John Scalici's Juka Tribe | Shine

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Rock: Instrumental Rock Spoken Word: With Music Moods: Instrumental
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by John Scalici's Juka Tribe

"World Boogie" music with diverse influences from Lightnin' Hopkins samples to Middle Eastern and West African rhythms. Also some very hip spoken word. Bluesy, ethnic, and very funky!
Genre: Rock: Instrumental Rock
Release Date: 

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  song title
1. Butler Blues
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4:36 $0.99
2. La Hoolio
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7:14 $0.99
3. Mud Flap
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4:28 $0.99
4. Shine
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6:32 $0.99
5. Sandman
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4:28 $0.99
6. Uncle Pinky
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4:28 $0.99
7. Juba
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5:11 $0.99
8. The Grind
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5:49 $0.99
9. Rail Road Park
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4:58 $0.99
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Album Notes
by Bryan Rodgers, Cyber Media, NY NY

The sound of Juka Tribe could never be summed up in one song, but the band’s colorful creation “Rail Road Park,” with its lyrics about rebirth, coexistence, and “building a future from a segregated past,” is a fine representation of the band’s overall outlook. Juka Tribe was born in the basement of Birmingham, Alabama musician John Scalici. The band holds true to their humble origins, aspiring not for commercial success or the fruits of popularity. In keeping with the spirit of their wildly multicultural music, Scalici and the band endeavor only to spread their eclectic sounds to as many people as possible and spark interaction between bodies and minds on the dance floor. From the wide variety of people who will enjoy their music to the endless array of sounds and styles they employ when creating their art, everything about Juka Tribe is inclusionary and welcoming. Their music, which draws inspiration and influence from hip-hop, rock, African, and Middle Eastern music, is socially conscious but not forced or overtly political. Their message stems organically from their personal musical experiences and the inherent joy, pain, and artistic majesty of their influences, which range from world music masters like Mickey Hart and Fela Kuti to blues icons such as Howlin’ Wolf and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Purposely or not, the combination of ancient rhythmic techniques and modern technology also brings to mind club music stalwarts like Thievery Corporation and Beats Antique.

Juka Tribe’s genesis sprung from numerous Tuesday night jam sessions during which Scalici and fellow percussionist Cody McClain would practice and improvise upon a wide variety of exotic music. They first employed only live percussion, but gradually grew intrigued by the possibilities of technology. Eventually, Scalici – who is a devoted blues music lover – began incorporating samples of blues guitar riffs and lyrics into their mosaic of Middle Eastern, Brazilian, and West African rhythms. Before long, the duo actually reversed the process, building a collage of melodies and sounds first, and then enhancing their creation with percussion. With their musical possibilities now wide open, Scalici began inviting other soloists and even a spoken word artist into the increasingly inventive mix. The unique style of music that the group happened upon soon became too intense to be contained in a basement. Poet Shariff Simmons and bassist Jay Johnson soon became bona fide members of the band, and Juka Tribe was born, as was the sound of World Boogie. The quartet put their considerable combined experience to immediate use and began using Scalici’s songs as a base to create an incomparable mix of styles. Driven by an ethnic pulse and colored with the vibrant intellectualism of Simmons’ arresting proclamations, World Boogie is a sound that applies exclusively to Juka Tribe.

Juka Tribe’s songs, with their deep, hypnotic beats, are certainly tailored for the dance floor. In concert, the band takes audience immersion to spectacular levels, incorporating fire dancers to help bring the tribal roots of the music to life. They even hold drum circles before and after shows where everyone is invited to indulge in a spontaneous tribal gathering. But there’s also a conversational, thought-provoking element to the band’s menagerie of samples and melodic embellishments. The listener’s imagination will experience a world of inspired visuals facilitated by the contrast of historical elements, ancient rhythms, and computerized ingenuity. In the space of one song, the band can embark on an imagined aural journey from the rural south to the hardscrabble streets of the city to the deserts of the Middle East. In another, they might whisk the listener away to the teeming Brazilian jungle with the ultimate destination being western Africa. Beneath the koras, congas, and things-beat-upon that form the band’s distinctive world fusion runs a current of innovation as well. Along with the limitless options that sampling provides, Scalici utilizes his own recordings of bluesmen or other interesting characters he’s encountered over the years to great effect, and their proclamations lend a sort of homespun wisdom to Juka Tribe’s music. This extra helping of sociological creativity aids the cause of the band’s irresistible rhythm, helping to make the minds and hearts of listeners that much more receptive to the powerful beats and messages found within. The band has a way with earworms, too, as evidenced by the incredibly satisfying manner in which Juka Tribe’s music cements itself in the listener’s consciousness. Sure, there’s no mistaking the eerie Pink Floyd sample or the voice of Stevie Ray Vaughan that runs through the song “Shine.” But the chunky guitar funk and fat horn lines that make the tune “Mud Flap” tick are as catchy and irresistible as any classic sample, showing that the band can create with the best of their colleagues. Juka Tribe is one of the most unique bands in the nation, boasting a spirit that can’t be ignored. Through their thoughtful conscience, inimitable music, and engaging shows, they’re destined to reach a global audience.


