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So Good They Named It Kava Kava
By Ben Ohmart
(more articles from this author)
2004-02-23
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Everyone wants to split a genre; take elements of country, ragtime and ska and create a new word for what they're doing. Well, when it comes to a world's record in how many elements you can put together to form a new sound, Kava Kava may have the Guinness book sealed up.

Their new 70 minute album Maui may not emit sounds of a tropical nature, but when it comes to creating a heavenly playground you want to lose your tie in, Maui is the obvious vacation spot.

Take a Listen to
Kava Kava's "Maui" CD

(downloadable mp3s)
Space People
Dont Stop The Music
Terrorists
Funked Up and Freaked Out

Don't let the 'Intro' fool you. Once you get passed a few moments of that minimalist soundscape, you're into a groove that refuses to stop. They call it space funk - a blend of beats, electronica, bass, guitars, and the occasional string section. Interestingly and arrestingly, there are non-pulsating pauses in the score that might infuriate club owners, but when the beat stops for a dramatic moment in 'Space People,' it helps pump this way above disco influences. It also makes the track grind better when the rhythm steps back in; more exciting than a Britney Spears retread.

Not surprisingly (or surprisingly), Kava Kava, originally a 4-piece experimental live psychedelic unit with hard George Clinton influences, hails from the UK (Yorkshire). Pat Fulgoni fronts as the soulful voice, keyboards and trumpet, backed up by Matt Bond on guitars, Jason Riley on bass and "electronica," and Mick Reed on plenty of rhythm. Having a grooving lead singer who also runs a booking agency and a delicious Chocolate Fireguard record label helps fill up the odd gap in an already full calendar. Clubs and festivals are funked from France, Holland, Belgium, Hungary, Switzerland and the Czech Republic to Austria, Germany, Poland and Italy, where they already drive too fast without Kava Kava in the tape player.

Says Pat: "The more gigs we do in other countries, the more Kava Kava meanings we come across! For instance, the band has been playing the Czech Republic for years and 'Kava Kava' means 'Coffee Coffee' over there (can be a bit confusing when you're trying to find the venue!!). We once had an order from the Estonian Ambassador based in Stockholm, Sweden who bought the album because the band's name translated as 'schedule schedule!?' Kava Kava is also a legal high from Papua New Guinea, a member of the pepper family, in fact. I've heard of footage where Queen Elizabeth has been given a Kava Kava brew!!!"

Thank God music is universal and accepted like Visa. The critics know the credit's good on the latest album. DJ Mag says it "should be on every funk and disco playlist, period!" M8 writes that it's "essential summer listening." Blues and Soul goes one better: ".....(the) inspired songwriting and impeccable production of Maui is a jaw-dropping phenomenon."

And it is. Especially when you consider where the birth took place. "We've been chipping away at it for a few years now, recording it in the bedroom and then mixing it down in a professional studio. Live performances have certainly helped shape the songs."

A few of the tracks have interesting personality origins themselves. "'Sicfuck' was helped shaped by a rather scary session musician who must, for the band's safety, remain nameless. 'Terrorists' was originally written just before the September 11th tragedy. 'Funked Up and Freaked Out' is a case of 'eat shit jazz snob.' 'Space People' was mixed the day George Harrison died."

For influences - a key to their heavy turnover of sounds - they go for everything from AC/DC to Daft Punk, Gil Scott Heron, Marvin Gaye to Can and Basement Jaxx. Needless to say their fan base is about as diverse as the "average" Beatles fan. "You get rockers turning up alongside trip hoppers and lovers of house music! I've always been really surprised by the range of people who get into Kava Kava. We have played a lot of live 'funk' club nights, so there's been a few conversions with that kind of audience as well as some hardened festival heads from the odd set at Glastonbury and the various other music festivals we've played."

When they first began, there were some covers thrown in with the original mixes; songs like Living Colour's "Type Out" and Hendrix's "Freedom." But these days it's all originals. "Generally on stage we are a live 6 piece funk outfit: typically vocals, keys, guitar, drums, bass, brass section, but synced up to the samplers and beats. It really comes alive at gigs."

Still, for those of us who still see Europe as a world away, we have to rely on those little CD things. "I'm compiling the next Chocolate Fireguard compilation. This next one is called 'Interesting Flavours' and has two Kava Kava tracks on it: 'Tic' and an instrumental cop show style remix of 'Bank Job.' It's also got some tracks from Freddy Fresh, The Bluefoot Project, Bentley Rhythm Ace, "Ca (la cedille)" Awayteam and some amazing hip hop from South Africa c/o Godessa and Moodphase5ive. There's been the odd Kava Kava track on a few compilations in Eastern Europe and also the 'Taster Sounds From The Funky Underground' compilation series (also Chocolate Fireguard).

"The title track 'Maui' has found its way onto IRMA's 'Chill Out' compilation over in Italy. I'm convinced this particular track could be used for a soundtrack somewhere! We would love to be on a few more compilations and we're are also putting together some new tracks, so watch this space........"

More on Kava Kava
* Genre: 'space funk'
* Hometown: Yorktown, UK
* Label: Chocolate Fireguard Music
* Kava Kava's Website
* Buy Kava Kava's "Maui" CD
* Contact Kava Kava
Luckily the US isn't out of reach yet. They're planning for an official release for Maui over here, as well as some gig-playing time in New York and the Bay Area. "I was in the States last year and thought it would be really exciting to play out there. Would love to get to Japan, too. Recordings-wise, a nice studio and PR budget would be just the ticket!"

Meantime, they've got plenty of dates cooking in the UK. "But I'm really looking forward to playing Czech Republic, Hungary and Spain in the very near future."


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