Herewith, the first dispatch from our Samsung Sound Editor-At-Large, Christopher Kevin Au, who this weekend past attended Jinja Safari’s one night only Samsung Sound gig at – well, he’ll tell you all about it.
It’s not every Saturday night that you go to visit a jail. The closest I’ve ever been to jail was the time I was put in the bad playpen for extorting a classmate for a Kinder Surprise in pre-school. However, this was no ordinary Saturday night – we were headed to Samsung Sound’s exclusive gig with Jinja Safari at the Cell Block Theatre.
Situated in The National Art School, the venue occupies a space that once held criminals and public hangings as Darlinghurst Gaol. While the Cell Block Theatre still bears etchings and scrawled messages on its walls from a past life, on this night it was dressed in dazzling lights, Samsung Multiroom speakers and a floor swarmed with turn-up juice and nibbles. A velvet rope guarded the entrance to the venue, so you know this shit was 110% official.
I’m assuming that this was the first and last time most of the night’s attendees would be visiting a jail, as Jinja Safari fans tend to be law-abiding citizens – as opposed to fans of Gucci Mane or DMX.
Rap squats on the red carpet, mess with us.
But this night wasn’t about aggressive rap music, it was about Jinja Safari’s unique brand of African-inspired indie rock. Brimming with life and vitality, this band sounds like The Lion King soundtrack interpreted through the ears of a Surry Hills fixie-rider. If Simba and Mufasa could play instruments and wear tapered chinos confidently, it would probably sound something like this.
So while Jinja Safari’s music is all about nature, freedom, Instagram-friendly sunsets and the ilk, it’s quite a contrast for the band play within the assertive stone walls of the Cell Block Theatre. Catching up with the band before the gig, they admit that they “haven’t played as a band for four months,” but it sure didn’t show.
Recovering trampoline victim Danny Clayton threw some strong banter before introducing the band, who took the stage in a nonchalant manner. That was all about to change.
Jinja Safari are the sort of band whose youthful energy translates brilliantly into the live environment – flutes, bongos and sitars made consistent cameos throughout the set, helping the audience embark on an enchanting jungle journey without ever leaving the room. Yes, this was a far cry from the four-piece serving half-baked Bon Jovi covers at your local RSL.
Fisheye for life.
The dancing lead of ‘Plagarist’ was a perfect example, commanding the crowd into a high-energy sway of sorts, while the dreamy ‘Hiccups’ still managed to get the floor moving with its charging percussion. By the time ‘Mermaids’ blared over the speakers, all hell broke loose – the band was climbing on top of tables, thrashing at keyboards, performing lightning-quick bongo solos and swarming all over the stage like madmen. The track’s sing-a-long refrain echoed throughout the venue towards the conclusion, leaving the crowd with high spirits and sore throats.
Earlier on in the night, percussionist Alister reflected on his first phone, a “white Samsung flip top phone. I loved it, I had it for two or three years, it had Snake on it.” It goes to show how far Samsung have come, from flip phones to exclusive bashes with Jinja Safari – a band whose vivacious spirit broke past the prison walls.
Jinja Safari promise “new songs or a new direction” before further touring, and if this performance is anything to go by, we’re counting down the days until more sitar solos and wildly ignorant stage antics.