Release date: 26 January 2015
Zun Zun Egui formed in Bristol in late 2008 – Mauritian guitarist and singer Kushal Gaya met and started making music with Japanese keyboard player Yoshino Shigihara after they had both moved to the UK and a core group of musicians soon formed around them. A love for experimentation, free jazz, fusion, DIY culture, throwing parties and playing wild shows was the glue that bonded the outfit together. After an early clutch of raw and experimental EPs, they focused their song-writing talents and mastery of many styles to create a recognisable Zun Zun Egui sound which included tropicalia, punk funk, Afrobeat, Ethio jazz and no wave. All of these varied disciplines were marshalled to produce their first album “Katang” which was widely hailed as one of the most exciting debuts of 2011. Even for a band as exploratory and talented as ZZE though, the step up in terms of songwriting and inspiration since “Katang” is astounding and it is clear that Shackles’ Gift looks like being one of the most unique and thrilling records that will be released in 2015.
Produced by Andrew Hung of Fuck Buttons, “Shackles’ Gift” is the album that Zun Zun Egui have always threatened to deliver and we always believed they would. Opening with ‘Rigid Man’, it hits the listener with bone-shaking tropical funk. Future single ‘African Tree’ strolls past on a marching band rhythm, complete with an arena-sized chorus and Kyuss-heavy stoner rock guitars. ‘Ruby’ is like imperial period Depeche Mode discovering the delights of industrial dancehall reggae, while ‘I Want You To Know’ is an absolute funk/noise rock monster, sounding like Steve Albini recording Queens Of The Stone Age jamming on ‘Kashmir’. ‘Soul Scratch’ is a very British take on a very Mauritian form of music called seggae, which combines the African island folk music known as sega with reggae, but imbuing it with an adrenalised urban uptightness. The album concludes with ‘City Thunder’ an elemental, dubbed out and dread take on post rock and disco.
Frontman Kushal says that first and foremost “Shackles’ Gift” is a British rock record made by a British group but admits that the first sparks of its creation started flying when ZZE visited Mauritius in March 2013. The African island nation, which lies 700 miles east of Madagascar, deep in the Indian Ocean, invited the band to give a concert as part of their Independence Day celebrations. The island’s dynamic history has led to a multi-lingual, multi-cultural modern nation which has influenced Zun Zun Egui in more ways than one. Not only has Mauritian music been one of the (many) primary ingredients of their sound and inspired Kushal’s multi-lingual approach to singing (the island has 12 main languages) but the diversity of the country acts as a metaphor for the diversity of the group itself.