Photo courtesy of Madu Facebook.
Dublin may not seem like the epicenter of cultural synthesis, but the sweet sound of Madu permeating its Irish enclaves is certainly bringing international proclivities to the streets. This brother-sister musical duo has a sort of folk-center to their foundation, yet pulls into it the realms of dub, jazz, soul and ska, creating a style that has no borderlines or particular musical genre. Even their name is in deep-rooted heritage – a “madu” is an Indian weapon, made from antelope ears and used by Hindu beggars as a form of protection. Madu, the band, may not define itself so narrowly, but as their story will demonstrate, they can be seen discovering history through modern exploration, and they intend to tantalize the conscious by questioning old age theories through their lyrics.
On and off for ten years, Madu consists of Aminah, a writer and singer, and her brother Salim, a writer and producer. They are Irish/Malaysian siblings, who recruit an interchanging band to play along with them, producing a collective sound that includes the saxophone, upright bass, flute, and violin. Self-described as “bass heavy rhythms, vibrant melody and conscious lyrics,” Madu aims to make music that “brings diversity” via “thought provoking tunes.”
Noted in their biography, the music is “King Tubby meets Billie Holiday,” and they count Denis Bovell, Katchafire, Herbie Hancock, Studio One, Nina Simone, and Roberta Flack among their influences.
Currently on the road and supporting their new EP, the band began earning serious critical attention when they released their album, From Elder’s Yard, in September 2011. They’ve built a strong base in their homeland of Ireland, along with cities around the UK and Malaysia, and now it’s about taking it further. As astute travellers and world explorers, the journey is as much the story of their opus as the destiny, and their times and trials are documented to the nth degree.
“We went to Batu Caves for the day, natural lime stone caves with big hindu temple inside it,” the band wrote on their Facebook page in March. “On the way to the car we found a fallen baby fruit bat! Beautiful little guy, totally crying for its mother would not have stood a chance against the local dogs too young to fully fly, so we packed him into a box and brought him to the Zoo and asked the guards to bring him to the clinic in there. Here’s hoping he [flies] free soon. Seems in Chinese culture the bat is a symbol of good fortune and happiness. Don’t call it ‘Bat-u’ caves for nothing!”
A week later they added, “Laundry magic, bringing people together, playing out our roots and the evolution of sounds. Respect to all the Malaysia kaki who showed up in force. Salam music, Ras Muhamad, We are not All Stars, the present and future sounds of SE Asia we proud to share the vibes. Terima Kasih gig ni besnya!”
Accordingly, the life of a nomad becomes the soul of their acoustical jam, and they have further collaborated with world artists like Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, New Zealand’s Jetlag Johnson of Fat Freddys Drop, and Asia’s drum icon Lewis Pragasam.
The best way to locate Madu now is through their hymnals, as they have no root or static being other than their melody.
“We have a LOAD of gigs to post in the next few days all over Ireland,” they write in April. “More power in music, to reach, stand firm in all ways big and small!”