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JUJU is a more than appropriate name for a band featuring award winning World Music duo Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, one of the most exciting pairs in music today, as you’d be hard pressed to give one of them top billing over the other. I’ve seen, listened to and reviewed them in concert so many times, usually on a multiple bill, that when I’m at home, they’re known simply (and fondly) as ‘Justin and Juldeh’ by one and all. Anyone within hearing range who doesn’t know them will soon find out what all the excitement is about with In Trance, their latest and third release. We’ve all heard of one hit wonders a la Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets, but this album is a one take wonder, recorded in one go, having plugged in and rocked out - great, as Justin and Juldeh are double dynamite live!
Rock guitar don Justin (also bendir - traditional African frame drum, and backing vocals on In Trance), who also plays with Robert Plant and loads of other rock icons and Gambian super griot, riti (one string African violin/fiddle) master and talking drum player Juldeh who similarly globe-hops to meet requests for his luminous presence, rock out from the start on ‘Nightwalk’, with Justin’s guitar wailing, and Juldeh’s riti and arching vocals joining in, slipping past and soaring with the music. The added bonus of a momentary, gritty musical break followed by calling backing vocals lends oomph, as if JUJU needed any! This is full on stuff, breaking into free-flung riffs and vocals, seemingly, at the slightest inspiration. Rock treatment of what was already, a potently good thing. The dynamic duo – squared.
Plaintive, expressive, story-telling electric guitar, punctuated by Juldeh’s riti, begging to differ as the two bob and weave on, gradually joined by drums and bass on ‘Waide Nayde’. The emphasis is striking as Juldeh sings a line in his native language, underscored by a few added comments from his riti – the pair operating as one, as the other instruments recede, forming a frame for Juldeh’s sung tale. It conjures up an opera-full of mental imagery, suggestive of great expanses, or perhaps, just the seeming vastness of the small divides between us, with Justin’s guitar peppering our pipe-dreams.
Wonderfully vibrant drums add a roundness to ‘Djanta Moja’ a song far too fine to be desecrated by clueless wanna be belly-dancers, but what’s a novice to do? For an old hand like me, who has watched and followed Justin and Juldeh’s hammer and tongs pathway to musical expression over the past few years, fully appreciative of their tendency to side-wind in and out of all manner of intriguing avenues which open before them as they jam, there’s an added freshness to their musical ramblings here that is not only welcome, but apt. Much as I liked what they did before, it’s good to hear them experimenting. But wait, is my foot tapping? I’m starting to succumb now… Think my train of thought’s slipping into trance territory…Can't wait to hear this one live at The Bowery!
A guitar riff Pink Floyd would approve of, Juldeh’s riti swinging low, clopping drums kicking in, throbbing bass beneath… Juldeh getting down on ‘oh yeah, you wanna make something out of it?’ vocals, dipping lower, his riti dropping sawed off phrases, with Justin’s guitar intermittently roaring behind, that’s ‘Jambajo’. Stop and start in the best rock tradition…Slipping off a precipice at the end.
Hypnotic, buoyant, enticing riti playing reeling listeners in like so many bait-snapping fish! This track’s barely started and we’re already in a ‘Mariama Trance’! It seems more like the Justin and Juldeh I’ve known and loved, but for the fact that Juldeh’s in even more exceptionally fine voice here. I can’t help but think that both Justin and Juldeh must have benefited immensely from the experimentation their pairing has yielded. Go guys go! Make sure you wear your dancing shoes when you go to their gig on Tues. May 17th – you’ll need ‘em! At thirteen minutes, eleven seconds, this track is just long enough to give your limbs a good loosening to! A dash of what sounds like ‘Tequilla’ from Justin adds a jot of now you hear it, now you don’t humour. Juldeh outdoes himself vocally, nearly rapping his words as they wrap around him, his talking drum taking it all in strides. What is he trying to do, hypnotise us? If you have to ask, you’re already under….
Justin’s moaning electric guitar points us towards ‘Deep Sahara’ with Juldeh’s riti responding in kind. This is a track fans already know and love, with differences as vast as the Saharan sands, as firstly, a vocalist (Justin?) joins Juldeh on the title phrase. In its former state, this song was a tribute to Juldeh’s desert roots, now it becomes not just a tributary of the original, but a river in its’ own rite. (spelling meant to express meaning) If I wasn’t so busy moving with this track, I’d be forming the title phrase myself, it’s that infectious, both vocally and instrumentally. A springy undercurrent which wasn’t there before surfaces like a swirling mirage, leading us away from all we think we’ve known. This is one jam fest worth witnessing – for ticket info of JUJU’s upcoming gig at London’s new under-ground club (literally) The Bowery, see details below – playing their CD’s will get you in the mood.
The past fourteen minutes, forty-nine seconds gone in a flash, we’re treated to Juldeh’s expressive vocals on ‘Halanam’ a track worth savouring, especially as it’s the last on this album of songs that seem to fly by, regardless of their, in a few cases, extended play time. The instrumentation on this song is comparatively low key, allowing for Juldeh’s vocals, alluring in and of themselves, space to shine even brighter. There’s a density to this mix that seems deceptively simple on first listening, but is well worth deciphering on repeated plays.
If you love original jamming, you’ll really appreciate this CD. In fact, I doubt you’d still be with me now if you didn’t enjoy musical spontaneity. So plug in those twinkle lights, pop a few corks, (metaphorically speaking) dust off your dancin’ shoes and prepare to become firmly entrenched in being entranced – Justin and Juldeh aka JUJU make it easy!
These guys are real stars in my book, not because they’re high-faulting, but because they are simply, but as ever, eloquently, being Justin and Juldeh, with, in this case, a little added kick from their musician friends: multi-collaborator Billy Fuller on bass, international experimenter Dave Smith on drums and percussion and on two tracks, Ex-Shriekback rhythmist Martyn Barker. In Trance was ‘recorded live to capture the spirit of JuJu’s electric performances on stage - channelling trancey rhythms from traditional Africa, leftfield jazz and the wilder end of rock,’ as close as it gets to describing what JUJU is all about.
When I reviewed Justin and Juldeh’s fired up one hour set at the London International Guitar Festival at King’s Place a couple of years ago, during which Justin intermittently made reference to how they really get down when they play in sweaty late night dance halls, I dubbed them the ‘Mick and Keith for the 21st century’ a title, which, to my mind, they still hold today. M & K eat your hearts out!
Check out JuJu live: http://youtu.be/uNyUY6sQ7U
Hurry - grab some tickets for JuJu's album launch!
Live in London: Tuesday, 17 May 2011
36 – 38 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1EP
Tickets: £12.50 from http://tinyurl.com/jujubowery or 08444 77 1000
Bar opens 7pm.
Doors to the live room will open at 7.30pm
1st set: 7.45- 8.25pm
2nd set: 8.45-9.30pm
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