by Kyle Rossini
On February 15th, the London-based musical group Nubiyan Twist released their newest body of work, Jungle Run. Following a string of positively received projects such as Siren Song and Dance Inna London/All the Pieces, this 10-track album runs 55 minutes in length and is a wonderful, cohesive blend of multiple genres flawlessly blended together. This is the main creative intent for the group, pushed forward by the vision of guitarist and producer Tom Excell. Throughout Jungle Run, one can hear mixed elements of jazz, hip-hop, dance, and reggae come together to create an exciting fusion of sounds.
In addition to Tom Excell, one of the hallmarks of Nubiyan Twist is the multiple talented pieces that come together as one to produce. In addition to producers and composers working behind the scenes to create the rhythms and put the finishing touches on pieces, Nubiyan Twist is comprised of a 10-person live show, with a 4-piece horn section, 2 vocalists, electronics, and a rhythm section. Hailing both from within the UK and internationally, a group this large and musically diverse is no simple task to unite as one unit. On Jungle Run, however, the skills of each member are given the opportunity to both work off each other and shine individually to create a powerful and dynamic sound.
The title track of the album contains an infectious beat paired alongside smooth jazz components, all supplemented by a catchy chorus that one can find themselves singing and dancing along to by the end of the first listen. The third track on the album, “Basa Basa,” is a cultural tribute that draws heavy influence from afrobeat styles and includes an impressive feature from Brooklyn-based rapper K.O.G. Multiple other artists come and contribute as featured artists on Jungle Run, including UK-based artist Pilo Adami on the track “Borders.” Vocals from legendary Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke are also used at the beginning and closing of the track “Addis to London.” This entire track is a tribute to Astatke, often labeled as the “Father of Ethio-Jazz.” The track, apart from his vocals, is entirely instrumental and makes heavy use of conga drums, similar to the music Astatke helped pioneer in Ethiopia’s “Golden 1970s.”
Throughout the album, the power and talent of lead vocalist and emcee Nubiya Brandon become increasingly undeniable. On the closing track “Sugar Cane,” Nubiya Brandon’s storytelling capabilities and melodic vocals are on full display, as she explores some of the harsher lessons she’s learned in her life while simultaneously showcasing her breathtaking, soulful voice. Even on tracks like “Brother,” where Nubiya Brandon is competing against exceptional production that utilizes an aggressive, fun piano riff and defiant trumpets, she lets her talent cooperate with these sounds to create an engaging jazz sound.
Overall, this album is a fun, electric listen, with hypnotizing vocals and boisterous, compelling production and beats ready to greet you at every corner. This album is experimental while also being focused, and is an excellent showcase of some of the most promising talent in the jazz and hip-hop spaces.