In the summer of 2011, in the early hours of a moonlit night, deep in the wilds of the English countryside, a band of musical adventurers, roaming around a festival having just finished performing, were drawn to the sound of mysterious, passionate wailing and a ceaseless clattering rhythm that was blasting out from the shelter of a nearby North African tea tent. They were collectively captivated. That sound was the unmistakable trance-inducing sound of gnawa. When he finished playing, some hours later, they were all still there and struck up an immediate friendship and made arrangements to meet up back in London. After a handful of exploratory jam sessions and a traditional Gnawa ‘Lila’ ceremony to bless the project and without ever having performed together in public, they booked two days in a studio to document their experimentations. From the music created that weekend - available as an album entitled ‘Introducing Electric Jalaba’ – they knew they were on to something special, not just a one-off collaboration. That music formed the basis of an electrifying live set that over the course of a year propelled Electric Jalaba to become one of London’s in demand live acts. They developed and matured their writing process and deepened their explorations into gnawa music and beyond, releasing ‘Merhaba’ in May 2015. The album represents explorations into the many possibilities of Gnawa fusion, whilst maintaining a respect for the spiritual roots of the music. A new album is on the way for 2018!
The majority of the band is a family affair. With literally decades of playing experience together there is a natural musical connection that gives Electric Jalaba an extra tightness and fluidity on stage. Older brothers Henry Keen and Oliver Keen are also known from their electronic music production alias Soundspecies. They regularly perform and DJ internationally and have various releases to their name, celebrated and praised by the likes of Gilles Peterson and Laurent Garnier. The 2011 Soundspecies ‘Bamana project’ release (Round In Motion records) featured interpretations of Malian bass and Guitar riffs that Oliver picked up on his travels in West Africa. The precursor to Electric Jalaba began when the performing talents of younger brothers Nathaniel and Barnaby, along with drummer and friend Dave De Rose were brought in to perform the Bamana project music. Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Barnaby Keen is steadily gathering acclaim for his releases under the alais Flying Ibex. Nathaniel Keen, as well as backing up Barnaby in Flying Ibex, is an in-demand guitarist, currently performing internationally with singer Andreya Triana (Ninja Tunes). Dave De Rose is a highly experienced drum kit specialist having performed internationally with a whole host of artists including Moloko, Mark Ronson, Jamie Cullum, Rokia Traore and Mulatu Astatke, as well as being a one-man hub of musical activity in London’s creative music scene. Simo Lagnawi is the leading performer of Gnawa music in the UK and a master of the Guembri - a traditional three-stringed instrument made from camel skin. With a mesmeric voice and dance moves to match, he is a charismatic and engaging performer, swiftly gathering fans after his move from Morocco in 2009. He has released three solo albums; Gnawa London, Gnawa Berber and Gnawa Caravan, available on Waulk music.
Over the past six years Electric Jalaba have played at many of the biggest and best festivals in the UK and Europe, including Bestival, Latitude, Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Boomtown, Fengaros (Cyprus), Rockit (Italy), Respect (Czech Republic), Aarhus (Denmark), ReReRiga (Latvia). They also had the honour of taking the project back to the home of Gnawa music, performing on the Moroccan stage of Mawazine festival in Rabat (Morocco).