Just A Band is a Kenyan underground musical “collective” that manages to touch on about a dozen sub-genres on their self-released second album. The primary members, Blinky, Dan and Jim, created a viral sensation in Kenya when Just A Band emerged, and they have ridden that grassroots popularity to relative prominence outside of Africa.
Blinky, Dan and Jim all live in the same house (their friends call it Just A House), and they reside in a country where electrical power is rationed and they experience forced blackouts three days a week. Despite that and other obvious obstacles, they assembled a set of songs that speaks to a litany of influences, and they do a good job of juggling all of them at once.
“Save My Soul” feels like a neo-soul chill-out track. The best song on the album, “Usinibore,” is like a free-flowing dub-band b-side. “Sunrise” is sultry, smoky, romantic pop not unlike the more somber work of Sade. “Huff & Puff” is bouncy, ping-pong dance-pop (Anyone recall the game, Gnip Gnop? It’s actually more like that.) “Uko Mbele” is solid, if predictable, Afro-dance pop, and “Tingiza Kichwa” is like some sort of African rhumba rock. Some of this does present itself as part of a producer’s record, and, ironically, their entire oeuvre can almost be summed up in the song, “Kaa Ridho,” which showcases both the best and worst elements of what they do. They fairly exhaust themselves stylistically by the end of the record, sounding like they’ve tried to hit every single marker. If they can move beyond the forms they’ve played off of thus far they’ll have even more potent material to work with, and they can evolve and expand their vision even further on their third album.