They were exciting, friendly and inviting. The show was opened and closed by ritual songs where we sang along and brought in the spirits of music to bless us. There was a lot of comedy between songs and direct audience interaction, Kushal playing with you face to face, off the stage, for several seconds at a time.
This is what I wrote about them back in the day, and the reason why I was exhilirated when they announced a gig in Leicester. Here you can access the original, something I encourage you to do as usual, so you can also check out all recommendations done by my partner in Anglophile crime Sam Valdés from Sloucher.
A band to follow up close in 2015.
Their name means “Group of Trees” in Basque, but it sounds like “Quick, Quick, Crazy” in Japanese. Both the story behind their name and the nationality of their members, from the islands of Mauritius, Japan and the UK, make it look like a small model of the UN, although their concept goes beyond the stereotypes of the It’s a Small World ride from Disneyland.
They got together in Bristol, where singer and guitar player Kushal Gaya stumbled upon keyboard player Yoshino Shigihara. They started playing with several friends, including bassist Luke Mosse and bassist Matt Jones. It was with these natives that Kushal and Yoshino formed this project, joining their international experiences and their love for the DIY culture and improvisation.
Their first LP, Katang, came in 2011, after several raw and deranged EP. It was then that they began to mature their sound and perfectly amalgamate genres such as afrobeat, ethio-jazz, punk funk, tropicalia and no wave. Adam Newton came to replace Luke, while Stephen Kerrison added more guitars to the combination.
For their new LP, Shackles’ Gift, they took shelter under Andrew Hung’s wing, another very dear former Bristol alumni and member of Fuck Buttons and Dawn Hunger. The idea for the album started to take root when Kushal took his partners to play in his homeland Mauritius on March 2013 in order to celebrate Independence Day.
There, they found strong pride and inspiration in the island’s history and its ability to rise by itself after escaping the grasp of the French and the English barely 45 years before.
Mauritius has 12 official languages and a national eclectic cuisine (research Shelina Permaloo, another Mauritian/Brit, winner of the 2012 edition of MasterChef). Just like its food and culture, Mauritian music is adventurous and finds inspiration everywhere. For instance, the sound the sugar cane grinder makes in the fields. Kushal related this to industrial music from the UK, when ensembles such as Throbbing Gristle emulated the noises from factories and their machinery.
Coming from the idea of African folk music as precursor of futurism and avant garde, Zun Zun Egui dived into as many regional genres as possible and passed them through a filter of Western psychedelia, dub, and rock n roll. A delight impossible to describe in a few paragraphs, but worthy of its own academic dissertation for a PhD… or simply worthy of being enjoyed.
Their latest album, Shackles’ Gift, is now available everywhere.
Note: If you want something more explosive, brainless and primitive, listen to Melt Yourself Down, Kushal’s other project.