this August in Japan.
Biodun Kuti and The New Nigerian Gypsies consists of:
Biodun Kuti: guitar & vocals
Kayode Kuti: bass guitar
Ik Golden: drums
Jon Dichter: guitar & vocals