Ever since Just A Band released Hey! 7 years ago, I’ve felt a strong kinship with these guys. I loved them (and Hey!) so much I once designed for Boflo (the puppet in Hey!) a cousin called Shokolokobangoshe, a foul-mouthed diva.
I’ve written about them a few times in my journalism career with the latest and most exciting being for Just A Book, their newly launched art book that focuses on the visual art the band does i.e. the graphic designs, artworks and videos. The book also includes a lot of behind-the-scenes material from video shoots and that 5,000-word profile on JAB that I was commissioned to write.
It is a groundbreaking, absolutely awesome book by a band that could be rightly accused of being the same. I read a speech during the March 11th, 2016 launch and turns out quite a few people liked it so I decided to post it here.
Some of you in this room can trace your love and support for the band all the way to 82 and that concert at The GoDown, others further back to Scratch to Reveal and still others to KU where is all started. But even if you’ve known of them more recently due to Winning in Life, your love for JAB is understandable.
This is a band that renders our memories into song. A band that affirms us, we, the people on the fringe, the strange and lovely, the dreamers.
I’ve always loved how they seem stuck between worlds. How they possess this magical ability to nestle nostalgia within a futuristic sound. Plus, they aren’t afraid to sing lyrics such as napenda kuenda kulala, kuota chips na mala, kubonya toast banana na pia kupaka Limara.
I first wrote about Just A Band in 2011 for LA Times Magazine. A request had been put to UP, a magazine I worked for at the time for a short review. Someone was compiling the “World’s Playlist” with just 15 songs (I know right?) and in Africa, Kenya was the selected representative and JAB its musical ambassador.
I reviewed Forever People. (I couldn’t resist that Limara line). And described this geeky afro-electropop band as having created a sound that captures the zeitgeist of Nairobi’s 20-somethings and is still delicious everywhere.
That still hasn’t changed this many years later, in fact getting to know the band through the series of interviews that led to their profile in the book, I found that they were interested in this from the start. They always wanted to be different kind of Kenyan artists, pushing not just themselves as a band but as individuals. They dared to even defy the very definition of what a band was and could do.
Constantly creating, constantly voicing our fears, joys and anxieties alike through various mediums they’ve taken it beyond music and into video exhibitions and now this new book.
In short: Just A Band is extremely dope.
And speaking of the interviews I had with Bill, Muli and Mbithi, these guys are also extremely warm and likeable. Also, Bill likes to say “hizi ma-ninis” a lot, Muli loves to cook and bake and Mbithi was one of the few Kenyans to have Internet at home in 1996.
This book is for us, the fans (the ones JAB actually call Friends of the Band). It is way more than Just a Book and by now you know that these guys are way, way more than Just A Band.