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The roots of Juju started in San Francisco after Plunky had met his musical mentor, Zulu musician Ndikho Xaba, helping to form his band Ndikho and The Natives. Three members of The Natives (Plunky, bassist Ken Shabala and vibes / flute player Lon Moshe) then joined Marvin X’s theatrical production The Resurrection Of The Dead, joining local musicians Al-Hammel Rasul (keyboards), Babatunde Lea (percussion) and Jalango Ngoma (timbales).
When the production ended, the six musicians formed Juju. “We had high-energy rehearsals that lasted for hours and, as a band, we became powerful and began gigging around the Bay Area,” remembers Plunky. Although oriented towards Black Nationalism, the band fed off the Bay Area’s culturally diverse communities as Plunky shaped an inclusive worldview based on collective political, social and artistic activities. During this time, the Soledad Brothers case and Angela Davis were prominent and the band supported Professor Davis and the cause.
Juju’s music matched the fire of their activism. “As a band, we blew, pounded and stroked our instruments like there was no tomorrow, like our life’s work was wrapped up in each session. We approached our performances like religious rites and the music mesmerised, informed and awakened people.” The band’s first album, A Message From Mozambique, was intentionally political. While the anti-war movement focused on Vietnam, Juju looked towards wars being waged in South Africa, Angola and Mozambique over issues of white supremacy and control of natural resources. A second album, ‘Chapter Two: Nia’ would follow before the birth of Oneness Of Juju during the mid-‘70s.
This definitive reissue is fully remastered by The Carvery from the original tapes and features original artwork and a new interview with Juju bandleader James “Plunky” Branch.