ByJay Johnson

Shunaji’s is a wicked name, I’m just curious as to what it means?

I made it up. The name is a contraction of SUGAR and KUNAI and NAIJA. Sugar used to be my nickname, then kunai as the Japanese dagger slash farming tool (because I’m 3/4 otaku) and naija because I was born in Nigeria. Shunaija seemed to encapsulate a lot of my identity, so it became Shunaji. I’m a big geek and frankly proud of it.

Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?

I’m based in London now, and there’s a lot of music happening in my South ends. Obviously, people like to overtalk jazz scene but there’s all sorts of music developing around here. CDR Projects happens at Rye Wax and it’s probably the most diverse music environment I’ve been in terms of producers. I’ve met a lot of amazing people from all across town.

Your new EP ‘Blue Melon ‘ is out soon, what influenced sound and songwriting for this EP?

Exploring sound in ‘Blue Melon’ was very much synth-led, I decided to experiment more with even weirder sounds compared to my debut EP ‘Midnight Movie’. Most significantly, I distanced myself from relying on samples and synthesised more sounds. I also worked with Sascha Create on drums and Marla Mbemba on bass to record their incredible skills. Even though I ended up choppin’ ‘n a-griddin’, I feel that recording live drums can add a feel to the music that an electronic kit may not be able to convey. Having one drummer on one kit really glues it together. Similarly, with Marla’s basslines, the project really found it’s energy. I brought them both in at a stage where I knew where ‘Blue Melon’ was going, and they understood my process fully. 
My songwriting was so unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I wrote ‘Not Lookin” on a coach from Dublin to Connemara. I’d had writer’s block for a bit and always carried my notebook in case of an “Eureka!” moment. I guess sheep and mud inspired the hook “You’re not what I’m looking for”, for laughing out loud. Other ideas like the lyrics in ‘Curtains’ came from writing sessions at my old place in Stratford. I wrote ‘Nighthawks’ after a night out in East London.

Where and when did you record?

I recorded between August and December 2018, both at my place and at the Roundhouse’s Paul Hamlyn Studios.

What equipment/programs did you use?

I used Ableton Live 9 and 10, my Roland GAIA, Ableton Push 2, a microphone and some percussive instruments.

How did you first start making music?

I just wanted to express some very vivid feelings that I was feeling at the time, so I just gave digital audio a try and it worked out for me. Then I got on the SP-404SX and that was loads of fun in terms of chopping samples: it’s like a video game!

What do you have planned for the rest of 2019?

I’ll be touring around doing gigs at festivals with my new band and working on new music. You’ll find me at Brainchild Festival, We Out Here and other beautiful events to be announced! My website has it all listed.

Favourite food and place to hang out?

Let’s just say Italian and Thai are to die pho. Plus, I don’t know man I really enjoy chillin’ at home these days, that’s where I make Music and watch films so it works alright for me!

Update: Shunaji – Not Lookin’

Not Lookin’ is the result of endless fluctuations between Shunaji’s newly found hip hop paradigm and her longtime affection for everything rock, grunge and noise. With an ethereal use of sampling and reverb techniques, Not Lookin’ achieves a soundscape that opens the door to cross-genre experimentation. Taking cues from the sonic spaces of Tangerine Dream and the distant bass lines of Sonic Youth, the track is a true reflection of Shunaji’s eclecticism. 

The rap vocals in Not Lookin’ are reminiscent of Anthony Kiedis’ delivery in Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991) as well as a homage to meta-genre collaborations such as Anthrax’s with Public Enemy. Simultaneously, the hook evokes the bittersweet alternative rock lullabies of 90s vocalists Courtney Love, Shirley Manson and Skye Edwards. 


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Jay Johnson administrator