Outside the Howler band room, I am trying to explain Jinja Safari’s sound to my housemate who impulse-bought a ticket at 6pm that evening. Never being any good with genre descriptions, I awkwardly get out, “world music inspired indie surf pop rock.” However, no string of genre descriptors could prepare him for masterfully played, high energy set that awaited him inside for Jinja Safari’s final stop on their “Find My Way” tour.
No surprises that “Find My Way” was a fierce and topical start, which blew away any notion that they have lost touch during their hiatus. As promised in my Chat with frontman Marcus Azon, once the track came to a close, the drumming continued into a wild jam which saw the bare footed Pepa Knight jumping up and down like a pogo stick, three people playing drums, and a wooden flute coming out. Hold on to your butts, ladies and gents.
Much to my absolute delight, the next song is “Hiccups” – an oldie but a goodie. The crowd is in full harmony in the chorus drowning out the vocals by Azon, who is absolutely beaming. The band’s blown away after this track and Azon comments, bemused that “Jinja Safari is still a thing!” Honestly, old mate’s modesty is unbelievable.
After a popular rendition of “Plagiarist”, they launch into the new section of their set. The first song, I believe is called “Karimun Java”, features a beautifully intricate marimba sounds and soulful vocal patterns. This song is just the latest attempt at giving their listeners itchy feet as the lyrics talk of travelling to far-flung exotic locales perhaps drawn from the boys wealth of experience in said field. This song, as well as the two that follow, certainly do not create the usual lull in energy that new material can cause in a set list. “Karimun Java” was among the highlights of the set.
The true stand out quality of Jinja Safari is the use of dynamics; they can be raucous and upbeat one minute but then quiet with heartfelt vocals and stripped-back melodies the next. “Forest Eyes” is a beautiful example of the latter, with Pepa Knight showing off yet another skill with his pretty vocals.“Vagabonds” has incredible percussion with a rousing clapping multi-rhymed base. The vocals of this song are more laid back and folky, and the harmonies are similar to Of Monsters and Men.
Source: The Music
As “Peter Pan” begins, people straight up lose their shit. Although this is a beautiful song, I initially don’t understand how it’s one of the crowd faves. However, as the band gets started, it is how much the band love playing it – and the love is infectious. An off-chain mid-song sitar jam gets so much better when Knight’s cool dad jumps up on stage to dance around beaming like a maniac. Bizarrely, they end this fantastic set with what I believe is a short version of “Us Vs. Them” by LCD Soundsystem? Or have I officially lost it?
Of course with no sense of uncertainty, the boys explode back on stage for an encore that the bass players quips they have “prepared for all week”. They give it their absolute all for the last track (no idea what song it was…sue me), which is layered with some more great harmonies and has Knight pulling some Jimi Hendrix moves with a keyboard which he declares afterwards that he may have broken, but “I don’t even care!”
Jinja Safari is a fucking killer live act and a delight to watch, not only for the music but also for the infectious energy and personality of the boys onstage. When the bassist tried to introduce a song, he starts with, “Sorry I know it’s weird when the bassist talks”, only to be played out like an over-time Oscars speech while his band mates cack themselves…great stuff. If you ever need a pick me up, I would definitely prescribe a Jinja Safari gig. For if the sight of a proud grinning middle-aged man in a tie dye t-shirt dancing on stage with his sitar playing son doesn’t get you smiling, nothing can help you now.
Hometown: Sydney, Australia.
Latest release: Find My Way single, May 2015.
Sounds like: A dress up party on a beach, where your dance the night away in a goon fuelled haze.
Say what? Pepa Knight, as well as being the funnest bloke to watch live and playing about 400 million instruments, has recently become a dad…lucky kid #cooldad.
Stay classy, Rosa.