UK funk band, Jamiroquai (named after the Iroquois tribe), was the creation of Jason ‘Jay’ Kay in the early 90s. Kay, brought up in Ealing, took his inspiration from Sly Stone, Gil Scott-Heron and Roy Ayers. He integrated these influences into a 90s pop format, combining new age mysticism, urban funk and his hip-hop roots from earlier break-dancing days. When their debut album entered the chart at number one, a media-frenzy soon encircled the band, Jay Kay in particular. Not helped with naïve statements about the environment, especially since he had just blown his advance on petrol-guzzling cars.
With the second album, media attention shifted away from his personal life to the music. Jamiroquai, Stuart Zender (bass), Toby Smith (keyboards), Wallis Buchanan (didgeridoo, vibes) and Derrick McKenzie (drums) backed Kay’s vocal talents with ghetto hip-hop rhythms, acid jazz and funk backdrops.
Jamiroquai’s third album, Travelling Without Moving confirmed the band as a highly commercial act, selling over seven million copies worldwide, and winning four trophies at the 1997 MTV awards.
Following a string of hit singles: Virtual Insanity, Cosmic Girl and Alright, the band achieved their first UK chart-topper when Deeper Underground, taken from the soundtrack of the movie Godzilla, topped the charts in August 1998. Although Kay’s long-serving bass player, Zender left soon after, at the end of the year it was confirmed that, after the Spice Girls and Oasis, Jamiroquai were the biggest-selling UK artists of the decade.
From the skinny skateboarding white kid with a passion for vintage rare groove and a bizarre buffalo hat, Jay Kay and his band have come a long way. They’ve sold over 20 million albums, had four world tours and 141 weeks in the UK singles chart. Thanks to five albums of danceable grooves and an undisputed reputation as an electrifying live act, Jamiroquai is a world-wide phenomenon. From poster boy of the early nineties acid jazz revolution to international music icon, a lot has changed in 13 years.
With his rockstar lifestyle, Buckinghamshire manor, garage full of fast cars and wardrobe of weird hats, it would be understandable if the singer, who signed his historic record deal living in a squat in west London, had spent the four years since Jamiroquai’s last album, A Funky Odyssey, enjoying the fruits of his success. But then complacency is one thing Kay will never be accused of.
Their new single Feels Just Like It Should is a groovy, high-octane track, with Jamiroquai’s organic funk put through the digital grinder and pinned to a filthy groove. The chic disco rhythm reinforces the larger than life, feelgood vibe. It certainly has an impact, they’re back with a vengeance.
For all the tabloid headlines, rockstar trappings and hats, it’d be a mistake to dismiss or underestimate Jay Kay. His opinions and fearless attitude might regularly set him up as an easy target for jaded cynics, but even they will freely admit that music and life would be a good deal duller without him.
3 Foo Fighters
Best Of You
City of Blinding Lights
5 Basement Jaxx ft. Lisa Kekaula
U Don’t Know Me
Not That Kind Of Girl
Don’t Give It Up
9 Mariah Carey
We Belong Together
10 St. Etienne