“We just got a bit carried away I think! We really wanted to get a whole lot of African groups and make a mini-festival and have good food available and, yeah, just have an extended party. We’re really happy about presenting this group of bands.”
Having spent the past decade pushing boundaries with their rhythm-driven blend of Afrobeat, reggae and funk, Brisbane's Kooii have a reputation as one of Australia's foremost world music acts. Following up two critically acclaimed albums, the seven-piece are hitting the East Coast this month to celebrate the release of a new EP, Call Out.
“This evolution that started back with [first album] Beads On A String; it's getting stronger in its delivery, I guess. We're trying not to lose our subtlety, that is part of our magic, but I guess it's kind of a stronger delivery and the rhythm is really diggin' in for dance,” explains the outfit's singer and trumpeter Peter Hunt. “A lot of it's more up-tempo and more stylistically like Afrobeat, even though there are reggae songs still there. One significant thing about the EP is that for the first time one of the songs was written by a member other than me. Conan [Griffiths], our rhythm guitarist, [has] a song [called Circles] that he used to play with a band called The Muscats many, many moons ago with some of the other fellas in Kooii – the rhythm section – and it's just a beautiful song and it deserves to be played so we're now playing it.
“More and more the band is writing songs together and I think that coincides with more of a team effort in the kind of management side of things and getting behind the growth of the group and the choosing of direction of what we want to do. So naturally we all kind of come to the table to want to influence the songs more. And that's just a natural thing of playing together in Kooii and all these other groups – we come up with ideas together, but still I bring the majority of the seeds of the songs,” says Hunt.
Selecting Call Out as the EP's title was a further extension of the collective dynamic, even though Hunt admits it was a last-minute decision. “It kind of represented the tracks well. And like call out, you do it to your friends and family when you want to get something happening. A couple of days later I realised a call out is what you do with a cooee!“
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In the midst of their Call Out Tour, Kooii have the privilege of supporting Seun Kuti, an iconic figure of African music who continues a musical legacy by stepping into his late father Fela Kuti's shoes as the leader of Egypt 80. “Yeah, it's a great score! Fela Kuti is a legendary fella,” he chuckles at his choice of words, “and he's had a huge influence over music around the world – him and his drummer Tony Allen, they're kind of innovators of this style called Afrobeat.”
To celebrate the Brisbane leg of the Call Out Tour, Kooii have put together an eclectic mini-festival line-up including the likes of vocal harmony trio The Melotonins, Indonesian musician Tommee Balukea and Brisbane brass and percussion supergroup the Barksdale Brass Band. “We wanted to do something on a Sunday afternoon that was suitable for families and everyone really,” Hunt says, showing the community spirit of the outfit. “We just got a bit carried away I think! We really wanted to get a whole lot of African groups and make a mini-festival and have good food available and, yeah, just have an extended party. We're really happy about presenting this group of bands.”