It stands for that desire, buried deep within us all, to just sit in the mud with no clothes on. -- Jay Kay
Pronounced Jam-ear-oh-kwai, The name Jamiroquai was actually derived from the words 'jam' and 'Iroquois', who were an indigenous North American tribe. The band pay respect to the Iroquois people, having said that 'many aspects of their philosophy are relevant, especially their reverence of the Earth'. They claim that the word Jamiroquai is a feeling about remembering where you're coming from.
The group was the brainchild of frontman Jason Kay, a man recognised by his many outrageous hats. He was living in Ealing when he had a fall out with his mother (A jazz singer called Karen Kay) and ended up on the streets. Soon hip hop, graffiti and drug dealing all became a huge part of his life. He found himself doing everything from telemarketing to selling kilts, but deep down he had a passion for music. He auditioned for as lead singer in a band called 'The Brand New Heavies', but was turned down. This led him to forming his own band, consisting of Toby Smith, Nick Van Gelder, Wallis Buchanan and Stuart Zender. The band's debut single, a vibrant funk track called 'When You Gonna Learn', was written about many of Jay's views on the world while living homeless. The tune became an underground hit as major labels competed amongst themselves to sign up the group.
Of course, not every band can be perceived as perfect by the media. Some critics dubbed Jay as a white boy trying to be black, or sounding like a woman immitating Stevie Wonder. But the fans claim that it's all in the name of funk.
Many people believe Jamiroquai is just a one man act. Technically, it is. Jay is the only member that Sony would sign on for an eight album deal.
--"Yes, I'm the one who's signed to the record company and I'm the one who pays the band. But we all knew that the record company tried to get rid of the band, that they didn't want to sign them, that they didn't think Wallis' 'wooden pipe' was important. But I need them."--
Over time, some of the people who have made Jamiroquai what it is today include:
- Wallis Buchanan
As an old skateboarding buddy of Jay's, Wallis had been with the band from its early days. He taught himself how to play the didgeridoo by using a plastic tube! When Jay was creating the track 'When You Gonna Learn' in 1992, he asked Wallis if he could play the didgeridoo during the intro. Wallis did just that, and because it sounded so good, he also played during the middle of the song. He was with the band right up until the release of 'A Funk Odyssey', but it is not known why he left the group. He is currently concentrating on a solo music career.
- Toby Smith
Toby had been playing with Jamiroquai since the band formed in 1992. He was born in Queen Charlotte Hospital, London, on the 29th of October 1970. His father was a member of a three-piece jazz band. His family gave him alot of encouragement as he pursued a music career throughout the years. Toby's musical talent was identifiable even from the tender age of 5 when he started playing the piano (some sources even claim he was 4 years old when he began), his love of music continued to grow as he grew older. He played the viola or violin at some point in his childhood and later played the bass at a band in school. However his role in Jamiroquai was as a keyboardist until May 2002 when he chose to leave the band to spend some more time with his family.
- Derrick Mckenzie
Derrick Mckenzie is the band's drummer. He taught himself how to play the drums using chairs and telephone books because his mother would not buy him a drumkit! He was born in Essex road in London on the 27th March 1962. He was a fan of the 'Emergency on Planet Earth' album when his friend set him up for an audition as drummer when Nick Van Gelder left his position. He was awarded the place in the band and joined the band for 'The Return of the Space Cowboy'. After his first gig, his hands had to be sprayed with Ralgex because he had been playing the drums so hard!
- Sola Akingbola
Born in Nigeria and raised in London, Sola joined the band in 1995 as a percussionist. He came to the UK as a young child and has now raised his own family in London. African music has had a strong influence on his life, as so has Miles Davis. Until 10 years ago, when he took a serious interest to his percussion playing, he would DJ at some of London's funkier clubs. Before joining the band he had some previous experience working with other artists, including jazz guitarist Ronnie Jordon. Sola joined the band through the request of Jay Kay and has brought with him some fantastic percussive licks and vibes, which can be heard on 'Travelling Without Moving' and 'Synkronized'.
- Nick Fyffe
Nick joined the band when Stuart Zender left in 1997, after his agents organised for him to audition for a place as a bassist. Strangely enough, he had already applied for a part in a Jamiroquai tribute band at the time. He is originally from Reading and was born sometime around 1975-1976. He had struggled as a musician before joining Jamiroquai, but was at one stage a member of a large jazz/funk band. Some of his funky bass lines can be heard during 'Canned Heat'.
- Rob Harris
Rob came into the world on the 27th August 1971 and has played the guitar since he was 21. Since then has toured with many artists. His main musical influences were Jimi Hendrix, The Crusaders and George Benson. Being one of the more recent members of the band, he was asked to join after an audition during which he impressed Jay Kay with his talent and easy going personality.
Currently the group consists of:
Jason Kay - vocals
Matt Johnson - keyboards (recently replaced Toby Smith)
Derrick McKenzie - drums
Nick Fyffe - bass guitar
Rob Harris - guitar
Sola Akingbola - percussion
To date the group have released five albums:
Emergency On Planet Earth (1993)
The Return Of The Space Cowboy (1994)
Travelling Without Moving (1996)
A Funk Odyssey (2001)
And twenty singles:
When You Gonna Learn
Too Young to Die
Blow Your Mind
Emergency on Planet Earth
Half the Man
Stillness in Time
Do You Know Where You're Coming From
King For A Day
I'm In The Mood For Love
You Give Me Something
One day Orenda, the company that once managed the advertising surrounding Jamiroquai, requested that Jay Kay create a symbol that reflects what Jamiroquai is. And so, Jay sketched a little silhouette of himself with toes turned out beneath some flares and a trademark buffalo hat. The little picture caught on to fans, with many of them making their own variations. The symbol has appeared on every one of the group's singles and albums. Sometimes it is known as the 'medicine man', it also appears on the band's line of clothing by Orenda. It can be seen below in its rough ascii form.
Jamiroquai have another three albums to churn out before the end of their deal with Sony, yet we hope they'll keep gracing the Earth with their inspirational tunes for years after their final release.
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