Olatuja (courtesy photo)

Once-married recording duo, Michael and Alicia Olatuja released an album called “The Promise” back in 2011. Better known under their group name “Olatuja,” they have described their style of music as a blend of soul, jazz, gospel, and African music.

Although now divorced, the couple remained friends over the years, and today they are collaborating on new music together. Their latest release is the song “Gold and Silver.” It is the musical tale of their destined meeting at the Manhattan School of Music and later misadventures.

The duo recently completed a new album titled “Olatuja,” which picks up where The Promise left off.

London born, Michael Olatuja is of British-Nigerian descent, and he was raised back and forth between London and Nigeria. Michael Olatuja said he began playing music in the Nigerian church at the age of five.

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He played many instruments but settled on the bass at ten-years-old. “And I guess the rest is history,” he said.

Alicia Olatuja grew up in a family that played many genres of music. Like Michael Olatuja, she also grew up in church.

“Being able to be surrounded by all different types of music and being inspired by all different types of music, it really helped me fall in love with music for music’s sake before I knew I wanted to be a singer,” said Alicia Olatuja. “I was really influenced by the storytelling element.”

Before moving to New York and meeting Alicia Olatuja, Michael Olatuja did his undergraduate studies in the UK, where he studied and played jazz. He also worked on the pop music scene with some boy and girl bands and other well-known performers in England.

“I decided I wanted to follow my passion of jazz,” said Michael Olatuja. “I applied to the Manhattan School of Music, and I got in. It was in my second year of the masters that I met Alicia – I ended up staying in New York and living there.”

Alicia Olatuja is a classically trained singer, and she recalled working in classical music when she met Michael Olatuja.

She said she wrote a lot of soul and R&B music around that time, even though she was studying classical music up until she and Michael Olatuja did their first album together.

“We started working together before we became life partners, which makes it so much easier to continue working together after we weren’t life partners anymore,” said Alicia Olatuja.

“We already knew what that dynamic felt like,” she continued. “And we appreciated one another and even revered and respected each other’s work as friends.”

Alicia Olatuja then thought back to when she first hung out with Michael Olatuja. She remembered hearing great things about him as a bassist and invited him to play on a track she was recording at a home studio. “And he killed it. He did great,” she said.

Olatuja (courtesy photo)

“One of the first things that stood out about Alicia was that I would do these [musical] arrangements in school, and then Alicia would just sing her arranged vocals over it,” said Michael Olatuja. “It just felt like a game of tennis – I would hit the ball and she would hit it right back.”

He also loved the fact that Alicia Olatuja, although she was a classical singer, was not afraid to sing many other genres of music like soul, jazz, and R&B.

“It made working together seamless,” said Michael Olatuja.

Michael Olatuja said that if you had told him ten-years ago he and Alicia Olatuja would be working together on an album after divorcing, he would not have believed it.

“Healing from the wounds and stuff – the time helped,” said Michael Olatuja. “Time helped us to grow up and reflect, get counseling, and work on self-improvement and oneself.”

The Olatujas reconnected during the coronavirus pandemic. It was then that Alicia Olatuja suggested to Michael Olatuja the possibility of doing a follow-up album to The Promise.

“My instant kneejerk reaction was to say yes, because whatever we did was going to be amazing,” said Michael Olatuja. “If we could get in the studio and do what we do – the results would be magic.”

Alicia Olatuja said that throughout the process of creating the new album it was important for the pair to discuss who they had become and their journey getting there. “That found its way into the creation of the music,” she said.

Two of the tracks on the “Olatuja” album include “Gold and Silver,” which chronicles their early years in New York, and an instrumental track called “Reflections.”

Alicia Olatuja said throughout the album there are themes of reconciliation, resilience, joy, and love. “Every song that we wrote came from a three- or four-hour conversation,” she said.

Over the years, Olatuja has endured, said the duo, because they have mutual respect as friends and artists.

“We were always rooting for one another, watching what each other was doing, and being continuously inspired by one another,” said Alicia Olatuja. “Those things didn’t change because our marital relationship transitioned into friendship.”