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Keziah Jones, born Olufemi Sanyaolu in Lagos Nigeria 1968, is a Nigerian singer-songwriter and guitarist. He describes his unique and definitive musical style as “Blufunk” - a fusion between raw blues elements and hard, edgy funk rhythms, and his Nigerian roots and soul music can be considered a major influence on his sound. He is known for his highly distinctive style of guitar playing, above all his percussive right-hand action which is similar to a bass player’s ‘slapping’ technique.
Son of the Yoruba tribal chief and successful industrialist , Osodolamu Sanyaolu, Keziah spent his early childhood in a large family in Nigeria, close to the city of Lagos. From a very early age he was ‘the chosen one’ in his family to follow in his father’s footsteps and it was fully expected of him to take advantage of an academic career. Therefore his father enrolled him in a highly prestigious public school and Keziah left Nigeria at 8 years old to be educated somewhat incongruously, deep in the countryside of England.
However this was never going to happen with the young Jones, who looking back in later life said:
“I had to find a way out of all that bullshit, and music was it” By the age of 13 he discovered the old school piano and taught himself how to play and write songs. Three years later he switched to the guitar and neglected his studies even more. After scraping through exams he finally went against his father’s wishes and family tradition entirely by skipping school and trying out his songs in the streets, clubs and on the London Underground, constantly avoiding the police, the Immigration Department - and even his own relatives, who were sent to track him down
Keziah then led a bohemian life for several years instead of the one his father had envisaged for him. “Lose all time, love your mind, free your soul!” (from one of his earliest songs “Free Your Soul”). Moving from London to Paris and back again accompanied by his guitar, he began to acquire an excellent reputation as a musician and performer with a unique style and presence. In 1990, while playing on a street corner in Portobello Road London, Keziah was discovered by his manager, Phil Pickett who signed him to the French music label Delabel.
In 1992 Jones’s first album, “Blufunk Is A Fact,” was released which included the worldwide success of his first single “Rhythm is Love.” Obviously, Keziah’s early Parisian Metro and London Underground experiences were instrumental to his early career which then began to take off in big style. Lenny Kravitz, an early admirer of Keziah’s charismatic style and powerful presence, booked him on his world tour which immediately introduced him to the kind of success to which he was soon to become accustomed. Rave reviews and barnstorming performances - playing simply and powerfully with guitar and voice - gained Keziah legions of new fans the world over.
Jones’s second album "African Space Craft" produced in New York by Ron St Germain was released in 1995, followed by "Liquid Sunshine" in 1999. In 2003, Jones chalked up further considerable success and critical acclaim with "Black Orpheus" - Keziah’s 4th studio album. Inspired by the cult film of the same name. On this groundbreaking record Jones sings about religion, negritude, beauty, subjugation and love. The fifth album released in 2007 was "Nigerian Wood" - a sensual blink of the eye and an Afro-ironic nod to the Beatles’ song of a similar title. This record dealt even more with pride and love than its predecessors and attempted to illustrate the confrontation between African avant-garde and American black music.
His sixth album, currently being produced by “Blufunk” producer Kevin Armstrong and mixed in New York by legendary ‘mix-meister’ Russell Elevado will be released in November 2013. The provisional title of the album is “Captain Rugged” based on a third-world Superhero and his adventures in and out of the chaotic and anarchic suburbs of the urban nightmare that is modern-day Lagos. Keziah has been developing the story and character over many years and the album’s release will be accompanied by a graphic novel co-written with Keziah by influential young Nigerian playwright and film director, Biyi Bandele and illustrated by cartoonist and ex-graffiti artist, Native Almaqri, also from Nigeria. ‘Rugged’ will be Keziah’s first concept album drawing heavily on Nigerian themes and experiences and which he considers to be his most ambitious to date
Keziah often cites Fela Kuti, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix as three of his most important influences. In fact, Jones was one of the last people to interview Fela before he died as the latter considered Keziah a natural successor to his throne - as a musician with free spirit, soul and awareness. Other major influences are Michael Jackson and John Coltrane.
Keziah Jones paints and writes poetry and is also a talented photographer. He produces short films, one among them entitled “BLACKSPEEDTEXT.” This film, his music and the other facets of his artistic life reflect his early experiences on the streets.
Mick Jagger came to see his friend Lenny Kravitz perform at Wembley Arena in 1992 and in so doing, witnessed the pure magic and power of his support act at the time, Keziah Jones. Remembering his stunning performance from all those years ago, Mick has now invited Keziah to perform in London when the Stones roll into London for their second Hyde Park show on July 13th 2013