Jungle By Night plays a mix of Ethio-jazz, afrobeat, funk and hiphop, placing you well within the world music corner. How popular is that genre of music in The Netherlands?
Ko Zandvliet (trombone): "I fear world music has a bit of an old-fashioned image; it's not all that popular, really. People often have a misguided view of the genre, but things like Balkan-beats or afrobeat are popular nonetheless because they're somehow not directly associated with the term "world music" as such."
Here in Belgium we've got a wide variety of world music festivals in summer; in Holland the summer festival programme seems much more limited.
Ko Zandvliet: "True, as I just said, world music isn't hugely popular in Holland and that is reflected in the number of world music festivals you'll find in our country. There's Festival Mundial in Tilburg and Amsterdam Roots, but that's about it. In Holland, world music acts are often booked among acts from totally different musical genres.
Do you feel it's a stigma to be branded a world music act?
Bo Floor (trumpet): "Not really, no, although I don't think our music totally fits into that category. As you mentioned at the beginning of this interview, we play a mix of styles."
How did young musicians like yourselves end up playing this kind of music?
Ko Zandvliet: "In the record collection of our parents we discovered a number of cassette tapes full of African music and we were already heavily into funk and hip-hop. From James Brown to Fela Kuti is but a small step. Fela's music and also that of his drummer Tony Allen, has been a huge source of inspiration; their music is unbelievably catchy and full of very danceable grooves."
Tony Allen already called you guys: "the future of afrobeat".
Ko Zandvliet: "What can I say, words like that leave you speechless! (laughs) It's a great honor to hear praise like that from one of the founders of the genre."
It's one thing to appreciate African music, but it's another to play it. Would you say those rhythms are difficult to learn?
Bo Floor: "I wouldn't go as far as to say it's difficult. It takes some adjusting, but once you get the feel for it, it's actually remarkably easy."
Are you guys all amateur musicians or did you get some kind of formal training?
Ko Zandvliet: "Some of us are still studying at the Amsterdam conservatory, yes."
Bo Floor: "Personally, I've played in a couple of jazz- and bigbands in the past, but mostly we're all still amateur musicians. (laughs)"
Jungle By Night's music is mostly instrumental by nature, was that a conscious choice?
Ko Zandvliet: "In bands working with a vocalist, a lot of the attention goes to that person and that was something we wanted to stay away from. It's something that just spontaneously evolved in the band."
Bo Floor: "I don't think it's a great loss either; I don't have the feeling our fans are wondering where the singer might be. We've also already done a couple of collaborations, like the track we recorded with Dutch rapper Jiggy Djé."
I really asked that question because afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti was very political, maybe even revolutionary, in his lyrics.
Ko Zandvliet: "The fact we don't have a vocalist excludes us from putting out political messages in our songs. In my opinion coloring your music in that way narrows down the amount of people you can reach and we want to touch as many people as we can with our music. You can't really compare our situation with that of Fela either."
Jungle By Night has made two appearances on the well-known De Wereld Draait Door television show in Holland (Dutch VARA television show broadcasted daily and bringing a mix of news, information and entertainment. The show is hosted by Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, red.). Even though you only get a very short amount of time to showcase your music, how important a platform for upcoming talent would you say that show is?
Ko Zandvliet: "It's definitely quite a big deal to get the chance to play on that show. De Wereld Draait Door has huge viewing ratings. To give you an idea; after one of our appearances on the show, all our concerts in the period that followed sold out. The mere fact you even know the show here in Belgium speaks for itself!"