REVIEW: King's Place Festival- Ayanna


Ayanna Witter-Johnson brought her soothing vocals, her ace fashion-style and of course her beloved cello Reuben on stage at the King’s Place Festival last week, delivering a confident, enchanting set. Ayanna brought such genuineness to her music, each song obviously so personal to her- songs dedicated to her mother, her father, and more touching on all aspects of her life, welcoming the audience to share her experiences with her in this intimate venue.


Ayanna’s performance style stands out on top of her musicianship, opening the show with some graceful movement along with her singing. Ayanna also rather creatively included tape music in the set, most notably the song Rise Up in her very stylistic transition to the piano.


Ayanna performed a combination of songs from her last EP Black Panther, songs from her upcoming album, and a few covers too, covering a wide range of genre and musical styles and techniques. Though largely solo, with her vocals, Reuben the cello, and a bit of piano, Ayanna also brought in guitarist Ed Riches and percussionist Samson Jatto, along with Penny the cowbell, to accompany her in a few songs, such as Crossroads. The songs with the band brought a very warm edge to her songs, showing how inclusive and inviting her songs are to listeners and performers, as well as showcasing the beauty of how many different ways her music can be interpreted and performed.


Song Chariot stood out most for me. Dedicated to her father, Ayanna really brought her true feelings in this one. Musically, it’s a very happy, honest, sound with a subtle, simple cello instrumental behind her vocals; her vocals and lyrics being the main focus of this song- and the audience only enhancing this beautifully simple sound being invited to “click on the 2 and the 4.”


Ayanna’s musical ability really stood out particularly in her cover of The Police’s Roxanne, where she played the cello without the bow for part of the song, and used it simultaneously as a percussion instrument. Ayanna manipulated the cello in many of her songs, using it in ways which have never really been explored to a great extent, particularly in her song Come As You Are, which was hauntingly beautiful by the way she used the cello as both a melodic and a percussion instrument, imitating a drum. Ayanna closed the hour-long set with the title song of her last EP Black Panther, a heartbreaking and vulnerable song in which all her musicality and emotions are brought together.


Ayanna really is a unique songwriter and musician, with such genuine music- both technically and emotionally-, which is what draws such a large audience in, and such large support for the making of her upcoming debut album Reuben and Ay. Check out the recent interview we did with Ayanna here.


You can find out more about Ayanna and her music here,  and support her crowdfunding campaign for her debut album!