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America hasn't quite caught up yet, but boy, did Europe fall in. love. with Ayo when Joyful, her debut album, dropped on the continent in 2006. The mellow, mellifluously voiced neo-soul singer is no stranger to struggle and perseverance. In many ways, Ayo's music is the product of her parentage. Born Joy Olasunmibo Ogunmakin near Cologne, Germany, she grew up playing the violin, piano and guitar, and listening to her Nigerian dad's soul, reggae and Afrobeat records. She also grew up dealing with her Romani (Gypsy) mother's heroin addiction, which resulted in her parents' divorce, her and her siblings moving from foster home to foster home, and Ayo's first song, written at age 15 about her tumultuous childhood. When she was 18, her father, an engineer and part-time DJ, helped her record her demo, and when she was 21, she moved to Paris to begin her music career under the name Ayo, which means "joyful" in Yoruba. The move paid off: she began opening for soul singers like Omar and Cody ChesnuTT. After some time off to marry Afro-German reggae singer Patrice and have her first child, Ayo signed with Polydor, which released the quasi-eponymous Joyful. It came out stateside in 2007.
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