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This was one of those legendary gigs you’ll read or hear about in future and wish you’d stumbled on, and we were there! Justin Adams, English rock guitarist extraordinaire and Gambian riti master, Griot and singer supreme Juldeh Camara have, since their pairing been a match made in World Music heaven. But Adams put the icing on the cake at this seminal gig by proclaiming the duo ‘Officially an item’, and re-christening he and Camara, with new band members Billy Fuller on bass and Dave Smith on drums - JuJu. Great news, as we definitely want their inter-cultural marriage to last!
Having seen (and reviewed) Justin and Juldeh (as they are oft dubbed) in a wide variety of settings, from open air festivals (WOMAD at the Tower of London – 2009, WOMAD Charlton Park 2010) huge concert halls (FRoots at the Roundhouse 2010) and small (International Guitar Festival – King’s Place 2010 – hour set), it was a genuine pleasure to at last, see them up close and personal in the intimate basement space of The Bowery in Holborn, London. Standing nearly as close to them as you are to your computer screen right now, I felt their relentlessly infectious grooves washing over me as their instruments wailed, screeched, screamed, cried and stretched until the audience yelled out for more, and still more again! Juldeh Camara, in long flowing robes, sweat beading on his face, was on rare form as his vocals reached skyward before dipping down into a bluesy space thought reserved solely for the likes of Howling Wolf, who was there in spirit on the front of Justin’s T-Shirt. Likewise Justin rocked and rolled, reeling in the spontaneity and freeness of it all! Their enthusiasm was more than contagious and several people (including yours truly) blissfully danced their way through one trance inducing number after another. Thankfully, we were treated to two sets at this celebratory show, a real luxury for those of us who’d only ever seen Justin and Juldeh sporadically, via shortened sets and/or on multiple bills.
Irresistible grooves abounded throughout, though a couple of exciting songs from Justin and Juldeh’s last CD Tell No Lies - ‘Madam Marianna’, now ‘Marianna Trance’ and a reworked version of ‘Sahara’, dubbed ‘Deep Sahara’, both up-dated into longer, even more spiraling numbers, captured the imagination and propelled those all too oft disused dancing feet into action. As far as brand new tracks go, they don’t come much finer than ‘Nightwalk’ a real rocker from the group’s upcoming album – In Trance. A great thing has happened on the way to this collection, in that both Justin and Juldeh have opened up like never before and they now soar through their mutual collaborations along their own distinct, but parallel lines, the blending of their talents ripening their signature Afro-rock into a potent and evocative brew! Maybe I’m biased, but it seems to me that now, with the added power lent them by the band’s bass player and drummer, that Justin and Juldeh can, literally, do no wrong…The happy crowd whopping, clapping and swaying all around me from start to finish during this show obviously shared my view!
In addition to the songs mentioned above, which found Juldeh crossing over into rock territory, sawing at his riti, his face a study of focus mingled with abandon and Justin intermittently playing the bendir, aka African frame drum with increasing concentration and vigour, were other In Trance tracks, each, seemingly better than the one that went before. Among them were ‘Waide Nayde’, ‘Djanta Mojo’ bluesy rock lament ‘Jambajo’ and ‘Halanam’ the translations for which were sadly, not on my promotional copy of this essential CD. Translations aside, this was real music, made right before your eyes, its phrases never played in exactly the same way twice, so it was and, is always, as fresh and invigorating for those listening to it as it must be for those playing it. Nothing is staged, as all involved are into going wherever their musical muses lead them. I can assure that everyone there was privileged to be in JuJu’s company!
JuJu definitely floats my row-boat and if you’re into going with richly textured musical flows, they’ll take you places too! Considering the heartiness of the cheering at the end of this show, I’m not the only one who hopes JuJu comes our way again very soon. In the meantime, there is much savoury consolation to be found on their new release, (Justin and Juldeh’s 3rd CD and JuJu’s debut) – In Trance, recorded in a single take for that live, plugged-in and rocking out sound - available June 13th on Real World Records.
Watch JuJu live in Basel:
(‘Deep Saraha’) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF1bdRpSii0&NR=1
(Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara)
Live in London: Tuesday, 17 May 2011
36 – 38 New Oxford Street
London WC1A 1EP
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