London’s Strut Records bring you the latest from expert Afro-dub jazz collective Nubiyan Twist. Perhaps they too tuned in to CITV in the early 2000s, for it’s named Jungle Run. Recorded and produced with a muscular and sumptuous sound, the album also wafts between hip hop, soul, Latin and atmospheric electronics. Vocal duties are shared by Nubiya Brandon, Nick Richards, K.O.G., Pilo Adami and Mulatu Astatke.
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Jungle Run was a kids program on CITV in the noughties. In my era, it was hosted by TV everyman Michael Underwood. The aim of the game was to collect statues that would allot more time in the final round, named ‘The Temple of the Jungle King’. Jungle Run, the new album by Nubiyan Twist, carries with it the same sense of energy and enthusiasm that the program did all those years ago. Nubiyan Twist are a ten-piece afrobeat, dub, and jazz band specialising in the kind of music enjoyed in painfully cool artisan, free-range craft beer bars up and down the land. It’s a dense, compact work of classic afrobeat, complete with fast, shifting rhythms, a horn section, and strident vocals.
Hands down the best part of this record is the experimental electronic textures that are present in most tracks and gives Jungle Run edge over its peers. ‘Jungle Run feat. Nubiya Brandon’ is a stand-out song off the record and is one of the coolest afrobeat songs I’ve heard for a while. ‘Basa Basa feat. K.O.G’ is probably my favourite song from this LP, with a Shangaan Electro kind of melody that bleeps and bloops its way straight into your limbic system. This song, and indeed lots of the album, reminds me in part of Amadou and Mariam, with their spindly guitar lines and skittish, off-kilter rhythms. The lyrics to ‘Basa Basa’ also appear to reference current debates over nationhood as well as immigration. Singer Nubiya Brandon dictates that you should ‘know my name’ and that ‘where I’m from is where I begun’. It’s these kind of albums that should be listened to more and more, and Nubiyan Twist deliver social commentary that is never po-faced or overly didactic.
I would love to hear the electronic element of Nubiyan Twist brought out more in future releases and would like to hear something slightly sparser by them, but for now they can rest easy knowing that Jungle Run is a great album and more that lives up to the name made all those years ago on CITV.
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