Nubiyan Twist Album Launch, Brixton Jamm

Afro-beat collective Nubiyan Twist launched their new album at Brixton Jamm on Saturday March. Arts contributor Petra Gent went along.

Nubiyan Brandon on Stage at Brixton Jamm. Photo credit Petra Gent.
Nubiyan Brandon on Stage at Brixton Jamm. Photo credit: Petra Gent.

Nubiyan Twist are a twelve piece band whose members hail from both Leeds and London. Their music is described as  a fusion of dub, afro-beat and hip-hop – but having listened to a few of their tracks, and going along to see them perform, I found so much more in their sound.

Brixton Jamm is intimate yet full of energy. With one room dedicated to the bands and the other for DJ sets and party activities, there was a definite festive buzz in the building.

The audience were well and truly ready for Nubiyan Twist when they took to the stage at 12.30am, and despite the floor being as packed as a rush hour train at Clapham Junction, everyone in the room was dancing! With a very energetic horns section, funky sax, guitars, keys, DJ effects, phenomenal percussion and Nubiya’s smooth vocals the room was jumping throughout their set. The fusion within each song, showing influences from jazz, soul, hip hop as well as brazilian and a little bit of ska, blended together beautifully to produce something very individual.

The musical connection between the band members was clear, particularly so when I arrived towards the end of their five hour sound check to find them still laughing and joking, and thoroughly enjoying the experience. This camaraderie and closeness between them really shines through in their performance.

Getting up close and personal with Nubiyan Brandon. Photo credit: Petra Gent
Getting up close and personal with Nubiyan Brandon. Photo credit: Petra Gent

After the sound check Nubiya joined me on the leather sofa for a chat about her music and the band’s history. The band all met at university in Leeds where Nubiya studied music. This began with a few jam sessions between Nubiya, Tom on guitar and Joe on baritone sax. The others then joined in with the sessions and the sound grew from there. The band now consists of Nubiya Brandon on Vocals, Finn Booth on Drums, Luiz Adami on Percussion and Vocals, Rory Goulcher on Bass, Tom Excell on Guitar/FX, Oliver Cadman on Keys/ Synth, Jonny Enser on Trumpet, Nick Ritchards on Alto Sax, Denis Scully on Tenor Sax, Josh Podbury on Trombone, Joe Henwood on Baritone Sax/FX and Tom Davison on Turntables/FX.

This of course this the begged the question – “Tell me about the tour bus! Any back stage gossip?” No tour bus – just a “parade of cars” apparently. And no backstage gossip – but apparently Nick gets a lot of adoration from the female members of the audience.

I asked Nubiya who drove the sound in the band. She explained that Tom as a producer is always quick to lay down a particular riff, but ideas really come from everyone. All band members introduce various motifs and these then develop through improvisation and sharing. As far as influences go Nubiya talked about her love of Nat King Cole, who she listens to daily, and Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday. I would say that on hearing her perform the Ella influence is undoubtable. She also mentioned listening to a lot of punk during her teen years and being particularly drawn to Mick Jones. Thematically she likes her lyrics to tell a story.

So how difficult is it for a band with so many members to produce a sound that is so polished and together? Is there a lot of rehearsal involved? Nubiya would like to find more time to just rehearse and jam, but with such a tight touring schedule over the last year the practise sessions have mainly been on the road. Now that the album is complete she hopes for more time in the practise rooms.

I finished my interview with Nubiya talking about the huge influence her parents had on her choices and much she appreciates their support. One of her happiest moments was their attendance at a recent gig and how proud they were of her.

The new album, out on Wormfood Records, is available on March 30th. They are next performing in Manchester on March 26th at Band on the Wall.