One of the first places Junichiro “John” Imaeda visited in Japan after spending three months in West Africa in 2008 was the Koenji Awa Odori, one of Tokyo’s largest summer festivals. Seeing the dance troupes, musicians and revelers fill the streets after his trip triggered an aha moment.

“It made me realize that all humans share musical similarities, that we all have rhythms that we move to and share,” Imaeda recalls. “I started Ajate after that.”

The 43-year-old Imaeda and eight other performers have used Ajate as a way to explore the intersection of West African melodies with Japan’s festival-style sounds, which are powered by taiko (Japanese drums), shinobue (Japanese flute) and other traditionally local instruments. The group’s latest album, “Dala Toni,” offers a particularly ecstatic example of its “Afrobayashi” — a portmanteau of “Afrobeat” and “o-hayashi” (traditional Japanese music).