Three albums in and Jamali is rapidly cementing its place as a worldclass pop act – as good, of not better, than anything currently released in the international music market.
Sound like a bold claim? Well, take a listen to the meaty 16-track ‘3rd Base’ to see how Mariechan, Jacqui and Liesl have advanced since the release of their self-titled debut in 2004 and, even more so, since 2006’s ‘Yours Fatally’ hit shelves.
The album’s first radio single - a power-pop version of Abba’s evergreen hit, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’– already gave advance notice of Jamali’s sound two years after the release of the trio’s last studio album. And the remainder of the songs on the album offer up a smorsgabord of delectable listening that travels effortlessly through different music stylings.
If ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’ is power-pop, then the exceptional ‘A Little Obsessed’ is urban pop (ala Beyonce) at its most fully evolved. And if ‘Going Going Gone’ could be P!nk at her supersonic best, then the standout ballad on the album, ‘Maybe’, is easily something that benchmark vocalists like Christina Aguilera could have pulled out of the hat.
The fact is that Jamali’s ‘3rd Base’ sounds nothing like these global superstars: the combination of Jacqui, Mariechan and Liesl’s voices is what immediately sets apart the group from others in its genre. You only need take in the heartfelt ‘Maybe’ to understand the Jamali magic that comes from combining three voices that have taken such a leap forward on the recording of ‘3rd Base’.
“I know that our voices are far, far better than when we first started out,” says Jacqui. “Even compared to ‘Yours Fatally’ I think we have really made big strides on the way we phrase and deliver words. I guess it comes from all that live performing!”
R 'n B
Jacqui is not wrong: since the trio formed out of the 2003-2004 Popstars reality television show, Jamali (a name most fans now know was created out of the first two letters of their first names) has been in-demand for live gigs, these days also earning a living on the corporate circuit. The band is the most successful output since the advent of reality talent shows in South Africa.
For the trio, however, as much as corporate gigs help pay the bills, nothing gives them more pleasure than taking their songs to their fans on a live platform. “It’s what makes us keep going, even during the tough times which we do still face at times,” Jacqui says with her trademark frankness.
In fact, ‘3rd Base’ has seen Jacqui in particular expand her creative fans beyond singing and live performing – she penned the moving ‘A Girl Like Me’ with producer D-Rex and Loyiso and, complete with its Middle Eastern riffs, it’s one of several tracks off the album that’s headed straight for the dancefloor this summer.
The group also penned ‘Skut Julle Lywe’ with D-Rex and the cracking kwaito tune is another club hit-in-the-making. “We listen to kwaito and wanted to do a song that had that as an influence and it worked out brilliantly,” says Mariechan. The only other song on ‘3rd Base’ that wasn’t sourced from international music publishers is ‘Life Is Going On’, which sees Jamali “collaborate” with the late Brenda Fassie on a song that lingers long in the mind.
‘3rd Base’ features a brace of songs that were written internationally – and that Jamali found would work with their very specific vocal style and way of recording music.
One of the standouts in this mix of songs is ‘A Little Obsessed’ which was written by Nikki Flores, Billy Mann and Chris Rojas and has all the shine of a huge radio hit for Jamali. Boasting an irresistible keyboard melody, the song could easily be a global number one, and is one of those songs that anyone who has ever been smitten by a new lover will instantly be attracted to. Also waiting-in-the-wings to take over the airwaves is ‘Ghetto Love’, a soaring urban ballad that features the criminally underated rapper, Obita, on a guest cameo. “Working with Obita was amazing,” says Liesl. “We are very committed to using the platform that we have to showcase talents who might not have reached the mainstream yet because that is a commitment we made when we first started Jamali.”
Vocalist Ferdy Ferd turns up on album opener, ‘Damn (Be Your Girl)’, a bold song that features some of the album’s most scintillating production, courtesy of the team of George Vardas, Chris Ghelakis and Hylton Brooker who bring their global production sheen to the bulk of songs on ‘3rd Base’. D-Rex contributes production to several tracks including the Diane Warren-penned ‘Care Too Much’, a delicate ballad that is undoubtedly one of the album’s strongest songs.
That there is such a potent mix of influences on ‘3rd Base’ - pop, vocal ballads, kwaito, urban, adult contemporary – is nothing short of an indication of the adoration Liesl, Jacqui and Mariechan have for a broad range of music. It’s this love (“we are fans ourselves,” states Liesl) that has kept the trio together in spite of doubters who predicted an early breakup for the Popstars created group.
“I think that one of the reasons that we have defied the critics and only grown stronger over the years is that we all love the same kind of music,” Jacqui reveals. “We are really a true unit when it comes to choosing the songs to go on an album and are really excited about what we are working on now.”
The mixture of music styles is also a gift from Jamali to their fans – new and old. “We have seen how different our audiences can be,” says Mariechan. “What we really wanted to do is create an album that parents can listen to with their teenage children or that grannies will like as much as their 20-something grandchildren. I know we’ve succeeded in doing that.”
Indeed. On ‘3rd Base’ there’s something for everyone (including a Christmas song in the form of a goosebump beautiful version of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas) while never losing jamali’s signature sound. It’s not an easy feat to accomplish but then talent like Jamali’s doesn’t come along everyday. Listen to ‘3rd Base’ to hear why.
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