Written by Eric J. Davis for THE ARTISTS FORUM MAGAZINE
Edited by Amos White V for THE ARTISTS FORUM, INC
Photos: Mia Min Yen
3.5 out of 5 stars
JUNGLE AT SUMMERSTAGE 2015
New York, NY (June 22, 2015) When was the last time the sounds of soul-swamped and funk-flecked music filled the night air? On Saturday 20th at the Central Park SummerStage 2015 concert to be exact. The UK band Jungle has emerged from all the internet buzz they’ve generated and have proven without a doubt that the hype was right – their songs are a sure-fire summer party-starter!
Once known as the mysterious “J” and “T”, Jungle’s founding West London duo are Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland. With their expanded band of five other members, they’ve created a synthesized melange of bluesy tones and dance-cajoling vibes that delivered a packed punch with almost every song. The music from their self-titled debut is forward-thinking dance music meets throwback soul/funk in a big way. Imagine Jamiroquai melded with the ghost of Marvin Gaye. The performance was reminiscent of early ‘80s British acts like Fun Boy Three and Fine Young Cannibals. And their R&B falsetto-castrato harmonies echoed the voices of The Bee Gees to an almost dizzying degree.
The sonic palette of Jungle can be rather confectionary, but it also had a dark side, both atmospheric and broody. Their syncopated grooves and instrumental flourishes were paired at times with lyrics riddled with an inner-city uneasiness and lovelorn laments. This music was so melodically perfect, and so perfect for the modern urbanite.
Sunni Colòn was the first opening act, but he didn’t do much to help invigorate the night’s crowd or the fever that is Jungle. The LA native and singer/producer performed some nice R&B slow jams to uptempo progressive boogie sounds with only a guitarist accompanying him. Unfortunately, Sunni never got into a continuous groove and never really made a connection with the audience.
The second opening act for Jungle was Ibeyi. And they were a true delight! The French-Cuban duo – Naomi and Lisa Kaindé Díaz – are the twin daughters of the late Cuban conguero and master percussionist Miguel “Angá” Díaz. Their minimalist sound merged elements of their West African Yoruba heritage with their Paris upbringing. The word Ibeyi is Yoruban for “the divine spirit that exists between twins.”
Kaindé’s vocals were deeply evocative and her keyboard playing elegant and controlled, while percussionist Naomi was filled with an energetic fervor as she played her cajon and batas. It was a culture clash onstage! The sounds of soul, hip hop, and downtempo/electronica were fused with French jazz, Cuban folk music, and Yoruba elements into songs full of emotion and spirituality. This is not just world music. Ibeyi is both contemporary and ancient and both tropical and cosmopolitan all at the same time. These twins are twenty years old. But the beauty and technical virtuosity they display is well beyond their years.
Central Park SummerStage 2015 runs through October 4 and showcases nearly 200 artists.