Q&A: Jinja Safari
Marcus Azon, frontman of Australian Afropop band, which performs in Mumbai today, says their first full length album is almost ready to go
After a high-energy set on the Dewarists Stage at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune last week, Sydney Afropop band Jinja Safari’s lead vocalist Marcus Azon was a hard man to pin down. We later found him at the Black Rock Arena, raising a fist for prog rockers and fellow-Aussies Karnivool. In this interview with ROLLING STONE INDIA at the festival, Azon speaks about Jinga Safari’s upcoming album, which has neared completion, the two years that saw them go from bedroom jams to concert festivals and his plans to return to India.
You guys self-recorded and self-produced all your material, including your upcoming untitled album. Did you think it would take off in two years [Jinja Safari was formed in 2010]?
It’s still unbelievable that it’s happened. What makes one band work and others to fade into insignificance is a question none of us can answer.
Is there anything in particular that you attribute it to? Is it the energetic, Afro-beat, neo-psychedelic sound that’s very current?
I’m not sure. I think having world music influences with some of the more western stuff like indie, or folk pop, combining some of the world music elements has helped separate us in Australia, but even so, there are so many people enjoying Afrobeat now. It’s really great having two drummers on stage. [laughs] I think it adds to the energy of our sound.
Is the music reflective of the life down along the coast of New South Wales, where Jinja Safari’s co-founder Cameron Knight is from?
Not really. I grew up in Tasmania [an island south of the Australian continent] which is at the bottom of Australia. The percussionist [Alister Roach] and I grew up together. The other boys grew up on the coast. It’s part of Australian culture to have folklore and classic folk story-telling. Like the classic Bushmen folklore, and it was really interesting starting the band off using these folk narratives with these Afrobeat references. My grandmother was from Jinja [a town in Uganda]. So it made sense to have these tall stories and jumpy beats. But I don’t know if it’s reflective of growing up in Australia, but it is certainly therapeutic music, a real release for all of us. Personally, I’m not always a happy dude, so this music is like a”¦
Escape, would you say?
Yeah I guess we’re creating that platform for escapism, like any form of entertainment.
Has anyone in the town of Jinja heard of you?
Not other than my grandma, no. [laughs]
When is the new album due?
We’re not really sure yet, but it’s almost finished being mixed. A guy in New York, Chris Zane, who’s worked with indie bands such as Friendly Fires, Passion Pit and a few other bands is mixing it, and he’s got a hand in post-production. He’s been very good to work with.
Have you decided on a name yet?
We don’t have a title yet, there are a few words that we’re playing around with, like ”˜Ubuntu’, which works for me. I think it means ”˜the breath that unifies us all’ and that sounds a bit naff, but it suits what happened to us because all stars seem to have aligned for this band at the right time, everything seemed to have happened very naturally in two years ”“ going around from just fiddling in our bedrooms to playing over here in India.
Have you visited India previously?
It’s my first time here, but I had tickets booked to go backpacking before I knew this was happening. So I had to cancel my ticket. But I plan to come back next year, because this time we’re just coming here and staying in hotels, so it’s not the real India. I’m not seeing the majority.
And it’s really weird the contrast between the wealthy and the poor, and we don’t have that severe of a gap in Australia, at least for the majority. So I felt a bit like”¦
Yeah, I feel a bit uneasy about going past all the slums and coming to this wealthy section of the community. I want to see it all properly.
You are playing a few club shows after the Pune Weekender. Does the music have more of an effect open-air or in a closed environment?
It’s a bit more daunting, but even if ten people are connecting [to the music] and we’re connecting, it makes for a good show. But tonight was great. We had all the best gear, we had a really great crowd. There were a lot of people there, but there were so many technical problems; we weren’t connecting with each other”¦ It’s just one of those shows which seemed to fit as well as some others. The good thing is that we have three more opportunities in India.
Did you ever think you would tour India?
No way. My dad lived in India for around three years when he was my age. He was a preacher, a bit of a Christian missionary, so it’s good to be here at the same age as he was, following in his footsteps in a non-direct sort of way.
We’ve been all over the world now. We’ve been to the UK a couple of times, to Canada a few times and even the US so it’s just like surprise after surprise. We’re so grateful for all of these trips. India is particularly special.
Jinja Safari perform as part of Oz Fest which also features performances by Karnivool, Big Scary,Â Sheppard andÂ The Aston ShuffleÂ at Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai on November 7th. Entry: Rs 500 [Rs 250 cover]
Jinja Safari will also play at Shroom in Delhi on November 10th, followed by a free gig at CounterCulture Bengaluru on November 11th.