Last month The Fleece welcomed Nubiyan wist to the stage to kick-start the Easter bank holiday weekend with some of their finest afrobeat, jazz, funk and soul-infused sounds.
To open the night, Worm Disco Club spanned an assortment of foot-shuffling funk and soul to ease the crowd onto the dancefloor. Shortly after, Bristol’s very own Sounds of Harlowe warmed up the crowd with a mesmerising set. Their sounds of smooth jazz, with a dash of hip hop, trip hop and everything else in between set the bar high for what was about to come.
By the time Nubiyan Twist took to the stage, the tightly packed crowd was eager to get stuck into their make-you-move style of afrobeat, jazz and hip hop fusion. The band played a selection of material from their 2015 self-titled release, including songs like Work House and Hypnotised, plus a couple of newbies taken from their forthcoming album to give the attentive crowd a little taster.
Before the show, Nitelife sat down with Nubiyan Twist members, vocalist Nubiya, Tom (guitar), Oli (keys), Nick (alto sax), Jo (baritone sax) and Dennis (tenor sax).
The Leeds-based and London-born 12-piece began working with each other after meeting at Leeds College of Music, although long-gone are those days of collaborating around a laptop in student halls.
Five years on and the band have had roaring success with their 2015 self-titled debut album and shared stages with the likes of Hot 8 Brass Band, Quantic and De La Soul, with their soundsystem culture-inspired and jazz-infused sounds.
The music we make is a complex collaboration of the different genres and eras we’ve all been inspired by
Nubiya: ‘The music we make is a complex collaboration of the different genres and eras we’ve all been inspired by. When Oli joined us he brought a lot of neo-soul and more complicated jazz. Tom is a classical guitarist, but he also has a lot of experience in electronic music, so his detail to mixing and production really helped shape our records. I’d like to call myself a jazz singer, but I’ve also got a strong reggae background.
‘We were really inspired by afrobeat at the beginning, partly because the size of the bands were so big, we felt like that’s where we belonged. But now we’ve stretched into hip hop, urban roots and things like that. It’s just one big mixing pot.’
In April, Nubiyan Twist released their latest EP Dance Inna London, featuring Super Cat vocals from his timeless classic Dance Inna New York.
Tom: ‘The reason we wanted to do this rework was for the opportunity to work with the Super Cat vocal, as he’s definitely a big inspiration in our eyes. He’s inspired so many reggae toasters like Solo Banton, Topcat and even Sean Paul!
The reason we wanted to do this rework was for the opportunity to work with the Super Cat vocal, as he’s definitely a big inspiration in our eyes
‘An animated music video is going to be released fairly soon to support the track, bringing a whole different light to the tune. The whole point of this video is to give the message of support to grass roots venues in the UK, because a lot of them are in decline.
‘The lyrics from Super Cat in this tune are about him enjoying playing music around the world, so we wanted to apply that to the current situation in London and across the UK. There’s a theme in the video of a big monster eating and destroying all the music venues in London. Keep a look out for it!’
Following on from their upcoming music video, Nubiyan Twist went on to discuss the importance of music venue culture in general in the UK, and the damage caused by the closing of music venues for young musicians.
Tom: ‘I think culture is the key word. England has got a great cultural history of amazing music and it would be a real shame to lose that. It’s a form of expression for people to go out and meet like-minded people and communicate through music.’
England has got a great cultural history of amazing music and it would be a real shame to lose that
Nubiya: ‘As musicians, we also need a ladder to climb to be able to perform at bigger venues. By getting rid of all of the smaller venues, you’re stopping new artists from progressing.’
Dennis: ‘It’s also important to use smaller venues as a space to try out new stuff. If you’re at a big headline gig in Albert Hall or wherever, you can’t afford to be playing around with different songs and changing them. If these venues shut down, you haven’t got the space to try out new stuff and be experimental.’
Nick: ‘If you can’t play your music live to an audience, then in my eyes there’s no point in making music at all. You have to have the experience of seeing the people who listen to your music face-to-face and share that moment with each other.’
If you can’t play your music live to an audience, then in my eyes there’s no point in making music at all
Oli: ‘From my own personal experience, my first gig was when I was 13 in my local community centre. All youngsters need to be given that chance to be inspired by new music and that shouldn’t happen in a big venue with sponsors, you’re not going to get that vibe. It should happen in a grass roots local place where you can feel relaxed and want to get involved.’
Tom: ‘Whilst we’re on the subject, I’d just like to make a shout out to Music Venue Trust who are an amazing charity who give support and campaign to save music venues across the UK.’
Along with their beliefs in keeping the live music scene alive, Nubiyan Twist also stress the importance of practicing a unity amongst musicians.
Nubiya: ‘I can’t really speak for everyone, but at the minute I personally feel like we’ve entered this completely new era where musicians are becoming more self-sufficient. But unfortunately, I think the one thing that has died with this is a sense of community.
‘If you look back at eras like punk or Motown, there was a culture and a social scene that brought people together who shared common ground. That’s how a lot of musicians knew each other. They were playing each other’s music and part of the same cause. Now we are touched by so much stuff and we are in, as Dave Chappelle puts it “the age of spin”, where we have no idea what we are looking at anymore.
‘That whole sense of community is slowly growing again, but it feels like everyone is quite out of touch. You see people on a bill and you get to know other musicians a little bit, but there’s not really the sense of everyone coming together. It’s starting to change, but it’s definitely a developing thing.
‘I hope it grows, because it is one of the most important things. It’s important that we try and stick together and support and teach and share knowledge with each other. It shouldn’t be a big secret how you gain success in your career, we should be telling each other.’
As the interview began to wrap up in preparation for the band’s headline set, Dennis reassures Nubiyan Twist fans that a new album is definitely on the horizon.
Dennis: ‘We will hopefully have an album out around this time next year. We are going to be launching a Kickstarter campaign in May to help raise funds to go towards the album, so if you’re keen to hear another album, be sure to donate to help keep this band alive and on the road gigging!’
To find out more about the band’s Kickstarter campaign and to find out where the band will be playing next, visit the Nubiyan Twist Facebook page.