The unconventional blend of literature, jazz, and a café makes this independent bookstore a unique part of Nigerian culture
Lagos wouldn’t be Lagos without The Jazzhole. The store has been a landmark in the Nigerian capital for almost 30 years. In the heart of the trendy Ikoyi neighborhood, the sandy yellow facade looks relatively unassuming, but behind it lies a glittering realm of literature and jazz.
“We carry an incredible spread of books, a mix of old and new,” says Tundun Tejuoso, who runs The Jazzhole together with her husband, Kunle Tejuoso. The shelves and tables are piled with Nigerian and international fiction, antique treasures, and specialist publications. Coffee-table books, comics, and fashion magazines complete the section. The analog concoction of records and reading have created a refreshing, calming break from the bustling streets outside.
The bestselling novel 'Americanah' by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is prominently displayed alongside other popular titles, not least because it includes a particularly glowing mention of The Jazzhole. Just months before the official relocation of Nigeria’s capital from Lagos to Abuja in 1991, Kunle Tejuoso opened The Jazzhole. He said that his vision was to create a mesmerizing book and record store that would do Lagos-biggest Black capital in the world-justice. It is an offshoot of the independent Nigerian bookstore chain Glendora Books, which had been founded by his mother, Gbemisola Tejuoso, in 1975.
“He grew up on books and had a strong passion for music from a young age,” says Tundun Tejuoso. He graduated with a Master’s in Electrical Engineering in New York and returned immediately to Lagos in the late 1980s. He opened The Jazzhole a few years afterward. Kunle Tejuoso’s vision was to open a bookstore that would serve as a platform for contemporary culture, literature, and jazz from all over the world. Its character has always made the store different and very unlike the conventional bookstores in this part of the world; it might sound unconventional, but it has proven to be a huge success. The books and a range of vinyl dovetail are brilliantly selected by the team.
Uncontested greats like Miles Davis and Bob Marley are ranged alongside recordings by local and national artists like Afrobeat musician Duro Ikujenyo and the French-Nigerian singer and songwriter Aṣa. “Our music collection is as deep as you can think,” says Tundun Tejuoso, “CDs and vinyl from the ‘freest’ of jazz to the latest in new African/Afrodiasporic forms, with a strong specialization in traditional and modern Nigerian music.”
In the early 2000s, the store was joined by a small café, where guests sit at little wooden tables reading and relaxing to the strains of soft jazz music, over African coffee, and vegan carrot cake. The couple hosts well-attended readings, movie screenings, concerts, and jam sessions at which artists and the audience party between the bookshelves and stacks of vinyl. “Over the years, The Jazzhole has become an iconic landmark relevant to all ages,” says Tundun delightedly. She describes the store as an oasis for the mind. “[Places like this] are so necessary, in a fast-growing megapolis such as Lagos—where everybody is on the hustle to become someone in life.”