For Keshav and Sam of Jus Now, mixing cultures and melting sounds has come quite naturally.The beatmaking duo met in Bristol, England and bonded over a shared love of drum and bass production, but it was Keshav’s home-grown penchant for soca, the music of his native land Trinidad, that solidified their sonic partnership. Like a special blend of secret spices, the duo’s signature sound is gritty, drum & bass-tinged soca that still squeezes in the traditional Indo-African percussion and rhythms of the genre’s roots. Jus Now’s stable of bold-name collaborators includes Beenie Man, Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin, for whom they produced his 2014 carnival banger, “Truck on the Road.” For this week’s FADER Mix, Keshav and Sam have cooked up a brew of entirely original jams that zig zag from soca to bhangra to drum & bass. We spoke to the trans-Atlantic duo about splitting their time between the UK and Trinidad, how they’re steadily expanding the global reach of soca music and their favorite island recipe.
Download: JUS’ NOW’s FADER Mix
What is Trinidad like to live in? KESHAV: I’ve lived in a few places growing up as the son of a diplomat, where there is loads of travel and moving, but Trinidad is where my heart lies. The stimulus for creating in Trini is like nowhere on this earth. Our mix is such that once you taste it, you keep wanting more of the magic. We have a surprisingly very diverse population, with a heavy African and Indian heritage, with Chinese, European, Arabic and Iberian elements adding a unique blend to our sound, look and feel.
SAM: I only stay there a couple of months of the year but, since I first visited in 2011, it has definitely become my second home. Trinidad is nothing like I first imagined it to be. It’s quite an industrial island with a large economy based mostly around oil and natural gas. It does have it fair share of problems. There was a recent Vice documentary entitled Corruption, Cocaine and Murder in Trinidad, portraying the island as a dangerous warzone. A lot of what was reported on there was accurate but like many nations these problems are centered around a very small percentage of the population and the rest of the people that live there are some of the warmest, friendliest people I have ever come across.
What’s going off in the clubs in Trinidad right now? KESHAV: As with a lot of places, EDM and trap are generally the soup du jour at a lot of parties. Strangely enough though, I’ve been hearing a little more UK house in Trinidad lately. Times a-changing. But soca is being played more and more outside of just the carnival season, which happens from about late November till February.
How did you put together this mix and what’s on it? KESHAV: This mixtape is comprised of all original records. There are a wide range of tempos on there, with influences ranging from dancehall to hip-hop, samba, bhangra, drum & bass and soca but all delivered in our Jus Now-ish menacing and percussion heavy style. We worked with some wicked vocalists like the legendary Beenie Man, Trini-American bredrin Trinidad James, young and upcoming Vanna Vee, and our own in-house vocalists Kerwin Prescott and Serocee. There’s a distinctly Indian edge to a few of the tracks as well, as I lived there for some time as a child when my dad was posted there. The mixtape is basically a free album full of mad tunes.
SAM: For me, I didn’t think we were quite ready to put out a full artist album, as we are still exploring our sound, but we have lots of original music already completed that we were happy with and we wanted people to be able to hear it sooner rather than later. It definitely shows a broader range of influences than our previous releases.
What are the crucial ingredients for a soca hit? KESHAV: Groove. You have to make people dance, especially from the waist down. We don’t do a lot of dancing with our arms in Trinidad—wining is our thing. Every Trini is born a winer and those who can’t wine are severely ostracized. To make a soca hit the people have to believe what you’re telling them. A lot of soca is very specifically carnival-oriented, but what Sam and I, as well as a few other producers out there, are doing is making records that can appeal to a much wider demographic that have never been to carnival before. These musical baby steps can turn into strides if the songwriting makes sense and allows everyone to understand the lyrics.
What is Bunji Garlin like to work with? KESHAV: He’s a champion. Very creative and unapologetically so. He understands what the world likes about our sound, and for this reason he is undoubtedly having his current success. Bunji’s not shy about using the technology at hand and he’s is a very good communicator. That’s why I think we work so well together. We also just really both love an aggressive and slightly darker palette than the typically expected major keys, fun in the sun music, although we can make that as well.
SAM: Bunji is an absolute don and a lovely guy to boot! He’s so talented and the rest of the world are now starting to understand the talents that Trinidad and the Diaspora always knew about. When we get an email from Bunji with an attachment in it, it always brightens up my day as I know there is going to be a voice note with Bunji explaining some mad idea he just thought up whilst driving in his car. That’s how we made “Truck on the Road.”
What’s your favorite dish to cook and how do you make it? KESHAV: When I’m around Sam I hardly cook cause he’s such a G with it. When I do cook, I love to come up with my own recipes and they usually include ginger, garlic and pepper. I like robust flavors and it’s exactly how I like music. I have a great tradition of cooks in my family from both the Indian and Trinidadian sides, so I’ve got a lot to live up to!
SAM: From an early age I was always interested in cooking. My mum taught me the basics when I was really little so I have a good understanding of flavors. One of my favourite things to cook at the moment is Trinidadian Curry Chicken. I’ve developed my own way of doing it which usually changes every time– but it usually turns out nice for me. I serve it with rice or roti and some curried mango. Naughty!! I’m hungry now.
1 Jus Now – Nelson Boogie
2 Jus Now ft. Kerwin Prescott – Danger Zone
3 Jus Now ft. Beenie Man and Vanna Vee – D Way Yuh Wine
4 Jus Now – Lost in My Pandeiro
5 Jus Now ft. Bunji Garlin & Stylo G (Kahn remix) – Tun Up
6 Jus Now – Choli Ke Peeche
7 Jus Now – Gup Chup Riddim
8 Jus Now ft. Neval Chatelal, Serocee & Kerwin Prescott – Jouvay Bars
9 Jus Now – Kalbeliya
10 Jus Now – Cyah Help It Riddim
11 Jus Now ft. Collis Duranty – Smash Dem
12 Jus Now ft. Neval Chatelal & Trinidad James – Wants And Needs