This new album by the Nubiyan Twist collective offers a feverish immersion into South East London party culture, an urban jungle where Neo-soul, ethio-jazz, afrobeat and acid-jazz interlace, welding in constantly surprising ways.
Nubiyan Twist appeared in Leeds a few years ago in the fertile breeding ground of the Leeds College of Music, born from Tom Excell’s opportunistic musical scouting missions.
Guided by creative vibrations, the guitarist and producer, whose musical spectrum spans soul to electronics, through hip-hop and Latin and African music, scoured jams and sessions in order to form a quality team: “In the beginning, we did productions with Joe and Nubiya singing. We played in small clubs and parties. Thanks to that, we were able to contact come great musicians in our school, some of whom came from London. We went out a lot and we listened to music together: dub, Afrobeat, jazz, grime … It helped us to confront our own musical landscape and to become what we are today.”
The band quickly organised its own space in Oxfordshire. Known as Henwood Studios, this creative conduit was born out of the legacy of Joe Henwood (baritone saxophonist by training) who decided to use his image to renovate a barn and to buy analog and digital equipment to drive the music forward. Tom takes us back to this episode: “Joe allowed us to realize our dream of having our own studio. Today it is a fantastic location – the perfect place to get carried away by our creativity.”
It was in this place that, driven by total freedom, Nubiyan Twist quickly produced a first EP which ran in parallel with increased recognition for their intricate, cross-pollinated melodies.Jungle Run, their new album, ventures into a daring mix, one in which the diversity makes for uncommon results. Each piece contains a surprise, adding its influence to the afterglow of the previous track. At times, Nubiyan Twist recalls the neo-soul of Hiatus Kaiyoté, making direct reference to ethio-jazz and afrobeat (along with other styles). They have earned the honor of being accompanied by the founders of these two African traditions: Mulatu Astatke for the former, on “Addis To London,” and Tony Allen for the latter, on “Ghost.” On these two experiences, Tom Excell commented that they felt natural: “They loved our vision for the music, our way of placing their groove in present.” Proud to be accompanied by such legends, the English group also had the flair to invite Kweku Of Ghana to contribute his art to “Basa Basa” (translated as “chaos” in English) a title built through the rhythms of highlife.
Acting as more than a lush soundscape bursting with influences, Nubiyan Twist’s music seems to have been conceived of as a way of bringing questions about the world around us and our relationships with others directly to listeners. Take the cosmic bossa nova on “Borders,” which features Pilo Adami’s improvised percussion; the title track “Jungle Run,” or the intoxicating tracks “Brother” and “Permission.”
“This album can be likened to a social experiment inspired by human behavior. Our struggles, our convictions, our exchanges … its about connecting different people and cultures while exploring the journey of individuals. Nubiya [singer] approaches these subjects in a very beautiful way; her poetry and her voice gives a special flavor to the album.”
Nubiyan Twist’s sound is both a relaying of nature’s cry and the hoarse voice of the spooky city. A hermetically-sealed canopy and urban concrete milieu collide, explode and test each other to finally discover that they are in fact brothers in this new album, Jungle Run.
Nuibyan Twist – Jungle Run (Strut Records)