Zun Zun Egui conjure up bona fide rebel music that is full of body, raw in spirit and totally free of precedent. A heavy, heavy dance band, they fire up mighty, eternal grooves worthy of some dust-caked Lagos street jam, but don’t just settle for that: tropical melodies, thrilling stop-start
time switches, scorching psychedelics and robust underground rock flourishes are gathered up as the momentum swells towards frenzied, ecstatic finales. East African guitar practice is inflamed by multi-lingual incantations (in French, English, Creole, Japanese…), sinuous prog gets a big bass undertow. It’s roll and roll, a rainbow blaze of rhythm and sound that pulls both the rockers and the writhers into its heart.
Zun Zun release their first EP ‘Bal La Poussiere’ on Blank Tapes (home of Bass Clef, Scatter, Thee Stranded Horse) as a limited edition 12″. The title is a Mauritian saying loosely translated as ‘the best dancer raises more dust from the floor…’
Borne of Bristol, England (where Zun Zun Egui met and unhatched), this is music that has seen rare corners and a genuinely unique cross-range of cultures. Frontman and guitarist Kushal Gaya grew up off the coast of Madagascar, one foot in Reunion Island, the other on the adjacent isle of Mauritius. Life on Reunion made a particularly telling mark, as the teenage Kushal was awakened to the music of traditional ceremonies performing in honour of local ancestry – proud Creole customs that had been demonised by French colonial influence in the sixties. It took small and enterprising groups of Kushal’s young adult peers to find the courage to reclaim these folk traditions for what they were: in a weird parallel with the “rebellious” subcultures of western youth, Kushal would have to sneak off to such gatherings without his mother and father’s blessing. “The colonialists had fed my parents’ generation the idea that these services were devil-worshipping rituals”, he explains, “when in fact they were a really important part of Creole culture and identity – and the music you’d hear at them reflected the social mix on the island, this unique form of blues played with African rhythms and Indian melodies.”
Migrating to Nottingham in 2000 to live the English student life, Kush found himself reveling in a very different kind of subcullture: devouring a reputed 50 albums a month, he majored on the keystones of leftfield American rock such as Touch & Go Records and The Jesus Lizard, and wound up fronting a chaotic psycho-punk-blues group known for unhinged, exhibitionist live performance inspired by rock/art freaks like GG Allen and Delta blues legend Son House.
It was upon relocating to Bristol in 2005 that Kush started to crave a music which, whilst retaining the loose ‘n’ wild streak of his recent musical history, played down the wilful provocation in favour of a different intensity – something more joyful, groove-led, and in tune with the tropical blues scales and skipping, reverential rhythms Reunion and Mauritius had ingrained within him. He found a perfect foil in Yoshino Shigara, a Japanese animator, visual artist, and inventive keyboardist he met through a local jam band, whose soulful, explosively technicolour art seemed to paint the music of Zun Zun Egui before the band had even come to be (Yoshino is now responsible for all the band’s visual elements). After some early tinkerings, a permanent, all-English rhythm section was found in bassist Luke Mosse and drummer Matt Jones – suitable wide-minded students of beat and metre both, who swiftly became compositional partners in the Zun Zun democracy. It’s then the alchemy really started fizzing…
So far the band have been busy playing with all sorts of acts at all kinds of shows, from underground bunker busters with Whitehouse, Flower-Corsano Duo, and Peeesseye to larger gigs with the likes of David Byrne (at The Royal Festival Hall), Antibalas (at The Barbican), Hypnotic Ensemble and A Hawk and A Hacksaw, as well as ecstatically received appearances at Green Man and End of The Road festivals. They recently toured the UK with Fuck Buttons and were hand-picked by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow to play Invada Invasion at Bristol’s Colston Hall. Meanwhile the band hone their room-wrecking jamboree sound on home turf, as resident band at the club night they run in Bristol called ‘How Come…’
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