One and One is One

Joi, 1999

Signing in 1997 to Real World, the only label Joi felt happy to be involved with long term, Joi released their critically acclaimed debut album ‘One And One Is One’. An aspirational melting pot of melodic harmonies, tabla rhythms, electro beats, chants, and vocal snatches, the album was hailed across the board by critics from Q (“inventive and hard-hitting”) to Time Out (“a smooth, accomplished collection”). Limited edition remixes of ‘Fingers’ by Lion Rock and ‘Asian Vibes’ by Way Out West, and the use of their music in the TV programme ‘Sex And The City’, also helped to spread their appeal further.

Joi have always sought to illuminate, to push boundaries, to pique interest in other cultures while boldly bringing such cultures together. Their album titles are a case in point; just as One and One is One is a quote from the Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and their second album, We Are Three references the work of the great Sufi poet Rumi. The latest release, Without Zero nods to Hindu mathematician, Brahmagupta – born 598BC – the man who is credited with having put forth the concept of zero for the first time. “There are so many Asian geniuses that are still unsung in the West,” says Farook. “We want to engage peoples’ imaginations, get them thinking and exploring.”

‘Set yourself free with the spirit of Joi’ read the T-shirts of clubbers who, hands in the air, were among the first to dance wildly to Farook and his late elder brother Haroon’s banging bhangra fusion in clubs not too far from where Farook still works today. “We would play a James Brown groove and very slowly mix in a traditional Bengali thing and then turn it up until the crowd moved to the traditional tune alone.” Farook sighs, smiles. “They probably saw it as mad, off-the-wall Paki music, but it was very natural to us. We wanted to give our people a sense of musical identity.” A feeling, if you like, that they were not alone.

The sons of a professional flautist who ran a traditional Asian music shop in Brick Lane, the Shamsher brothers matched their love of Bengali, Bollywood and qawwali music with their passion for hip hop, soul, funk, reggae and other urban stylings. They moved from being a sound system with tabla players improvising over beats to performing as a live band with wide-ranging instrumentalists and guest vocalists. When it suited them, they went back to being a sound system again. Along the way, they changed perceptions.

"...colours a thick flow of dance rhythms with vocal and instrumental effects reflecting...the excitement of this inventive, hard-hitting debut."
**** Q magazine, April 1999

Reviews

  • In the wake of Talvin Singh’s album, Joi deserve the same attention for this taster from their forthcoming album. Susheela Raman’s vocals fuse over ‘Brick Lane’ breakbeats...Justin Robertson’s Lionrock mix with its quirky bassline maintains the Eastern flavour, adding Latin/carnival sounds. All in all, a refreshing tonic for the ‘big beat’ fraternity. 28 November 1998 Music Week (1998) (UK)
  • The energetic brothers Farook and Haroon at the decks ... played a unique mixture of 'big beats', jungle and deep house - all with a strong Asian flavour and interesting samples. Most extraordinary is their ability to get the whole club dancing, even the most coolest head-nodders at the side. October 1997 Pi Magazine (UK)
  • The cultural legacy of Asians living here is treated with respect in Joi's music, while the influences of electro, techno and drum 'n' bass keep it appealing to the dancefloor. Joi incorporate elements of Indian music and philosophy in their work ... with a consciousness that reflects their upbringing in the East End music scene. July 1997 Spirit Magazine (UK)
  • East collides majestically with West as Joi finally resurface with an acidic mish-mash of sitar, tabla and... ...skittering drum 'n' bass. Trans-global for sure, but destined to leave the underground. NME (1996) (UK)
  • ... pioneers of the ambient and dubbed eastern-influenced style ...that so many others have since attempted to imitate. Dj Magazine (1996) (UK)