Q&A with Keziah Jones + "Lagos vs. New York"

O n “blufunk,” bucking tradition and how interest in Africa is on the rise m4s0n501

 

Like many of you, I’ve heard mention of Keziah Jones, but wasn’t really familiar with his music.  Glad his upcoming show at Weeksville has prompted me to spend time with his music, especially the last album, Nigerian Wood. To further shed some light on who he is, following is a short email Q&A we had:

Boldaslove.us: You meet someone for the first time.  During the course of your conversation, they find out that you’re a musician.  The inevitable question comes up: “What’s your music like?” What do you tell them?

Keziah Jones: I say its called “blufunk” which is afro funk,or technically a way to play the guitar bass and percussion at the same time.  It depends on the person, if they are african/nigerian or if they are western.

BAL: One of the things you’re known for is your distinctive approach to playing the guitar.  It’s much more like slapping the bass.  Where did that come from, in what way(s) does it impact the way you think about using the guitar when you create and perform?

KJ: I started out wanting to support my words and rhythmically the guitar was the best tool to do that really well with.  I found I could mimic my verbal phrases,s o when I write, I write with this in mind.

BAL: The story of how you bucked tradition in your family by becoming a musician made me think of Jean-Michel Basquiat and his relationship with his family, especially with his father.  To what extent was your family always supportive of your wanting to be a musician, and how do they feel about you these days?

KJ: I come from a very old and very traditional Yoruba family.  It was also one that was striving to move upwards and forwards into the newly emerging (at that time) Nigerian state and also beyond,which is why I was sent to the UK  for education at a very early age.  So music wasn’t really a part of the equation.  Turning that knowledge around to study my family culture and language resulted in “blufunk” which once they saw that I could also make money with it, it made it ok.

BAL: It seems that African artists are gaining increasing acceptance by African American audiences?  Do you feel that it’s a fad, or is it part of a growing trend?

KJ: I think it’s a recurrent theme every few years or so, but each time it comes around it gets stronger and has more depth.

There has always been a back and forth between African culture and African-American culture, and with the death of Fela we all have an icon we can coalesce around.  So it can only mean better exchanges to come.

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