The combination of Justin Adams’ fusion of Mississippi Delta blues with their grittier Saharan counterpart, and Juldeh Camara’s energetic ritti (a West African variety of fiddle, with a single string) and spirituality have proved to be an exciting and productive match. With a handful of impressive releases to their credit and a stage presence that has made them an ecstatically received hit on the festival circuit, Camara and Adams have been busy in the studio once more.
For their latest offering the pair have added Billy Fuller on Bass (Massive Attack, Robert Plant) and the Loop Collective’s Dave Smith on drums. Put them all together and what do you get? JuJu, that’s what, and the result is every bit as dark and magical as the name implies.
The influence these kindred spirits have had on each other is, as ever, eminently palpable. This time, however Juldeh Camara and Justin Adams have set their spirits free in a way they’ve only managed before at a live gig. In Trance is a one-take studio recording that captures their chemistry, their joy and their art for the listening audience.
Nightwalk opens the album with a typically dusty guitar/ritti/vocal combination. As the track progresses the rhythm section comes into play, Juldeh’s ritti is only calmed during the fast-paced Fulani vocal passages.
The more laid back intro to Waide Nayde gives an indication of the distinct direction this album takes, with the compass pointing firmly towards 70’s rock. The pace inevitably picks up and Juldeh Camara seems to revel in his Jimmy Page inspired riffs, the distinction being that what the revered Mr Page accomplished with a plethora of guitars at his disposal, Juldeh Camara approaches with a one-stringed fiddle!
In the epic Djanfa Moja, JuJu go off on one in big style. Opening with a mellow blues, the track soon develops into more of what this album is all really all about – trance atmospheres, layered ritti loops, driving bass, and compelling beats. If I didn’t know it was Dave Smith at the drum kit, I’d swear someone sneaked Ginger Baker into the studio. JuJu clearly just lost themselves in this, I suggest cranking up the volume and doing the same.
Jombajo progresses the album perfectly with a softer less frenzied offering.
Both Mariama Trance and the following track Deep Sahara were released on last year’s Trance Session EP and feature Shriekback drummer Martyn Barker. Two more offerings of prog rock proportions that exalt in explorations of looped ritti and percussion with chanting, mesmerizing vocal.
In closing the album, Halanam presents a more standard track length and a more recognizable Camara/Adams offering with gentle explorations into reggae rhythm guitar and dub meanderings, before the album closes with Juldeh enjoying the last word – a few phrases of uncharacteristically subdued ritti.
Juju have succeeded in combining the exhilarating spontaneity of their live performances with a more polished studio production. If this review seems somewhat flippant at times, just take it as an indication of the intoxicating joy that combination exudes.
There are many artists who meddle with the fragile boundaries between African tradition and rock, dissolving them into an irresistible fusion (Tinariwen, Rachid Taha et al). With In Trance, as with their live sets, JuJu don’t just dissolve the boundaries – they demolish them with relish, they turn the walls upside down, they crash the gates open and set the inmates free. And the freedom is exhilarating.
Track: In Trance
Nightwalk (Radio Edit)