Joi

Back in the day Joi sounded like the future. The original Asian fusionists were always one step ahead of the game, what with their DJ-led mix of breakbeats and Eastern grooves, their electronic roots and real playing values, the way they would gig as both a sound system and as a fully-fledged band with vocals, keyboards and guitar as well as tabla, flute and sitar.

Then there was their message. One love. One vibe. Victory in unity. Liberty through music: “Set yourself free,” they said – and hundreds of thousands of people at clubs, festivals, and gatherings put their hands in the air and danced like no one was watching, claiming a shared identity, revelling in feeling part of a tribe. Joi weren’t simply a band or a sound system.

As testified by their wildly acclaimed, gloriously inventive Real World recordings – 1999’s One and One is One, 2000’s We Are Three and 2007’s Without Zero – Joi were a way of thinking. A philosophy.

Set yourself free with the spirit of Joi.

Tracks such as ‘Fingers’, ‘Joi Bani’, and their first major vinyl outing, 1997’s ‘Desert Storm’ (“One of the most inventive dance records ever made,” declared the NME) travelled the world, and the world lapped them up. Everyone wanted a piece of Farook and Haroon Shamsher, two longhaired brothers from London’s Brick Lane via Bradford and Bangladesh who’d grown up listening to hip-hop, reggae, and dancehall as well as bhangra, drones, and ragas in equal measure.

"Real World first saw us playing at the Blue Note. We used to get a very cool, very mixed crowd. We'd pin our mother's saris on the walls and get our incense going, and then we'd let our records speak for us. Wherever we played - London, Britain, Europe - we rocked it. We made music that changed minds." Farook Shamsher

Major labels came knocking, waving chequebooks. There was a brief, ill-fated signing. Then the Shamshers found their spiritual home. “Welcome to the family,” said Peter Gabriel, when Joi shook hands with Real World Records.

Joi

United Kingdom

Further reading

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Real World Sessions: Remmy Ongala & Super Matimila, 17 August 1991

Rupert Hine and Stephen W Tayler look back on the 1991 session which yielded Remmy Ongala's 'Mambo'.

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