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Jamiroquai (/dʒəˈmɪroʊkwaɪ/) are a British funk and acid jazz band formed in 1992. Fronted by lead singer Jay Kay, Jamiroquai were initially the most prominent component in the London-based funk/acid jazz movement, alongside groups such as Incognito, the James Taylor Quartet, and the Brand New Heavies. Subsequent albums have explored other musical directions such as pop, rock, and electronica.
Their best-known track, particularly in North America, is "Virtual Insanity", which won four awards at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards as well as a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 40th Annual Grammy Awards.
1992–97: Formation, signing with Sony Music, first three albums and international breakthrough
The band name is a mix of "jam session" and "iroquai", based on the Iroquois, a Native American tribe. The original band was Jay Kay (vocals), Toby Smith (keyboard), Stuart Zender (bass), Nick Van Gelder (drums), Wallis Buchanan (didgeridoo) and Alec Moran (pipeau). These are the founding members of Jamiroquai and were involved in the writing and production of the first album. The line-up of the band has changed several times, and the longest serving and now core members of the band are lead singer and songwriter Jason "Jay" Kay, percussionist Sola Akingbola (since 1994), and drummer Derrick McKenzie (since 1994). Kay was the impetus behind the formation of Jamiroquai, deciding to form the band after an unsuccessful audition to become the singer of the Brand New Heavies. Although he has said that he has attempted to have Jamiroquai treated as a band, Kay has always been at the forefront.
Jamiroquai's first single, "When You Gonna Learn", was released in 1992 on the Acid Jazz label. Following its success, Kay signed an eight-album record deal with Sony Music Entertainment. The first Sony album, Emergency on Planet Earth, was released in 1993. It was followed in 1994 by The Return of the Space Cowboy. The single "Space Cowboy" gained notice on the charts and in club rotation.
While Jamiroquai was growing in popularity in the UK, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, it remained relatively unknown to U.S and other international audiences. The band's American breakthrough came with the third album, Travelling Without Moving in 1996, which yielded two big hits, "Virtual Insanity" and "Cosmic Girl". The success of "Virtual Insanity" was due in part to its Jonathan Glazer-directed video, which featured Kay's dance moves and some physics-defying images. At the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, the creative music video for "Virtual Insanity" won four awards; Best Video, Best Special Effects, Best Cinematography, and Breakthrough Video, and the band performed the song at the ceremony.
1998–2003: Synkronized, A Funk Odyssey and changes to style and line-up
In 1998, Jamiroquai released "Deeper Underground", the first single from their fourth studio album, Synkronized, which also appeared in the soundtrack for the 1998 movie Godzilla. The acid jazz flavours and ethnic influences of the first three albums continued with the release of Synkronized, and Jay Kay's interest in funk and disco music were shifting the band's directions towards such. By their fifth album, A Funk Odyssey (2001), they had evolved so drastically, that some critics and listeners would remark they lost the 'Jamiroquai sound'. With the departure of more and more original band members, including Wallis Buchanan and his didgeridoo, Jamiroquai had become a very different band from that of 1992. In spite of the changes, the fifth album's first single, "Little L", reached No. 1 in many charts worldwide becoming their best dance hit.
In 2003, Jamiroquai compiled and mixed a DJ mix album for the Late Night Tales series for Azuli Records. The track selection shows some of the band's soul, funk and disco influences, including tracks from The Pointer Sisters, The Commodores and Johnny "Hammond" Smith.
2004–06: Dynamite, High Times: Singles 1992–2006 and end of contract with Sony Music
Its sixth album, titled Dynamite was released on 20 June 2005. It reached No. 3 on the UK charts. The first single, "Feels Just Like It Should" was released early in June, the second, "Seven Days in Sunny June" released on 15 August 2005, followed by the third, "(Don't) Give Hate A Chance" on 7 November 2005.