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Review by Alex Henderson
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Juka Tribe Shines
In many cases, musicians who insist that their work is “beyond category” or “impossible to categorize” are guilty of wishful thinking. They aren’t as risk-taking or as unorthodox as they would like to think, and their work is, in fact, quite easy to categorize. But Juka Tribe’s Shine is an example of an album that really is difficult to categorize; Shine isn’t impossible to categorize, but it certainly isn’t easy to categorize either. Juka Tribe, which is the group of Birmingham, Alabama-based musician John Scalici, brings a wide variety of influences to the table, including world music (Middle Eastern and Indian as well as African), electronica, hip-hop, blues, funk, jazz and reggae. And if one had to narrow it down and summarize, in a nutshell, what Scalici does, perhaps the most appropriate description would be “world electronica.” Yet Shine isn’t totally electronic; Scalici favors a blend of technology (including samples and programmed beats) and “real instruments.” But like a lot of music that is broadly, loosely defined as electronica, Scalici’s material doesn’t necessarily favor a traditional verse/chorus/verse/chorus format; a Juka Tribe offering could easily consist of a rhythmic groove, beat or theme united with scattered samples, which is characteristic of a lot of electronica.

Shine gets off to a jazzy, percussive start on the hypnotic opener “Butler Blues,” a tune that obviously doesn’t adhere to a traditional verse/chorus/verse/chorus format. Instead, “Butler Blues” has a groove that unites elements of modern Indian and Middle Eastern music with elements of jazz, blues and funk. There are no traditional vocals on “Butler Blues,” only scattered samples. And the tune is infectious, although no less infectious than the tune that follows: “La Hoolio,” which brings together world, hip-hop and blues elements. “La Hoolio” contains rapping in French, bringing to mind the French alternative rap of MC Soleil (one of France’s best known rappers of the 1990s and 2000s). To those who are used to hearing hip-hop in English exclusively, the thought of someone rapping in French or any other romance language might sound strange. But in fact, hip-hop has been wildly popular in France, Belgium and other French-speaking countries for a long time; Paris, Brussels and Marseilles are full of MCs who rap in French exclusively. And on “La Hoolio,” French-language rapping works perfectly well alongside blues harmonica and Indian-minded percussion.

The funky “Mudflap” has a strongly African-influenced groove, hinting at Fela Kuti’s Nigerian Afro-funk as well as the moody, dusky African pop coming out of Mali. But unlike all of the Malian pop that uses singing as its focal point, “Mudflap” is essentially an instrumental groove with scattered vocal samples. “Sandman,” similarly, combines a funky Middle Eastern-influenced groove with scattered vocal samples; “Sandman,” like “Mudflap,” is essentially an instrumental without being exclusively instrumental. And scattered vocal samples are used in a similar fashion on the bluesy “Uncle Pinky” and the jazz-minded “Juba” (which isn’t unlike something the late flutist Herbie Mann would have done back in the 1970s). “Juba” has a strong jazz-funk element.

There is a difference between hip-hop-style rapping and spoken word; Juka Tribe incorporates them both. What one hears on “La Hoolio” is French-language rapping of the hip-hop variety, but English-language spoken word is used on Shine’s title track and “Railroad Park.” Neither the title track nor “Railroad Park” could be described as tunes that are essentially instrumental but use scattered vocal samples here and there; the spoken word vocals are right up front on both the title track and “Railroad Park.” They are prominent rather than being used as a tasty side dish.

Shine is an unpredictable effort; Scalici obviously wanted to try different things on different tracks. But much to his credit, he accomplished that without sounding unfocused. Scalici maintains the element of surprise, yet he never sounds like someone who is randomly throwing things up against the wall in the hope that perhaps some of them might stick. No, Scalici obviously knew what he was doing when he recorded Shine, and the end result is a memorable album that is both intriguing and focused.

Review by Alex Henderson
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)