Interview With Nubiyan Twist: “Music Can Be A Powerful Non-Violent Tool”

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It’s tough to pigeonhole Nubiyan Twist. At times the 12 piece group are jazz, at times hip hop, at times soul, at times dub, and. most of the time, all of these things at once. The retro raps of Nubiya Brandon cut through this cohesive amalgam, until she unleashes her strong, soulful, forceful song, and you are forced to stop and listen intently. The result is always confident, always cool, and always hard to pin down. And that’s the way I like it. After all, pigeonholes are for pigeons.

On the cusp of the release of their eponymous debut album, out 30th March via Wormfood Records, the band took some time to have a pow wow with Overblown about their ambitions, the power of music, and Nat King Cole. Check out their video for their debut single ‘Work House’ above.

First of all, thanks for talking to Overblown. How did the band come into being?

Hello! Nice to meet the folks at Overblown. The lineup started as a DJ, Vocalist and Sax set up with Tom (Guitar and MD) composing and producing tracks alongside Nubiya (Singer) on vocals and Joe (Sax and Live FX). Just a bit of fun really. Before we knew it we had 13 people to organise and a hadron collider style stage set up! We’re happy to say the band has finally stopped growing and after 4 years the sound is really starting to feel like our own.

You are a 12 piece band that combines soul, jazz, dub, hip hop and afrobeat. Quite ambitious. In light of this, what would you consider success for the band?

For us to get paid enough for each of us to pay our rent! I guess those genres share similarities and have influenced each other at some point. Finding correlating traits and drawing a collective influence from them whilst trying to maintain an original sound is the challenge we’ve set ourselves.

A Nubiyan is someone who is from the Nubia region along the river Nile in Egypt. Is that area significant to the band?

Our singer Nubiya is from the Yorkshire region along the river Aire in Leeds. We named the band after her. It’s a bit confusing though as our music has more West African Influences than East.

One of the tracks on the new record is called ‘Turu’. I looked online and found a number of meanings for Turu. There is the Turu people from Tanzania, Turu is a village in Iran, and Turu is also an Australian travel agency! Can you shed some light on what the importance of the term is to the band?

You’ve caught us out! To be honest that piece came about so freely that we used a phonetically pleasing word that we assumed had no meaning. We’ll try to be even more obscure next time round.

The video for your debut single ‘Work House’ features Sri-Lankan born Londoner Suren Seneviratne aka My Panda Shall Fly. How did the video come about? And what is the concept behind the video?

Suren and the guys at HER Films were amazing throughout the production of the video. Nubiya worked with HER Films and used the message behind the lyrics to create the concept for the video.  “I grew up in a small ex-industrial city with that classic grey charm. The working class living systematically and often forgetting their circumstances are not what builds their character. It is the beauty in all people who feel they are invisible that has inspired this song. I wrote this with love to remind you, you are not forgotten.” (Nubiya)

Nubiyan twist interview
The band getting up to mischief.

The press release about your first single claims that your music encourages, “artistic and social unity between different cultures and musical styles.” Do you think that artistic and social unity are linked? Do you feel it helps knocks down barriers between different cultures?

I think the answer to this question lies on a pretty broad scale. On one hand you’ve got the fickle nature of chart music, constantly fitting to trends from all over the world. Essentially it’s all eclectic and all rooted in global history. The digital age has connected people and music from the underground to the mainstream in a way that could definitely be described as breaking down barriers.

On the other hand you’ve got music with an agenda, striving for social unity. Take Afro-Beat for example, which has traditionally confronted issues of government corruption. Or the ‘Singing Revolution’ that lead to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania gaining independence after WWII. Music can be a powerful non-violent tool.

With our music we try to be open to all styles and take the best from everything. I guess if that attitude can be mirrored in the way we treat each other then the world would be a pretty peaceful place.

You are a 12 piece band. Does this make it difficult to tour?

LIDL is our friend.

You built a custom studio called Henwood Studio out of hay bales and cement in Oxfordshire, which has become Nubiyan HQ. Tell us more about this rather unusual HQ.

After leaving LCM Joe and Tom moved down south to start a project now into its 4th year. Henwood Studios has grown up along side Nubiyan Twist. All members past and present have had a huge part in making the place pretty special if we don’t say so ourselves! 600 straw bales as insulation create a cosy, calm environment, plus the set up means we can record live with some pretty serious equipment. Go check out the facebook page or drop round for a cup of tea when your next in the depths of rural Oxfordshire!

Nat King Cole is named as an influence on your music. I’m not going to lie, I absolutely adore Nat King Cole. What is your favourite song by him?

You have impeccable taste! Hart to pick a favourite but would have to go for Nature Boy.

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