Jamiroquai released a greatest hits collection, High Times: Singles 1992-2006 in November 2006. The release of this album marked the end of Kay's eight-album contract with Sony. The album reached the number 1 spot in the UK album chart after its first week of release. The album featured two new tracks, "Runaway" and "Radio". On 18 September 2006, "Runaway" was given its first play by UK radio stations. It was released as a single on 30 October 2006. Kay remarked that compilation was released purely out of contractual obligation: "2006, they're out of the picture."
Jamiroquai has had 13 nominations for The Brit Awards, and has yet to win one.
In March 2006, Jamiroquai announced their switch to Columbia Records. Future releases will appear under the Columbia imprint.
In May 2006 Jamiroquai performed during the Laureus Sports Awards in Barcelona; the event was later televised by NBC in June. In October 2006, Jamiroquai recorded a live session for Live from Abbey Road at Abbey Road Studios. Their performance was shown alongside those of Damien Rice and the Goo Goo Dolls on the UK's Channel 4 in January 2007.
During February in 2007 Jamiroquai performed the record breaking Gig in the Sky in association with Sony Ericsson.
After leaving Sony, the band began to work on their seventh project, and several collaborations and side-projects. In a very short mid-2007 interview with Jamirotalk, drummer Derick McKenzie expressed his satisfaction with leaving Sony as the beginning of a period in which the band will have more creative control over their own work, together with plenty of room for experimentation and lack of pressure from a record company.
2008–12: Rock Dust Light Star
In January 2008, the band confirmed that the recording process for their latest album had begun. According to the news item, eleven tracks had already been written for the new album, with more to come. The first known track for the 7th album, named "Rock Dust Light Star", was performed live and confirmed by Kay himself to be on the new album.
On 28 February 2008, Jamiroquai performed at the Khodynka Arena in Moscow, Russia at the launch of the new Audi A4 car. Jamiroquai performed at the Wianki Festival in Kraków, Poland on 22 June and at the Rock in Rio Madrid festival on 4 July 2008. On 5 April 2009, the band performed at the closing concert of Malaysian F1 Grand Prix in Sepang International Circuit Malaysia. On 9 April Jamiroquai played at the Sentul International Convention Centre in Jakarta, Indonesia.
In August 2009, Derrick McKenzie stated that Jamiroquai had then signed with Universal Music (UK) and had recorded more than 40 new tracks. Also the new album will be recorded live and have a style similar to the first three albums with the use of strings and horns, with less of a "disco sound" but will be a lot more funky and soulful. Based on official mailing list e-mails (related to jamiroquai.com and Jamiroquai's record label) promoting a contest, Jamiroquai are now signed to Mercury Records/Universal
On 1 September 2010, Jay Kay featured on The Chris Moyles Show (This edition hosted by Vernon Kay) and the single "White Knuckle Ride" was played for the first time, live on air. On 1 October 2010, Jamiroquai appeared on UK television's Later...with Jools Holland. "Rock Dust Light Star" was the first performance of the show; they also performed "Deeper Underground" and "Blue Skies".
On 1 November 2010, they released as announced their long-anticipated seventh album, Rock Dust Light Star. Recorded in Jay Kay's home studio in Buckinghamshire, it saw a return to their earlier, less pop-like sound. Despite both singles, "Blue Skies" and "White Knuckle Ride" reaching into Top 100 charts worldwide, the album sold a mere 34,378 copies on its debut, around half the number of the previous album, Dynamite. On 9 June 2011, the band released a new track called "Smile" for free download on their Soundcloud site. On 21 April 2012, Rock Dust Light Star was released Stateside—after a two-year delay—in a double vinyl LP/CD bundle. A CD version of the album was also given a wider release on 24 April 2012.
2012–present: 20th anniversary reissues, Automaton and new concert tour
On 21 August 2012, Sony Music Japan announced that, for the 20th anniversary of Jamiroquai in 2013, it would remaster and reissue its first three studio albums – Emergency on Planet Earth (1993), The Return of the Space Cowboy (1994) and Travelling Without Moving (1996) – with a bonus CD with all the 'B-Side material, live material & rarities' of each album era of the band. Sony Japan appears to have abandoned the idea. Sony Music Europe took over the 'remastered reissues' project for the 20th anniversary of Jamiroquai in Ireland/UK, and set March 2013 release dates. Online boutiques in the US started selling on 19 March 2013. Double gatefold deluxe vinyl albums with bonus tracks were released on 25 March 2013 in the UK and on 26 March 2013 in the US.
