Slip their stateside debut CD into the player, and from the very first notes, words and rhythms you'll find yourself in the presence of music that's not just special and distinctive, but also fresh, invigorating and engaging. Yet at the same time, there's something to it that's as familiar as a longtime friend… or maybe your new favorite band.
Just Jinjer's power and alluring appeal is fueled by well-honed and heartfelt musicality, a commitment to communication on a genuine emotional and cerebral level — music that touches the heart, body, mind and soul — and a dedication to their musical mission that is virtually unstoppable. The album is rife with potent, upbeat numbers like "Steady," "Home," "Shine On You" and "Safer," which, as the titles imply, are as uplifting in lyrics, message and spirit as they are musically. There's also the entrancing slower numbers like the ethereal "She Knows," the classical strains of "Seasons" and "East Coast Baby," and the sparse yet powerfully transformational "Take Me There." Just Jinjer also settle into seductive mid-tempo grooves on the universal message of spirituality of "What He Means" and as they share their determination and faith in a better life and world on "Till I'm Done" and "Fall Out." And throughout, they speak about the stuff that really matters, the essentials that touch everyone's lives and experiences and emotions that everyone shares.
It's an album that is indeed 15 songs strong that plays from beginning to end with music that's modern and right up to date, yet also grounded in the consciousness and musicality of the great bands that came before Just Jinjer, and that will continue to stand tall and win listeners for time to come. "Now is the time to come alive," Just Jinjer declares in one song, and their music is guaranteed to have just that effect for all who listen.
Just Jinjer — South Africans Ard Matthews (vocals/guitar), Brent Harris (drums/vocals) and Denholm Harding (bass/vocals)— all share being an only child as well as playing drums professionally at points along their musical journeys. When the band debuted in South Africa, their first album quickly vaulted them to double platinum sales and iconic stature. So it's only natural that Just Jinjer now aims to make a similar mark in America and beyond. As Matthews told his bandmates when they decided to move to the U.S., "When I dream, I dream that I am driving on the right hand side of the road in America."
Though Matthews grew up in a strict religious household with little popular music, what he did hear — Nat "King" Cole, Louis Armstrong and Elvis Presley — elicited an innate musicality that won a talent contest as a singer that he entered as a lark at the age of 12. In his late high school years, he sat down at a friend's drum kit and immediately found a natural proficiency on the traps. He studied drums at the South African affiliate of Los Angeles's famed Musicians Institute, also picking up the guitar partway through his courses.
Stepping onstage to sing and play guitar one night at the restaurant where he worked as a waiter in between sets by the evening's entertainer, he was immediately offered a regular gig, and was soon making a good living on the Johannesburg circuit as a solo performer. He also honed his skills and appeal to listeners of all stripes busking on the streets of London and Paris. When he was befriended and heard by Harris, the drummer asked him to join his band Tri Funk Era, one of the Johannesburg's most popular bands.
Harris got his first drum kit at five years old after bashing out rhythms from an early age on pots and pans in the family kitchen. By age 16 he was recording on albums and commercial sessions as a drummer and singer, eventually racking up credits on more than 100 albums, including three discs by the late South African reggae Lucky Dube. The band he started in his late teens, Walk This Way, quickly became a hot draw across the nation, and opened for Paul Simon on a visit to the land whose music inspired his landmark album Graceland. His next group, which became Tri Funk Era, scored a South African hit single and opened shows for visiting stars like Joe Cocker. But for Harris its music wasn't quite complete until Matthews joined up.
With the voice and songs of Matthews in place, the group soon transformed into Just Jinjer, signed with BMG, and became the biggest thing to ever hit South African rock, all but forging the country's modern rock scene in the process. "We had to create clubs and a circuit," Matthews recalls. "I didn't know we were making anything new. It was just what we needed to do to appear in front of people."
Not long after Just Jinjer became South Africa's biggest-selling rock band — a title they still hold alongside superstar stature in their homeland — the next crucial element of the band came together when Harding joined on bass and vocals. By then the group was regularly drawing many thousands to their gigs and tens of thousands opening South African concerts for visiting stars like U2, Counting Crows, Elvis Costello and co-headlining shows with Hootie and the Blowfish and many more.
Harding too had shown great musical talent at an early age, the son of professional musicians, his mother a teacher with her own music school and his father an executive with musical instrument companies. He won second place on a national TV music competition at age five, toured South Africa as a drummer from his youth into his teens — sharing stages and becoming friends with Harris — and studied guitar and drums as he came into adulthood.
After not just conquering but reigning supreme in the South African rock scene, Just Jinjer set out to do the same far beyond their native land. "We were the most successful South African rock band ever, but we were never really satisfied with that," Matthews explains. "We figured if we can do that here, we should be able to do that other places."
Visits to Germany, Canada and New York City piqued record company interest, and a stint in London found Just Jinjer selling out clubs filled with the expatriate South African fans and new English followers. On moving to America, more record labels as well as top managers were drawn to the band's world class talent and potential, and eventually Curb Records stepped up to the plate to offer Just Jinjer the ideal partner to help the band fulfill its considerable musical goals.
As for the band's name, in case you are wondering, it's a bit of South African-style slang they invented themselves as an affirmative answer to the age old question: "How are you doing?" Just Jinjer! Just as listeners will also feel on hearing their music — delighted, uplifted, doing just fine if not wonderfully.
Just Jinjer endorse Vater, PDP, DW, Ashdown & Taylor