Gwen & Tiana: African Time (UBU0022)
Africa is a continent that Gwen & Tiana know very well. Gwen, who is from Gabon and Togo and Tiana, whose roots are in Cameroon and Madagascar, both left their countries over ten years ago to develop their knowledge of music.
Ever since he was a child, Gwen had been immersed in the effervescent world of gospel music, a few years before he discovered soul music. His first steps as a music professional were made in Gabon, where he worked with gospel artists from his area. Then he went to France which gave new impetus to his musical career, as he performed with a number of international artists, including Stevie Wonder.
Tiana grew up in Cameroon, lulled by the jazz and soul music her parents would listen to. She developed her passion for music at a very young age, when she studied the classical piano. Her growing curiosity led her to join African and gospel choirs.
In 2015, Gwen & Tiana crossed paths with jazz guitarist Femi Temowo--whose associations include Amy Winehouse, Gregory Porter and George Benson--and their career gained new momentum. Familiar with Afro-European sounds, the Nigerian/British artist had no difficulty in understanding the spirit of the duo and where Gwen & Tiana wanted him to take them in terms of expression and experimentation. Temowo agreed to produce their album.
Musicians on African Time include UK keyboard player Oli Rockberger, Nigerian-born bassist Michael Olatuja and Lithuanian percussionist Marijus Aleksa. Special guests include Keyon Harrold on trumpet, Soweto Kinch on saxophone/vocals, Grégoire Maret on harmonica and Sona Jobarteh on kora/vocals.
Gwen & Tiana's debut album, African Time, is a declaration of love: love for oneself as a person rising from the ashes, overcoming hardships by being one's own best friend, love for Africa and for one's Blackness as a form of self-care, love for music and the arts, for the paths we choose for ourselves against all odds, and love for life that can be sunny or blue, hectic or slow, full of surprises and improvisations, just like soul and jazz.
“Being African, the philosophy of Ubuntu Music 'I am because we are' means everything to us”, said Gwen & Tiana. “When we first met Martin Hummel, he was concerned about who we were, what we wanted as persons, as artists and how we had been dealing with the music industry since then. We met a good human being who was caring, sharing and full of advice. More than signing with Ubuntu Music, we are building a strong partnership and friendship.”
“I first met Gwen & Tiana at Jazzahead in Bremen, and it was love at first sight and sound. These two beautiful people have such a deep spirit, for their music and their culture, which has attracted a considerable array of supporting artists. We are honoured to welcome Gwen & Tiana into the Ubuntu family.”