Zun Zun Egui: The Croft, Bristol – live review

Zun Zun Egui

The Croft, Bristol

November 2011

This has been the year Zun Zun Egui have broken free from the occasionally used tag assigned to them of”Å¡’respected & much loved local secret’ & acquired for themselves the new tag, ‘a well respected in the right circles & critics favourites.’

Ok, maybe not a tag so much as a statement. Suddenly it seems all the right people in all the right places are talking about them. It has taken a long time for them to get here. Seems like forever we in Bristol have known how good this band are, & in particular the incendiary way they whip up a dancing maelstrom whenever they take to a stage. They”Å¡ have gotten where they are today by hard graft, slogging away on the local scene for years playing gigs under the banner of their legendary & highly regarded ”Å¡’ How Come’”Å¡ nights. At the present rate of progress I’d say world domination should only be another five, six or maybe seven years away. Only joking, it would appear that finally momentum”Å¡ is building behind Zun Zun Egui, hopefully a momentum that”Å¡ will get them close to world domination a lot quicker than that.

As a lot of you will no doubt already know Zun Zun Egui have recently released, to great reviews, their very excellent  debut album ”Å¡’Katang’”Å¡Great though the record is I’m not convinced the recorded sound of the band entirely captures the excellence of their live shows, something that, to be honest, would be nigh on impossible & also something that’s probably true of approximately 90% of bands I reckon. It must be wonderful for people who first hear about ZZE from a record then go to see the live experience. The flip of this obviously being that if you come to know this band from their live experience any recorded material you later hear is probably going to seem a tad flat. Having said that the record stands up against any others released this year. Indeed, even with my pre-conceived conceptions I’d put it in my top 20 albums of the year & expect to see it in most critics end of year top album lists. (Note to editor – not that I’m trying to sway you John!)(please sway me…I always want to hear stuff! the boss).

But this isn’t a review of an album. This is a review of the culmination of the tour ZZE embarked on to promote the album, not unreasonably called The Katang tour. Starting in ‘The Greater Europe’ (as John Peel used to say) a couple of months ago they finally returned to Bristol last week & readied themselves for the official Katang launch & homecoming party. In cahoots with local promoters Qu Junctions (who are one of those rare entities, promoters who you can trust indubitably to only put on brilliant nights) a quite ambitious & long night involving bands & DJ’s had been organised for the occasion.

I arrived a bit late so missed the first band, another up & coming local Bristol band Goan Dogs (soz guys), so was greeted by the sound of the nights first DJs The Bristol Reggae Society DJ’s. I’ve often moaned about going to gigs that have totally inappropriate  music being played between bands, especially as it’s usually piped through some shoddy tinny sound system, so I’m always well happy when thought has been given to the between band moments.

The first band I saw were 80’s favourites Scritti Politti. When I first saw the lineup I must confess I was a bit surprised to see Scritti’s name on the bill. Not what I imagined to be a perfect fit with the rest of the night’s entertainment I didn’t think. They actually played a great set which included lots of their post punk, new wave sophisti-pop (stole that tag off Last fm) hit’s  as well as some more recent numbers. Sadly the room was still pretty empty during their set & the majority of those present chose to, rather than watch the band, hang around at the bar talking loudly. The bane of the enthusiastic gig goers life.There were probably about 50 of us quietly & politely listening up at the front, enjoying a tight, professional set. What I think summed up the set was when, towards the end, Green approached the microphone & announced, ‘This is Wood Beez’ usually a statement which I imagine is greeted by cheers at most Scritti gigs, it being one of their biggest hits an all. Silence. I noticed a wee cheeky smile appear on Green’s face, he returned to the mic & slightly louder announced again, ‘This song is called Wood Beez’. Another moments silence was followed by a  muted, slightly girlish, ‘whoop’ from the audience (that’ll have been me as I suddenly realised a response was expected & didn’t like to disappoint. Unfortunately being a spur of the moment, ‘whoop’ I wasn’t able to steel myself for a full bodied manly, ‘whoop’ & fell back, somewhat embarrassingly, to my default muted little girl, ‘whoop’. Luckily I don’t think the sound would’ve carried more than a couple of feet & the only person within 2 feet of me was a girl who I presumed to be a bit tipsy as she took to occasionally batting me with a rolled up Goan Dogs poster). An insight into how good their set may have been had it been slightly later in the evening was granted to us when right at the final knockings a bunch of people rolled up seemingly straight from some alcohol & began dancing their socks off. It totally changed the vibe of the set & left me thinking that it could quite easily have been a booking that would have worked wonderfully well had circumstances been slightly different.

