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India and Africa collide
If you want to go on a wild musical ride, Jinja Safari is taking bookings.
Jinja Safari is unlike anything you might have heard before. There are more instruments than band members on stage and sounds from different hemispheres merge to create a sound that's both familiar and fresh. More often described as 'forest rock', pinning a label on the the band's sound is like trying to pin a moonbeam to a wall.
"Lot of labels yes. Yesterday we narrowed it down to cosmic-denim-can't-remember. Whatever fits, " chuckles Joe 'Citizen' Stranger, the bass player of the impossibly charming Sydneybased indie folk band Jinja Safari. "It's just a mix of influences like with anything else. It's folk pop in a sense, but a bit of indie rock as well. It's a bit something else too hopefully. "
Cameron 'Pepa' Knight, the multi-instrumentalist who is one of the two frontmen of the less than three-year-old band pipes in with, "All the magical words that you can think of. . . It's fun music, a mixture of sounds from India and Africa. "
Jinja Safari, who are in India for a five-city tour as part of the Oz Fest, have two critically acclaimed EPs - Jinja Safari and Mermaids & Other Sirens - to their credit and are just a few months away from releasing their fulllength debut album. The sense of adventure, happy and hippie vibe that Jinja Safari has come to be known for is at the heart of their music. With a soundscape that combines Afrobeats with Indian-inspired melodies, Jinja Safari's experiments with sounds has become their trademark.
Originally a duo of Marcus Azon and 'Pepa' in 2010, the band has grown to include 'Citizen', Alister 'Nugget' Roach on percussion and Jacob Borg (drums), and become famous for their raucous live shows.
Their first ever gig took place in the forest of New South Wales amongst friends who were encouraged to dress up as animals. The band have maintained that early energy, making each live experience both enchanting and unusual. The first show in India, at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender last weekend, had the crowd jumping up and down.
"The sound of the band has developed naturally, " the blue-eyed Pepa explains. "Our original songs were more like demos that Marcus and I had written. All the percussion was recorded by hitting our legs and playing on chairs, literally. We didn't have any real percussion instruments but that has developed into something bigger now that we have Joe, Nugget and Jacob joining the band. " It was with the song Peter Pan that the band made waves. Other productions like Mermaids, Hiccups and Sunken House have only added to their allure.
The African-Indian influences are a result of a trip that the two frontmen took in 2011 - Azon visited his grandmother in Jinja, a tiny town in Uganda while Pepa took a seven-week trip to India. "When I did the India trip last year, I got so much inspiration from that, " Pepa, who is one of the most energetic performers on stage, says. "A lot of our new songs will have those sounds running through them. And while I was in India, Marcus was travelling through Africa. And we both brought over our recorders and recorded a lot of samples for our new album. "
One of the interesting aspects of the band is their use of Indian instruments like sitar and harmonium. "Yes, I play the sitar, and very badly, " Pepa laughs. "On this tour, it's only for one song though. I did purchase the harmonium when I was in India last year, in Delhi actually. I've used it a lot in for our new songs but it's a little too delicate to travel long distance. "
Even though there's a sitar in their midst, the band's knowledge of Indian music is sparse, to say the least. Joe volunteers, "I can safely say that I had heard NOTHING about the music scene. "
Pepa, who counts Pandit Ravi Shankar as an influence, never got a chance to experience the local Indian music scene during his seven-week travels through India. "The only Indian music we know about is certainly not contemporary but this trip is our chance to discover some great Indian music, " he says apologetically.
Jinja Safari play in New Delhi on November 10 and in Bangalore on November 11
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