JuJu (Live Review)

From the 23rd to the 28th of September, London’s Barbican staged the annual Transcender Festival – an acclaimed event that hosts a selection of global artists that supposedly perform some highly ecstatic and hypnotic grooves to world music aficionados. This year’s festival opened with bluesy alchemists Juju, aka Justin Adams, known for his Muddy Water guitar prowess and overall skills on all things musical. Joining him was Gambian griot and ritti-playing genius (one-stringed fiddle) Juldeh Camara.

After a few groovy numbers of watching the duo rock-out, Adams turned to his already captivated audience and said “We don’t know where this is going – this guy is dangerous – you wait!”. At this moment, the magnificence of the term “trance” came to light. With well-known tunes from their previous albums, Soul Science (Wayward, 2007), Tell No Lies (Real World, 2009) and their recently released wonder In Trance (Real World, 2011), Camara did just that, with his spontaneous, evocative motives that moved alongside and at times alternated with Adam’s guitar grooves creating a musical dynamic between the two that was thrilling to all senses. Soon, most of the audience were on their feet dancing away in the aisles. There were others of course that attempted the “dancing in chair” à la mode – a favourite of seated-venues such as the Barbican. There were also just those who were completely mesmerised by the entrancing, bluesy-based volume that kept them still like a hallucinogenic drug.

“If you want to dance properly” said Adams, “you need to catch the train to Bangor, North Wales – they’re wild over there!” The Englishman was right. This was the only catch about the gig – where it was staged. Simply, how can people enjoy the music to its truest “potential”, if they are obstructed by objects such as chairs and lots of stairs?

Besides this slight hitch, the English/Gambian duo – whilst not forgetting new bass player Billy Fuller and percussionist Dave Smith – were truly remarkable. The combination of Camara’s passion-fuelled Fulani vocals and folk-style ritti playing, Fuller’s groovy bass-lines, Smith’s jazzy-Gambian beats and Adams’ rock-infused-riffs gave way to a sublime, psychedelic sound that cannot be compared to any other.

After a well-affirmed encore, JuJu’s final number Ya Takaya brought everyone to their feet and I soon found myself dancing at the front of the stage amongst the hardcore, smiling fans. How I got there I do not know. What I do know however, was that Adams was right, his co-star certainly knew how to get his audience into a transcendental state. A jaw-opening blast-off to the Barbican’s Transcender Festival 2011.

by Amy Cunningham

Check out one of the tracks of their new album In Trance: realworldrecords.com/videos/djanfa-moja

You can buy their last album In Trance from Amazon

Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara with Robert Plant at WOMAD Abu Dhabi:

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