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Members include Sola Akingbola, percussion; Wallis Buchanan, didgeridoo; Darren Galea (a.k.a. DJD Zire), turntables; Toby Graffety-Smith, keyboards; Simon Katz, guitar; Jason "Jay" Kay (born December 30, 1969, Stretford, England), vocals; Derrick McKenzie (Born March 27, 1962, Islington, England), drums; Adrian Revell, flute and saxophone; Winston Rollins, trombone; Martin Shaw, trumpet; Stuart Zender, bass guitar. Former members include Nick Van Gelder, drummer (1993). Addresses: Record company--Sony Music Entertainment, Inc., WORK Label, Sony Music Online, Suite 2788, 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022- 3211.

Who is that cat-in-the-hat? That "Rad Hatter" is Jason "Jay" Kay, the lively front man for the band, Jamiroquai. Kay has a fondness for oversized, colorful, and sometimes furry stovepipe hats. JK, for short, is the driving force behind the eleven member British band, Jamiroquai, pronounced Jam-ear-o-kwai. Kay admitted in an online interview with Steve Dougherty and Kimberly Chrisman at http://www.xsite.net/, that his signature Dr. Seuss-like hats sometimes worn on stage "are part of my stage character." Perhaps the unusual hats, which sometimes appear to almost swallow him up, helped create an easily recognizable figure in the group's early days.

Right from the start, British fans loved their eclectic musical style with its strong jazz influences, and soulful rhythm and blues sound. The group was received enthusiastically by fans in the club scene. Performing live gives Kay the greatest opportunity to use his theatrical costumes and high energy dance moves. In 1992, their first hit single, "When You Gonna Learn?," was released on independent record label, Acid Jazz. It was an instant success in the U.K. On the basis of this one hit single, and the opinion held by record companies that this band had what it takes to last, competition broke out to sign the new band with a recording company. Sony Music emerged the victor when Jamiroquai signed an eight record deal with them for $1.9 million dollars. The group skyrocketed to fame and fortune in the early 1990s in Great Britain. Their success in the United States was stimulated at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. Nominated in ten categories, Jamiroquai walked away with four awards for "Virtual Insanity."

Kay organized the band in 1992. He created the name, Jamiroquai, to pay homage to the Native American nation of the Iroquois'. He added the prefix, "Jam," short for jamming. The Iroquois treated the earth they dwelt upon with spiritual reverence. This ecological motif has inspired many of the socially conscious themes in the band's lyrics. In addition to expressing these themes lyrically, Kay personally sewed jackets for band members fashioned from hand woven Native American blankets. Kay posed with his originally designed jacket for Seventeen magazine and, he told the magazine's Carl Fysh why he is drawn to the Native American approach to life. "What attracts me is that these people give back to the Earth what they take out. That's something we've got to learn to do."

Kay's expressed ecological ideology collides directly with his actions that has, at times, gained him criticism, particularly in the U.K. Kay and fellow band member, Toby Graffety-Smith have been able to satisfy their fetishes for expensive, gas guzzling, luxury cars, due to the band's financial success. Kay owns a Lamborghini, two Mercedes, two BMW's, three Ferraris, an Aston Martin, and a Ducati mini-motorcycle. Kay admits that this can be a conflict for him, at least in his music writing. Kay says, that he agonized about using automobiles as the theme in the 1996 release, Travelling without Moving. He spoke about this conflict in an online interview at www.jamiroquai.co.uk/, "I love speed, you see. I was a bit worried about what people would say bearing in mind that the first album was about the environment ... Just because I love to drive a fast car, that doesn't mean I believe in chopping trees down."

Their first album released in 1993, Emergency on Planet Earth, clearly reflected their socially conscious themes. The lyrics raise serious questions about the state of the planet, racism, and about the continuing arms race by national governments. Emergency hit number one on best-seller charts in Britain in 1993, and Jamiroquai became the best selling British debut band for that year. Kay's soulful tenor voice reminiscent of Stevie Wonder backed up with jazzed up rhythm got the music world's attention.

