Out in the rural depths of Oxford, I catch up with local talent Nubiyan Twist. Sat on the couch in their quirky straw bale studio, Seb a friend of the band sets up the mood in the room with an African harp, kora, playing in the background.
Met at the Leeds College of Music, the band consisting of eight members was eventually turned into a twelve-piece group. Putting forth a worldly sound that fuses afro-beat, hip hop and dub, Nubiyan Twist has come to fearlessly mix genres to create their unique sound. The brass section and funk strumming guitars echoed throughout their material give their tracks a familiar Fela-era afro-beat sound. With such a vast palette of music found in their singles, I was lead to ask whether Leeds as a city played its part in nurturing and developing their one-of-a-kind sound. “One of the biggest factors of how we developed our sound was because of the exciting music scene in Leeds, from reggae night called ‘Sub Dub’ to venues playing whacked out experimental jazz. Leeds felt like a place where everyone was listening or playing music”, Joe quickly responded.
Last year, the band supported Quantic at XOYO, getting more exposure as a band. “We had to learn how to fit on probably the smallest stage”, Joe stated jokingly when asked whether this was a big learning experience for the 12-piece band. He continues: “It was cool, because Quantic has been a massive inspiration for our producer and musical director Tom.” The influence of this salsa, funk and soul mixing producer can clearly be heard in Nubiyan Twist’s tracks like “Straight Lines” and “Shake Me Down”.
A large part of the band is its brass section, consisting of three saxophones, a trombone and a trumpet. Interestingly, the band also features a scratch DJ Tom Davison. Intrigued by Davison’s role in the band, I was curious to know how big of a part does he have in the band. “He sets off triggers for parts that we can not have live. There is a cello part in “Figure Numatic” done by Emma who unfortunately can not tour with us. This goes for some of the percussion, too. Turntablism for live hip hop is sick.”
Still fascinated by the size of the group, I was curious to get a better understanding of how they approach composing new songs as a band. “We rarely have a proper writing session with all of us together. We write our own bit and send it across”, Joe answers and continues: “Some of the tunes have more of an influence from other members of the band and some are literally his Uni project. ‘Figure Numatic’ is Tom’s brainchild.”
Nubiyan Twist’s vocalist Nubiya Brandon effortlessly combines rapping and singing in tracks like “Figure Numatic” and “Workhouse”, the latter one containing soulful interjections with rap verses from Nubiya that seamlessly flow in the band’s latest release. I probed into whether or not we will see a continuation of this in their next album release to which Joe enthusiastically responded: “I personally love Nubiya spitting (rapping) rather than singing. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got a gorgeous voice but when she hits the nail like in “Figure Numatic” she leads the way with those hard hitting bars.” The band also reveals that there’s a collaboration with Kweku looming in the future: “He is an amazing singer and we are going to get him featuring on a song.”
The nonchalant playing of the kora comes to an end as I wrap up the interview. With an upcoming album release and a strong foundation of quality songs, Nubiyan Twist’s refreshing sound is definitely worth a listen.By Omar Koshin