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Strut present a comprehensive 2CD / 3LP compilation of the seminal Oneness Of Juju, led by Plunky J. Branch.

Tracing their career from the band’s earliest work in 1970 with South African exiled jazzman Ndikho Xaba in San Francisco, the compilation covers the band’s journey to New York’s loft jazz scene, forming Juju and releasing two landmark albums of hard-hitting percussive jazz on Strata-East. “I saw myself as a cultural warrior,” explains Plunky. “We studied about Africa and tried to infuse our music with an African spirit.” Moving back to his hometown of Richmond, Virginia during the mid-‘70s, Plunky drew in a superb new group of musicians and vocalists and created the band’s new incarnation, Oneness Of Juju, retaining the African influence but fusing his sound with funk and R’n’B on the classic ‘African Rhythms’ album. “We realised that, if we put a backbeat to the Afro-Cuban rhythms, people in Richmond and Washington D.C. could be drawn into it; it didn't change anything about our message.” The change would lead to a series of enduring soul-jazz classics on Jimmy Gray’s Black Fire label, including ‘River Luv Rite’, ‘Plastic’ and ‘Don’t Give Up’ and their biggest crossover international hit, ‘Every Way But Loose’ in 1982, later famously remixed by Larry Levan. The band received renewed interest in their music during the mid-‘80s as Washington D.C.’s go-go innovators cited the band as a major influence and rare groove DJs revived their albums for London dancefloors.

‘African Rhythms 1970-1982’ reprises a compilation released on Strut in 2001 and is newly remastered by Frank Merritt at The Carvery. Both formats feature a 12” sized 4pp booklet featuring rare photos and a comprehensive interview with Plunky Branch within liner notes by Chris Menist.

  • Oneness of Juju

Strut present a brand new edition of Oneness of Juju’s Afro-jazz classic ‘African Rhythms’, originally released on Black Fire in 1975 and first reissued on Strut in 2002.

For bandleader James “Plunky” Branch, ‘African Rhythms’ marked a significant return to his home town of Richmond, Virginia after a politically charged five years based on the East and West coasts. His personal journey had taken him from activism at Columbia University to San Francisco where Zulu musician Ndikho Xaba used theatre to “resurrect” Afro-Americans with a new African identity. The first incarnation of Plunky’s band, Juju, drew attention to the struggle in South Africa under apartheid, layering heavy Afro rhythms under uncompromising avant garde jazz.

Back in Richmond, Plunky tapped into the mid-Atlantic preference for Southern R&B and gospel: “Juju had always been blues-based and it was a natural progression to add R&B and dance rhythms. It didn’t change our message.”

Produced by Jimmy Gray of Black Fire Records, the new sessions included the title track (“We wanted a song to dance to with a message – ‘you are dancing to African rhythms’”), the positive message of ‘Don’t Give Up’ and political commentary on ‘Liberation Dues’.

Originally just a regional hit on the East coast and in Washington DC specifically, the album gradually spread, influencing the nascent DC go-go scene. The UK revived the album during the rare groove era of the late ‘80s and the title track has since become a soul-jazz favourite worldwide.

Remastered from the original sessions and featuring rare photos and extensive liner notes, this new repress also features Part 1 and Part 2 of the original 45 version of ‘African Rhythms’ and the previously unheard ‘Afrobeat’, recently unearthed from the original tapes.

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