Jungle By Night is the project of nine teenage boys from Amsterdam and they’re the best thing that happened to Afrobeat since a very long time. When we heard Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen described their music as “the evolution of afrobeat”, we were quick to call them up. It was Pieter van Exter – the driving force behind the band’s tenor sax sound - who answered the phone. What’s up with these pale lads playing funky African shit?
How and when did the band’s love for African music start?
That’s a different story for each band member: Some got into the music via hiphop, others listened to tapes they were given by their father who was a journalist in Africa, and still others just discovered it in record shops.
Can you tell us something about how you all got together?
It started in 2009 with four members of the band jamming in a small studio in Amsterdam. The band expanded when friends and family members joined. Some played together in bands before and others used to go to the same elementary school.
How did your signing with Kindred Spirits come about?
After we started rehearsing and made a few tracks, we recorded a demo. We gave copies to friends who worked in the music business. And within some months we got a call from Kindred Spirits offering to release our song ET on 7” vinyl.
Can you tell us something about the band dynamics? How do you guys work on tracks?
We’re a truly democratic band. We make important decisions together and also make tracks together. We usually start with one simple idea on which we elaborate by adding percussion, horns, keys, guitar, etc.. After we’ve made a basic structure we’ll fine-tune the harmonies or add a bridge or an intro.
One of your great inspirers, Fela Kuti, always had vocals come in about halfway a song. Are you guys considering introducing vocals at some stage?
Fela Kuti’s music is among many others indeed a great inspiration. However we really try to create our own style, and we’re very happy to have nine frontmen instead of one. We think our music works well without any vocals. So we haven’t got any plans to collaborate with vocalists in the near future, but you never know.
You’re now on the same label as Tony Allen. Have you already talked about working together?
We’re very fortunate that we could do a double concert with Tony Allen last December. He really liked our music, which felt as a true blessing. At the end of the night, we played some Fela tracks together. Very special!
Can you tell us something about the gig you did with Mulatu Astatke?
We used to go to Mulatu Astatke gigs before we started the band and before we knew each other. So being a support act for Mulatu was like a dream coming true. He watched our show and liked it.
You’ve looked beyond Nigeria on your new record. Can you tell us something about the new influences on Hidden?
For this album we created songs according to our own rules. We used many different African instruments and some harmonies, but we also used hip-hop and jazz and used different (poly) rhythms and our own structures. We believe it makes no sense to just copy tracks or styles. We really like to give it a completely new touch and create something which didn’t exist yet.
Can you tell us something about the Indonesian gamelan elements you’ve started using? Which instruments represent that sound in the band?
The drummer and percussionist (they’re brothers) have an Indonesian background. They both attended gamelan workshops as a child. We really wanted to use the traditional gamelan on our album and add drums in our own style.
You’ve been doing a one minute gig on Dutch national television. What was that all about?
De Wereld Draait Door is one of the best watched programs in the Netherlands. They have a band play a one minute gig every day. It’s the only show that pays attention to music on prime-time. We decided to play a short section of a track and we were also able to tell them about our inspirations. It was great to be able to introduce our music to so many people.
Get Jungle By Night’s debut album Hidden for $25 from your local TITLE store.