In August 2013, drummer McKenzie said that the band would be working on its eighth studio album. Bassist Paul Turner revealed on Twitter on 9 May 2016 that the eighth Jamiroquai studio album was finished and was in the process of being mixed. In May 2016, it was slated for a winter 2016 release. Nine days later, Turner indicated a release in October or November 2016. On 15 July 2016, Sola Akingbola stated that the album was scheduled for a 4 November 2016 release, with the first single expected in September 2016. However, Akingbola later stated via Twitter that this was no longer the case, and that the album was then expected to be released "sometime next year [i.e. in 2017]".
On 16 January 2017, Jamiroquai released a short teaser video from their eighth studio album Automaton, rumored to be due for release in March 2017.
On 17 January 2017, Jamiroquai announced a 10-date Spring & Summer 2017 Festival tour of Asia & Europe due to start on 25 May 2017 in Tokyo, Japan and to end on 5 August 2017 in Sudoeste, Portugal, also including shows in South Korea, Greece, The Netherlands, Italy, Finland, France, Switzerland and Czech Republic.
"Buffalo Man" is the name of the silhouette character featured on most of the covers of Jamiroquai's releases. The image was created sometime prior to the release of their 1992 single When You Gonna Learn. Allegedly it was originally sketched by the front-man Jay Kay, as Buffalo Man is seemingly a self-portrait silhouette of Kay wearing a buffalo hat. It is based on the Minotaur from the Greek fable 'Theseus and the Minotaur'. Jay Kay stated "I really identify with Theseus. In fact, I'd say I am the most similar person to Theseus to come out of Stretford in the past 50 years." The mark has been used on almost every commercial (and sometimes non-commercial) release of the band's output in some form or another; usually the unique symbol is pictured unaltered, but there have been times where it is shown in a stylised manner to suit the artwork or song.
Over the years, the Buffalo Man logo has seen some temporary changes or interesting thematic uses:
"Half the Man", The Return of the Space Cowboy
For the single "Half The Man", Buffalo Man is on the cover as a keychain, with a heart in the clasp representing the fact it is a love song, and the keychain itself being split down the middle in two halves to represent the song title. Buffalo Man also has a silver heart.
"Space Cowboy", The Return of the Space Cowboy
For the single "Space Cowboy", Buffalo Man is present on the cover as a shaped cigarette paper for a half-complete cannabis joint, in reference to the song's praise of the drug.
"Virtual Insanity", Travelling Without Moving
For the single of "Virtual Insanity", Buffalo Man appears in the place of the Ferrari horse in an homage to Jason's love of sports cars. For the album cover to Travelling Without Moving, the artwork is similar, but takes on an embossed effect and is seen on a metal grille.
"Cosmic Girl", "Everyday"
For these two releases, Buffalo Man is pictured with a star over his heart and two intersecting orbital rings.
While the design remained fundamentally unaltered, Buffalo Man has been turned into a laser-cut mirror and photographed from interesting angles by Midori Tsukagoshi. On some editions, for the disc itself, no ink has been used on the character, but the same stone background found on the front cover has been used for the rest of the disc, thus allowing the consumer to recreate the photographed effect.
A Funk Odyssey
For this album, the Buffalo Man was notably absent from the cover; instead, the laser lights formed an outline of the Buffalo Man logo, which could be seen much more clearly in the album's liner notes.
The US release and the double-disc Australian Tour Edition featured a gold Buffalo Man. Most releases, however, saw a greyscale picture of Jay Kay instead.
Rock Dust Light Star
The letter "i" in the title is replaced with the Buffalo Man, making the first appearance in a Jamiroquai album cover since 1999's Synkronized (not counting the alternative artwork for Dynamite). The US cover for the album features a glossy yellow Buffalo Man standing upon a glowing floor. The vinyl release also features another cover including the Buffalo Man.