The music of JuJu is where West African tradition meets English punk

The World

When you think of “world music," you probably don't think of rock and roll. The two seem to have a clear disconnect: one is based in heritage and tradition, the other is a more modern invention.

But world music is constantly evolving and transcending labels. That's the focus of Real World Records, the label founded by Peter Gabriel back in 1989: The combination of old and new styles.

That's also a good description of JuJu, a band that has been signed to Real World since 2011. They could just as easily be considered a “rock” band as they could “world music.” The band’s two founding members are Justin Adams, an English "child of punk," and Juldeh Camara, a Gambian singer and master of the ritti, a single-stringed African fiddle.

The band is rounded out by two other experienced musicians — Billy Fuller, who had previously played bass with Robert Plant, and Dave Smith, who is well-versed in both jazz and African drumming.

Classic punk and traditional West African music don’t necessarily mix on paper. Even in practice, there’s still a clear disconnect between the two genres. But the differences aren’t jarring — instead, a new style is born.

You can hear that in JuJu’s “Nightwalk," the latest track in this week's series of hand-selected songs from Real World Records' 25th anniversary box set.

“It combines a rock and roll aesthetic with an ancient West African sense of roots,” says Amanda Jones, Real World’s label manager. “It’s more than just a collaboration — it’s creating a kind of new sound entirely.”

That sound is something that draws equally from folk, jazz, punk and traditional African rhythms. Basic punk power chords are used, interspersed with free-wielding fiddle and vocals.

“It is a driving, rhythmical piece of music that sounds both ancient and modern at the same time,” Jones says. “It really channels JuJu’s sort of ecstatic, trance-like spirit.” 

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