More Reggae Soc DJing followed. Next band on, United Vibrations from London, were a far better fit with the evening & whereas I’d consider the Scritti booking a bit of a gamble I’d say this booking was a no brainer. They were very much what we have come to expect from Qu, an introduction to a brilliant band that I hadn’t actually heard of before. It must be hard finding a perfect support band to a group as original as ZZE but United Vibrations were that,  sharing not only the recent release of their debut album but also sharing the fact that their sound is formed from a general meld of various genres. There were hints of Reggae, Dancehall, Jazz, Funk & especially of Afrobeat. Having said that they encourage people to avoid categorising them but do define their own sound as ”Å¡’Cosmodelic Afro-Punk’, They were just what the night was in need of really.

And, suddenly it was time for Zun Zun Egui. It’sactually the third time I’ve seen them play this year.  I go to 3 or 4 gigs a week (so well over 100 so far this year) & both their previous gigs have placed in my top 5 gigs of the year. So my expectations were obviously high, something I assume you”šÃ„ôll have gathered already if you”šÃ„ôve read this far. As I mentioned, ZZE”šÃ„ôs sound kind of defies description as it borrows from so many different styles. At the root of it though are long songs built on a jazz-rock foundation full of occasional extended jams. And their songs are so clever. They jump and leap around all over (the songs, not the band)(although the band do too, natch). Most of the time their music seems like the easiest sound in the world to dance to & then suddenly it will stop or change & then leap off in another direction at a totally different pace/tempo/beat leaving you temporarily hanging thinking ”šÃ„úeek, what do I do now, I’min this place of dancing people & I’ve just come to a stop. Then suddenly you pick up the new beat & it’s like ”Å¡ ‘what was my problem’. On top of this jazz-rock-tropi core is married all sorts of sounds. In particular & emphasising the fact that their sound is all over the place, comes the vocals; a marriage of French, English, Creole & Japanese lyrics shared in the main by Kushal Gaya but also by keyboardist Yoshino Shigihara. The call & response moments shared by these two is always brilliant, as are the occasional call & response moments with the audience. Central to the performance is the whirling dervish that is Kushal Gaya, on main guitar. I find it hard to take my eyes off his kinetic body &  finger movements whenever I see ZZE, both jumping around all over the place. In fact, despite having seen them play live so many times I’m pretty sure if I bumped into either bass player or drummer on the street I wouldn’t recognise them, such is the way Kushal monopolises the focus of your attention. That”šÃ„ôs not to say the bass & drumming aren’t also brilliant. There are moments when you suddenly become aware of the bass engine throbbing away & think, wow, check THAT out.”šÃ„ù And the thumping drums of course are the backbone on which everything”Å¡ is built. The amalgam of the whole is simply mind blowing & infectious.

After about an hour (I guess) of stupendous songs the band left the stage. Following quite a frenzy of calla for an encore Zun Zun came back, ripped out another & left us all very happy. I got the impression it wasn’tba planned encore but suspect a riot would have ensued had they not obliged. One of the signs of a good band is when the support are to found in the crowd at the front dancing & such was the case here, United Vibrations being present & correct dancing away down at the front amongst us, big smiles on faces.

Anyway, after all that it was time for more of AJ Holmes & DJ Kastro. I left. My body was a bit busted & my T-shirt wetter than I thought it possible for a T-shirt could get. Again. It was a brilliant euphoric homecoming/album launch & once again a triumph for both Qu Junctions & Zun Zun Egui. It was also great seeing the band make the jump from their usual 200 cap venue to an 800 cap venue so effortlessly. I suggest all you who have read this far & who haven’talready got the album bob off henceforth & make a purchase. Then make another for a friend. These guys are truly originals, something incredibly rare in a world that seems to encourage conformity & homogenisation. This is why true originals like Zun Zun Egui are so precious. Oh, and for the love of all you hold dear & precious, if you get a chance to see Zun Zun Egui live, do go. They’ll make you very happy, involved lot’s of brass, big lolloping riddims & audience participation, both in the form of call & response & dancing. Cracking fun, it definitely got the heat rising & people moving. Safe to say it left us full of expectation for the stars of the night.ÂÂ

They’ll make you very happy.


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