So here is the next installment of Musical Masterpieces. My original plan of posting one a day was rudely interrupted by a holiday to Dungeness. There’s a nuclear power station there. It’s lovely.
In this edition of Musical Masterpieces, I had the joy, pleasure and luck to meet and briefly chat to Emmanuel Nzaramba, the singer, and Alex Montgomery, the bass player from the South African John Wizards.
I was introduced to John Wizards by Rory via Sandeep (whose posts on here are deffo worth a read, much more so than mine) when Rory surprised me by coming out to Paris for my birthday. He said to me ‘Sandeep likes this band called John Wizards. Whenever anyone wants to put on music, he always requests John Wizards’. I personally was sold at their name alone – I think the word ‘wizard’ could be up there with my favourites, So I said to Rory, ‘what are you waiting for you sack of wine’ and he put this on.
I don’t quite know where to start with the sheer brilliance of this track. I then moved onto their album and was even more stunned. It would be easier to discuss the album as a whole instead of the singular track, as the genres they mash together are many. The key touchstone is without a doubt afro-pop, and the guitar line from Lusaka By Night could easily fit into that genre. However, the album doesn’t stop there. Expect to hear house, R&B, electro, reggae, rumba and soukous, all fused together to create a vibrant masterpiece which many groups spend years trying to create – this is John Wizards’ debut album. Every song on the album is different, but not so different it damages the album as a whole. It is pretty much flawless. Here’s another brilliant track from it.
Having spent several months listening to virtually nothing but John Wizards, I wondered what their live show would be like. And as luck would have it, the cheeky chappies from SA were playing at the brilliant, wonderful and unmissable Primavera Sound in Porto, Portugal. I wish I had had the chance to write up a full review of that festival, as, like with John Wizards’ debut, it was virtually flawless – great bands playing, cheap beer, cheap food – what more do you need?
So at around 1am, I stumbled over to the Pitchfork tent and caught my first glimpse of John Wizards. For a start there are about 8 of them, and all other than Emmanuel continually swapped instruments, weaving their fine fabric of musical mastery onstage for all to see. I went absolutely crazy for it. Live, they completely changed how the songs sounded – they became much heavier, even more danceable, and they all seemed to enjoy being onstage – Emmanuel was bouncing around, dreadlocks a-swinging, in a vibrant (to say the least) shirt, and John Withers, the head honcho behind this madness seemed to hold them all together like some kind of wild South African afro-pop Jazz man.
After the show, I was trotting off to replenish my beer and have a wee, when I suddenly saw Emmanuel surrounded by a gaggle of girls speaking very rusty English to him. I bounded over, barged through them all and tapped him on the shoulder. ‘I like your show very much sir’ I said to him. He responded by embracing me warmly. Before being interrupted again by the relatively insistent girls, I asked him to draw me a picture. Here is what he drew for me:
‘What the fuck are you doing Emmanuel?’ I heard from behind us. The bass player saunters over. ‘Our plane to Serbia leaves in an hour’. ‘Would you mind making me a picture sir?’ I asked.
Here’s Alex Montgomery’s drawing:
And with that, they scurried off into the night, leaving a group of bewildered, confused and frustrated Portuguese girls who seemed to hurl some insults at me as I strolled off to have my wee and get another beer. I wouldn’t know though as my Portuguese is non-existent. Though John Wizards. They’re really great. Give em a listen, it may be the last day of the summer but John Wizards will keep summer alive.