JAKA brings hypnotic foreign sounds to town | AspenTimes.com

JAKA brings hypnotic foreign sounds to town

Stewart Oksenhorn

Listening to the music of JAKA, on the band’s new album “Magic,” is like visiting a foreign land.

The complex, jumping rhythms put one immediately in mind of Africa or the Caribbean. The instrumental sounds are made mostly on the marimbas, a tuned wooden instrument from Zimbabwe, which would remind no one of American-oriented music. The lyrics are in English, but the accents, along with the chanted sounds – “wo-yea-yea” – make them difficult to recognize.

Each of the six songs on “Magic” extends at least seven-plus minutes – not long by the standards of a Colorado jam band, but much lengthier than what gets played on American commercial radio. And where jam band jams usually take a few twists and turns before winding down, JAKA’s music is more repetitive, the songs getting deeper and more hypnotic the longer they go.

But JAKA is not as foreign as one might think. The group was assembled in the early ’90s in Seattle, where several members were turned on to the marimbas while attending college at the University of Washington. The band relocated to Santa Fe a few years ago, from where it made many trips across the West. And now, JAKA is getting even closer: the five-piece band – Dan Pauli, David Schadlach, Greg Freeman and Matt Wasowski, all of whom play one version or another of the marimba, plus drummer Bones – are in the midst of moving operations to Boulder, which they see as a more natural fit for their music.

JAKA, which has performed all over the valley, including appearances at the Carbondale Mountain Fair, returns to Aspen to perform a two-night stand tonight and Thursday, Jan. 10-11, at Hannibal Brown’s.

On “Magic,” JAKA’s music comes across as a real break from American pop. The marimbas offer something different with their resonating, wooden tones. The variety of marimbas – bass, baritone and lead – give all different moods: on “The Garden,” the marimba is high and bright; on “Magic,” the marimbas come off as deeper and darker. There are electric guitars throughout the album, but they never scream as in American rock ‘n’ roll, but add to the rhythm with their contained melodic lines.

Though the individual songs don’t suffer from their repetitious quality, the CD overall is a bit one-dimensional. The vocalists don’t help by staying within one mode almost the entire way through. By the final song, the listener is scratching to hear something new.

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