Haja is inspired by Sudanese folk music Aghani-Al-Banat, which The Adults' Jon Toogood encountered during his wedding in Khartoum.

It is African music performed exclusively by women and as such, having it brought to New Zealand by a white dude who was going to add his own production and instrumentation seemed concerning at first.

But Toogood did a spectacular job of showcasing the Sudanese music, rather than just borrowing it. And because the music is traditionally performed by women, he brought in a lineup of some of the hottest female artists in New Zealand to help him do it.

As well as being mostly women, Toogood's list of collaborators also features Kiwi artists of African descent; Estere, Jess B and Raiza Biza. The list also includes Chelsea Jade, Aaradhna, Miloux and Kings, as well as Toogood himself - though he lends his vocals sparingly.

Advertisement

Instead, the Aghani-Al-Banat takes front and centre, especially on the title track, where it mixes in with a dancehall beat and a touch of funk to create an upbeat dance track so joyful it's hard not to love.

As well as dance, there's pop, hip-hop, reggae and even a touch of atmospheric indie, and it's all held together by a mixture of moody bass lines, inventive production, tribal drumbeats and African chants which weave themselves through the tracks seamlessly.

The lead single Bloodlines remains a stand out, boasting Estere's ethereal vocals and Jess B's insane bars which at times seem to flow with barely a second to breathe.

And Aaradhna lends her distinctive vocals to give That Gold depth and richness, while Raiza Biza's a capella rap over tribal chants elevates the track even further.

The only track that doesn't seem to quite fit is Kings' Take it On the Chin, which lacks both a female voice and any obvious African influence - but that's a minor niggle.

With only eight tracks and a half-hour playtime, Haja is small but mighty, packed full of rich layers and diverse soundscapes and voices that need to be heard at full volume.


The Adults

Artist: The Adults
Album: HAJA
Label: Warner Music
Verdict: A fresh and exciting melting pot of sounds, genres and voices.