CD review: Gaya Street, by Jiaja

Gaya Street cd by eclectic Sabahan band Jiaja
Gaya Street, by Jiaja

Gaya Street is wonderful. Jiaja made a musical kaleidoscope of the pivotal moments in Western pop history, and crammed it into an album.

Their music TALKS to you. Sometimes it’s funny, other times it’s intense. There are several zone-out tracks – I don’t think you can think of Jiaja and not think “psychedelic”.

An instrumental version of “Kura Kura” opens the album. It’s so happy and full of musical jokes.  I think of their turtle hanging out in KK’s Gaya Street, looking up at the sky as the world floats across the clouds: images of old slapstick comedy, hippies and Woodstock, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, war, revolution, famine, rock, folk, love, peace.  There’s a wicked harmonica moaning blues over a country track, with Malay lyrics! So, so clever!

Jiaja takes a phrase and repeats it, with guitar overlays so that it’s both repetitive and fresh. The same thing again, and yet different. Like Life: the old becomes new again. In one case they use some distortion like interrupted radio signals. It’s disturbing, like Big Brother encroaching on our lives.

There’s a beautiful song with vocals and acoustic guitar. In the background is the sound of the sea. A haunting, hurdy gurdy-sounding organ plays, making me think of an old-fashioned fairground at the seaside. It’s a track filled with nostalgia beyond their years.  How do they do that? How do they capture a feeling they cannot possibly have experienced because they are so young? It’s so impressive, it’s scary.

Jiaja are courageous, confident and a bit uncontainable. They might be too clever to ever have mass popular appeal. But then, Hendrix didn’t have mass appeal, so they are in good company.

I never expected to be bombarded with such maturity and insight when I played this CD. It’s fantastic.

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