Exclusive MIU!-Mix + Interview: Umoja

umoja cover banner

It’s quality-time! …and that means: It’s time for some very good music!

Mash It Up! Cologne presents the sunshine duo from the rainy Netherlands, Umoja. Once you listen to their sound, you directly fall in love with their deep Cumbia grooves and Afrobeat rhythms – promised! Well, … best choice for an exclusive MIU!-Mix.

Umoja offered 40 minutes of unreleased material and made this mixtape like a tropical journey through the rainforest. Shamanic vocal cuts, twittering birds, thunder and rain, some soft xylophone sounds, funky grooves and deep basslines packed with a lot of love. If you need some extra vacation feeling and sunshine, turn your volume up and prick up your ears. You only need to press play and lean back.

Good, you pressed play… I guess Umoja aroused your interest? MIU!’s as well. So we decided to hand them over some questions to learn something about their musical influences, their cumbia-love and what’s the deal with INI Movement.

MIU!Cologne: Let’s start from the beginning… who is Umoja? And what are they doing?

Umoja: We are Umoja, Sjef & Job, two guys born and raised in Haarlem. We both share the same passion; music. In the last couple of years we discovered a lot of music together and learned from each other’s production techniques. In this process we eventually got into tropical/world oriented beats.

MIU!Cologne: Does Umoja stands for something particular? And why do you call yourself the „sunshine duo“?

Umoja: Umoja means „Unity“ in Swahili language and „at the same time the ones with the spirit“; Both things we embrace and can relate to 😉

MIU!Cologne: … and what’s your musical background? Did you grew up with ‚worldish music‘, heard by your parents, or discovered by yourself? Like, how come your interest in other global musical cultures like Cumbia and Afrobeat?

Job: I grew up listening to my parent’s tapes: A lot of Classical and Jazz orientated stuff. I remember my mother playing a lot of tango and minimalistic classical music while my father was more into Jazz. Paul Simon (Graceland / Rhythm of the Saints) is my favorite artist I remember from my childhood, sitting in the backseat of the car driving to France. I think a lot influenced me during my child hood. In my teen years I got into HipHop and electronic music. After a while I got back to world music by getting tiered of House & other electronic music because of the lack of Joy & the missing human touch. I already met Sjef who was going to the same sort of phase. We hyped each other to dig for hot and tasteful Afrobeats/ Highlife/ Cumbia and all other exotic sounds coming from this planet.

Sjef: I do not come from a very musical nest. My mother and I share a deep love for disco/soul music though. When I was around 12 years old, I started breakdancing. That’s when I got in touch with Hiphop and Funk music, learned about the importance of rhythm and groove. I’m always eager for creation, I automatically got interested in making my own beats. Got Fruity Loops and started fooling around, sampling and programming. The love for tropical music came way later, after a long journey through HipHop, Funk, Jazz, Disco, House and such.

Foto by Max Flentge

MIUCologne: Where do you draw you sample-source from that you use in your songs? And how comes the idea of your last release „Vuelo Nocturno„, a Cumbia based EP?

Umoja: Our first EP was inspired by and sampled from 70’s West African Funk & Highlife. At that time we were inspired by work from the labels Sofrito & NYCT. The love for Cumbia orientated grooves started with a track by Doctor Stereo: La Cumbia Perdida. We really love how Cumbia can be off tune, very pure, raw unpolished and hypnotic. These elements inspired us making „Vuelo Nocturno“.

MIU!Cologne: You can hear many more different styles in that EP than just pure Cumbia. Can you tell what kind of other musical traditions are in there? And as well, say something about your producing way, the mix between organic instruments and digital production.

Umoja: We think it’s a melting between Cumbia, HipHop, Psychedelica, Deep House and probably many other genres that unconsciously inspired us.
The way we produce is different each project. Sometimes we dig for a sample, may it be percussion break/flute/vocal , just a little bit that moves and inspire. In some cases we already hear the whole production in our head and we just want to put it down as quick as possible (you can also lose the idea very quickly). We sample stuff from many sources (Vinyl/ wav/ film/ TV) and combine many different genres. Sometimes you will hear an African percussion track with a New Orleans style hornsection for example.
Besides sampling we record instruments as well: Bass/ Percussion/ Piano/ Rhodes/ Synths. We love to combine the analog & digital world. In the future we’d like to expand that; collaborating with musicians is one of the key points for future projects.

MIUCologne: So what’s the common theme behind „Vuelo Nocturno“? 

Umoja: Vuelo Nocturno is spanish and means „Night Flight“. We wanted to make this record to be deep, dark, dubby and mystical. As we feel a strong connection with flying animals, so we chose the bat to be the symbol. It’s a beautiful animal only active during the night. Most of the work on this EP was done during the night as well. The bat is not a very popular animal in most cultures. They often represent death and violence where in other cultures they symbolize illusion, rebirth, dreams & intuition. The contrast of death and living and especially the mystic space in between has been the main theme for this project. A lateral bat dressed with colorful feathers in front of a black background is the imagery of that.

vuelo nocturno cover

MIU!Cologne: Umoja’s first EP is influenced by African Funk and Afrobeat, the second release by Cumbia: So which region of the world is up next, any ideas?

Umoja: We already have a huge batch of projects and ideas inspired and sampled from many different sources. One that stands out now is Brazil, but expect also some island vibes, polyrhythmic grooves, more open percussion driven house beats and one that will see the light soon; a mash up between Highlife and Dancehall rythms.. interesting 😉

MIU!Cologne: You are part of INI Movement: can you please explain this collective in short? what do they do, what kind of music and who else is there?

Umoja: INI started out as a Label, founded by Mitch & Job (DJ PCM & Manik) in order to release music independently. Over the time, friends and family got involved and INI grew out as an energetic movement. We combine music, art and sharing. In the past years we threw successful events in and around Amsterdam combining these 3 core elements.
The main focus at the moment is our music catalog. We have some very talented producers to release their work on INI: Prace (Utrecht/NL), K15 (London), Lokke (Germany), Sly Maceo (NL) and many to come.
The sound and musical direction of INI is quite broad; We find good elements in every type of music and that’s what we try to resemble.

MIU!Cologne: Last question: Your plans for the future of Umoja?

Umoja: Collaborate with musicians, make a smashing live show, do remixes, create>create>create, enjoy, do gigs and travel the world! 🙂



Ein Gedanke zu „Exclusive MIU!-Mix + Interview: Umoja

  1. Pingback: FR 10 JANUAR: Mash It Up! feat. UMOJA “The Sunshine Duo from the rainy Netherlands” | MIU!Cologne

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