Emergency received mixed reviews in the United States. Reviews found online at http://www.xsite.net, originating from newspapers all over the United States were a mixed bag. Many critics noted resemblances to other soulful sounding artists including Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. One music critic from the Daily Telegraph, called Jamiroquai "the funkiest thing this side of James Brown's underpants." Kay used trite phrases like "you blow my mind," and "no more wars," and turned them into inspired pieces. However some critics panned Emergency as just more of the same. Washington Post reviewer Mark Jenkins wrote that "Jamiroquai's sound is about as revolutionary as a nonreturnable bottle of Pepsi." A reviewer from the Sunday Times seemed relieved that the band finally "gets to the heart of the matter." The same reviewer reminds us to "take the political themes in the lyrics with a grain of salt. It's more fun that way." Although Kay's sound may be reminiscent of Stevie Wonder, one reviewer noted, "Stevie Wonder never used a didgeridoo in his recordings."

Return of the Space Cowboy, released in 1995, was further proof that their sound had staying power. In Great Britain, the album went platinum. Return is a little lighter on political and environmental themes and the reviews were generally favorable. The instrumental sound of Jamiroquai is highly reminiscent of the 1970s with its strong brass influence. The Washington Post's Jenkins notes the strong resemblance of Return to Blood, Sweat, and Tears' "Spinning Wheel." Josef Woodard of Entertainment Weekly seems to enjoy a remembrance of the 1970s sound and notes the influence of Sly Stone. Other critics also point out resemblances to artists and bands of the 1970s and criticize Return for lack of originality. Some of the lyrics are criticized as banal or New Agey, however, at the same time a great deal of originality and energy projects from Jamiroquai. Some of the technology used in producing Jamiroquai's sound are "retro," so perhaps this contributes to some criticism of the group sounding like a blast from the past.

Jamiroquai's third album, Travelling without Moving, released in 1996 has earned the band world wide popularity, going triple platinum in the U.K. and gold in the U.S. Travelling contains serious themes that Kay talked about in an online interview at www.jamiroquai.co.uk. Kay said that the album is about "finding technical ways to balance our technology and nature." And, yes it is about a subject near and dear to Kay's heart, cars. Travelling was written by the group and produced by Kay with Al Stone. The album shows the level of maturation the band has developed, and sharpens their musical and lyrical style into clearer focus. "Virtual Insanity," a top three hit in the U.K., starts off the album and showcases what Jamiroquai's all about: wonderful melodies and kinda-makes-me think-lyrics. Some topics in lyrics include drugs in "High Times," and the always popular theme of love in "Everyday" with a R & B twist. Switching gears, "Driftin Along" provides us with a reggae sound and "Cosmic Girl," gives us a taste of disco. Jamiroquai's trademark instrument, the didgeridoo, returns for two of the tracks including "Didjerma."

Although Travelling without Moving has, without a doubt gained the group worldwide notice, some critics have criticized it as being too mainstream. However, People feels Jamiroquai has remained true to it's vision and has created "some unabashedly Wonder-ful music." Hearing Jamiroquai seems to elicit strong feelings in either direction, people seem to either love them or hate them. They have a great variety of musical styles and sounds, from horn sections with jazz elements to disco rhythms. From their early days on the club scene, their music gained acclaim for its boogie-ability. People enjoyed dancing to the beats, regardless of the style or tempo. Walking away with four awards from the MTV Video Music Awards in New York in September of 1997, for their music video of "Virtual Insanity," seems to have solidified the band's place, musically speaking. Winning the awards resulted in a surge of album sales in the U.S. and added further name recognition to Jamiroquai. The future seems wide open.

by Debra Reilly

Jamiroquai's Career

Group formed c. 1992 in the United Kingdom; released single "When You Gonna Learn?" on independent label, Acid Jazz, 1992. Signed eight-record deal with Sony Music Entertainment, Inc., under WORK Group, 1992. Released Emergency on Planet Earth (Sony, 1993), The Return of the Space Cowboy (Sony, 1994), Travelling without Moving (Sony, 1996).

Jamiroquai's Awards

MTV Video Music Awards: Best Video, Best Special Effects, Best Cinematography, and Breakthrough Video for "Virtual Insanity," Video of the Year 1997 Music Video Production Association Awards for "Virtual Insanity," 1997.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Books

Jamiroquai Lyrics

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 8 years ago

This band is really fascinating. Too young to die. Cezar from Poland

about 9 years ago

Love your versatility. Didgeridoo some more- to keep this fascinating instrument in the mainstream!!! Peace-out!!!

over 9 years ago

Great stuff!

almost 10 years ago

corner of the earth