A quirky chat with Jiaja, Sonny B and Fairudz at Station One

I didn’t intend to blog about Jiaja [brothers Nazri JI and Naza AJA] when I went to listen to them at Station One cafe in Suria Sabah. But they said some nice quirky things, so let’s preserve it here.

Mike and I turned up after my Bella gig, we sat outside with a chocolate milkshake on a perfect evening, while Jiaja plus Sonny Bahari [guitar] and Fairudz [drums] played flawless covers of classics, including Jeff Beck Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers; Clapton I Shot The Sheriff; Creedence Clearwater Revival Have You Ever Seen The Rain?; Bee Gees To Love Somebody, as well as their own blues compositions. Mike and I agreed that this band would make a perfect pub band anywhere in the world.

They played those big songs, with all the exact licks and details which are engrained in people’s minds from decades of listening. They’re not easy songs to do well, either. [Calum MacColl would say that no song is easy to do well.]

They played Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger, and in their break I asked Aja how long it takes to learn a song like that.

[Note: the only predictable thing about Aja’s responses is that they are never predictable.]

“I think I listened twice, to get the concept,” Aja said. “The concept is that a person wants to be like somebody else: to move like Mick Jagger. So we are putting our take on that.”

Is that what I asked? I’m not sure. Maybe it is.

“Ji picked this one for us to learn,” he continued. “I don’t like it. We needed a cover which was Top 40, something everybody likes now, and he picked this.

For me, I have to put something there which makes me like to play it. Like, if I don’t like this burger, I put mayonnaise on it so that I like it, but I have to remember that other people must also like it.

Sonny added, “Ji started it as a shuffle, so that’s his take on it. I’m so used to them, I just go ‘Ah, that’s his way’ and then we’re off.”

It sounded fine to me!

As far as learning a song, Sonny gave a more conventional answer. “I don’t know how those guys do it, but for me it’s 1) listen to the song 2) write the chords 3) write the lyrics 4) then work on the rest. Then I can say, Okay, I’m ready.”

I didn’t get an answer from Ji. I think that’s how it is with geniuses, sometimes they’re just not with you.

Jiaja and Sonny harmonized perfectly on ‘To Love Somebody’. Sonny talked about how that song was written by the Bee Gees for Otis Redding, who died in an accident before he could record it. He said after Robin Gibb died, he was watching a tribute to the Bee Gees, and To Love Somebody was among the songs mentioned. “So I put this one in.”

Separately, Ji said the Bella gig was going well. Jiaja plays at Bella two Saturdays in the month. “It’s totally different, and interesting for us,” he said. “We play a lot of instrumentals and use our machine [Korg Kaossilator phrase synthesizer].”

I must dine there when they play. I want to hear what Jiaja do with their ‘machine’.

So, just some chat. I like it.

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