At any party there is one band whose CDs are a must. We are talking, of course, about Jamiroquai, the British group fronted by the guy with a funny hat and an impossible voice, Jay Kay.
One band that has kept us on the dancefloors throughout the 90s and looks set to go on to greater heights in the new millennium is Jamiroquai. The success of this group, whose music defies labelling, lies in its charm, dancebility and unique ability to blend different influences. They mix and match their musical ideas to include jazz, drum 'n bass, psychedelia, funk, reggae and of course disco. Their music is so exhilarating and vibrant that it would chill out even a totally strung-out square.
Jay Kay, 'the prat in a funny hat' started out by playing on his own and made some demos. In 1991 he managed to sign a contract with a tiny British label, Acid Jazz, and afterwards formed the group consisting of four backing players - Derrick McKenzie (drums), Toby Smith (keyboards), Stuart Zender (bass), and Wallis Buchanan (vibes). They christened themselves 'Jamiroquai', the name pairing the passion of jamming and Jay Kay's interest in the Native American tribe.
Before he hit the big time Jay Kay used to travel throughout Britain and Europe with his mother Karen Kay - a jazz singer. He began living on his own early, and did, like so many of the world's famous artists, some very odd things. At one point he lived like a tramp in an unused taxi depot.
When their first album Emergency on Planet Earth came out in 1993, it became England's fastest-selling album since George Michael's Faith. They hit the music market just at the right moment, when there wasn't much dance music except rap and techno, and their songs "When You Gonna Learn" and "Too Young to Die" smashed into the charts. Those tunes, as Jay says about his music in general, were not only about grooving - they also contained important ecological and political messages. The music was definitely something new for those who had always seen dance music as something dumb. And here they came, pumping out some serious grooves while at the same time highlighting social, political and environmental issues.
On their following albums they did not focus so much on these issues, as the group had had enough of being labelled ecological and pro-liberty freaks. However, environmental causes are still important to them, proven by the sizeable donations they have made to Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
Although many European countries and Japan have long had a serious case of 'Jamiroquaimania', the rest of the world, especially the USA, wasn't particularly enchanted by Jay's soul voice, which, according to some, too closely resembles that of Stevie Wonder. The band's second album The Return of the Space Cowboy, with more of a Latin flavour (it was a tribute to Jay Kay's father, who is Portuguese) was more successful, but it took the next album, Travelling Without Moving, with the hits like "Cosmic Girl", to finally get the group the worldwide recognition it deserved.
The impact of this album can't be understated and the group's commercial and critical status rapidly improved. Travelling Without Moving achieved multi-platinum sales and the group won four MTV Awards in different categories, including Best Video for the single "Virtual Insanity". Anyone who's seen it will remember Jay Kay in a huge black hat doing an impossible dance in a room with moving walls.
In 1998 the group was featured on the Godzilla soundtrack with its smash single "Deeper Underground". This time the music was much stronger, with some hardcore features, giving the song a huge kick.
Jamiroquai are not only associated with their exhilarating music and unconventional outfits, but also with extravagant lifestyles and bad behaviour. Jay Kay has always had problems with the police due to his passion for fast cars (he has a huge collection of them including three Ferraris, two BMWs and two Mercedes, to name just a few). In 1998, after he was caught speeding, Jay had his driving licence taken away! Temporarily unable to drive, he amused himself by purchasing a 500-year-old, eleven-bedroom Buckinghamshire mansion once owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. And now there is a possibility that he will finally 'settle down', as he and his fiancée British model and TV star Denise Van Outen announced they were getting married this summer.
If you're one of the uninitiated, and you haven't yet experienced Jamiroquai, you could start by getting hold of their latest release - the Synkronized album. And when you feel like driving a Ferrari at a ridiculously fast speed - unless of course you have a Ferrari - try listening to this record. Those who already have it will surely know what I mean!
An extract from When You Gonna Learn
So my friends to stop the end
on each other we depend, -
mountain high and river deep,
stop it going on, -
we gotta wake this world up from its sleep, -
people, stop it going on.
Have you heard the news today? -
money's on the menu in my favourite restaurant,
now don't talk about quantity,
there's no fish left in the sea.