The Music of JuJu is Where West African Tradition Meets English Punk

JuJu is made up of Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, the band’s founding members.

Merging Two Different Worlds:Juju          Credit: Courtesy of Real World Records

Merging Two Different Worlds:Juju Credit: Courtesy of Real World Records

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.”

Producer: April Peavey

Producer: Susie Blair

Source:PRI.org

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