Yvan Agbo played with an infectious joy
Yves (Yvan) Marie Claude Agbo was born in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa on July 6, 1967. He was the youngest of six – 5 boys and 1 girl. Yvan’s father played guitar when he was young. Everyone in the family followed in his footsteps and learned to play guitar. At age 4, Yvan was playing guitar, taught mostly by his older brother Alain, who was also his godfather, and Alain’s twin sister Maggie. He made a local Senegalese television debut at the age of six.
Senegal was a former French colony that had frequent visits by touring musicians. Yvan and his brother once saw B.B. King perform in Dakar. They loved the music coming from the United States, especially that of John Fogarty, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and a special love of Carlos Santana’s guitar solos who, according to Alain, mixed Latin and African music perfectly. Later in Key West, Yvan’s love of Latin music helped connect him with a special friendship of Rolando Rojas and Caribe.
In the 80s, Yvan and Alain formed a band called The Agbo Brothers and often included their sister. Yvan later adopted a unique style of guitar, influenced by Wes Montgomery’s unique gaming technique, using the thumb of the right hand instead of a guitar pick. He adopted many other jazz guitarist characteristics. They wrote and recorded their own songs, plus performed many popular U.S. soul music sounds. They recorded one album together, Fonk-Li, in 1990 – it was re-released in Paris in 2000.
Alain moved to France to study biology and was unable to hear Yvan play guitar for several years. Eventually, Yvan followed Alain from Senegal to France. Alain was amazed at how much Yvan had improved on the guitar. Yvan was now in a class of guitarists all his own. He made his way to France by collaborating with Senegalese artists, and continued his music career in Metz, Lyon, and Pointe-à-Pitre. Later, he teamed up with his brother Alain on musical projects.
Yvan Agbo performed at European music festivals such as Montreux Jazz Festival, Jazz à Vienne, Montjoux Festival, and Festival du Moule. He toured France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and then traveled to another former French colony, Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean where he heard of this special island of music – Key West.
In 2006, Yvan moved to Key West where he quickly established himself in the Key West music community. Key West guitarist Larry Baeder once commented: Yvan brings a perspective of popular music that is different from U.S. born guitarists. Not only did he play great, he played with an infectious joy.
Yvan played solo gigs and with various bands, including Martha’s Vineyard’s, Entrain. He was overwhelmed by all the opportunities on this small island to play music with other talented artists of many genres.
As previously mention, Yvan had a special connection through Latin music with Rolando Rojas. They often played duets and special gigs, often including the amazing George Victory. This trio of wonderful Key West guitarists (Guitar Buddies) had a unique bond through music They came from very different musical backgrounds and loved playing together. They would look for excuses to get together and jam for hours.
One day, they were working on an instrumental version of Bob Marley’s famous song, “Is This Love”. It was going so well that, as a lark, they setup an iPhone and recorded their magical version. Yvan later posted it on his Facebook page. In two days, it was viewed over 40,000 times.
Yvan loved music of any genre but he especially loved the improvisation of jazz. He could rip off extreme solos, on a whim, with expertise and improvisation that impressed all. He was equally comfortable playing Blues with Michelle Dravis, Jazz with Skipper Kripitz and Joe Dallas, or an acoustical solo with Ross Brown’s percussion. He performed all over Key West and was loved by all.
Yvan celebrated the five-year anniversary of the passing of his father with a profound solo acoustical instrumental version of Sting’s “Fields of Gold”. He recorded it on his iPhone and posted on Facebook. It received thousands of views and comments. We lost Yvan Agbo on August 15, 2018.
During the First Annual Key West Music Awards (2022), a Lifetime Achievement Award was presented posthumously to Yvan by his great friend Rolando Rojas. In 2020, Yvan’s brother Alain released an album, Love Forever, that they had recorded together in Key West. We all miss you my friend – Rest in peace.
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