What a gift! Juha is brilliant. Juha is genius.
- Marc Almond
Fusing Eastern & Western music, theater and performance art rabble-rousing, Juha is a funky pie bursting at the seams with irresistible beats and attitude.
- Neva Chonin, San Francisco Chronicle (Critics' Picks)
Try to peg down Juha... and you'll likely be so far left field or right field or not even in a field at all. If anything, Juha is the brilliant corsage bobbing in the junk-strewn waters of hip hop... one of the most intriguing imports in a very long time.
- Good Times | Santa Cruz
Queer dub. Butlerian dancehall stomp. Bengal barbershop. Hybrid forms you didn't know were missing, didn't know were possible, a world music not of smash and grab or cut and paste but of warp and weft. Newly transplanted to London, needed like a fresh kidney, Juha brings his extravagantly gonzo take on hip hop to clubland, right NOW.
- Plan B Magazine | London
Juha is wickedly intelligent, with talent and intensity and - balls. Musically, Juha toys with the fringed edges where hip-hop is barely distinctly itself, not just bringing together but actually using and fusing an impossibly broad range of influences. Juha braids together the causes and music and dreams of Hawaii and Palestine and gay youth; the sensibilities of radical performance artists and sensitive musicians; and ties every knot so neatly at every crossing of the fibers that you see it all as a seamless whole, a single cause, a perhaps inexpressible but nonetheless whole idea. Juha is shockingly good.
- Out In Maui
Take the soul of Prince, the mercurial energy of Eminem, the electro-noisiness of Xiu Xiu, and the Gothic complexity of The Arcade Fire… and you can start to imagine Juha's newest album, The Grooms of God. It's all that and a lot of bass.
It's a tightly-knit, complex, and highly analytic album with a roughness, honesty, and immediacy that makes it an essential listen. The generally hyper-sexual lyrics soar in both imagery and cadence, celebrating the sexual, the animalic, the ignoble, the transgressive…. While the tracks display a large diversity of talent on Juha's part, the choice of a Gothic aesthetic and the maintenance of it adds to the weight of the already heavy message…. Oh, and the soul! Far from cold and detached, Juha's roughness of voice and non-traditional vocal style make the often abstract message intimate and urgent.
The main strength of this album is the diversity of the tracks. "Akhar Virgin" is a funky, rough, and fast soul track with an engaging toy piano melody that makes the album worth its time in and of itself. "Weasel” mixes an Eastern beat into a Western idiom, with fast verses working into a slow and thoughtful chorus… "Ain't Nothin Goin On But The Rent" is a Gwen Guthrie cover whose bluesy beat, repeated keyboard loop high in the mix, and prostitution references make it sound like it was coming straight from Madonna's Erotica album. And "Paul in Swan Lake" is a simply breath-taking recounting of an old lover lost to AIDS set over the theme from Tchaichovsky's "Death of a Swan." So vivid, passionate, and real is it in its rejection of the standard AIDS narratives that when Juha sings "And when it comes to leaving planets, why wait?,” one takes the sentiment personally.
While marketed as "hip-hop" and "soul," it seems reductive to place this album in any genre box… I could see The Grooms of God causing hipsters in Minneapolis to jam while listening to it on their off-brand mp3 players, Californian hip hop fans from across that genre's spectrum to become engaged in this album's lyrical content, and queeny Parisian intellectuals to dance in their underwear (actually did see that one last week)… This album is awesome and essential.
- Alex Blaze, The Bilerico Project | Paris
Juha bravely maps out an immediate call to self-love… subverting a patriarchal God-as-father theology through race allegory, feminist homage, and overt homoeroticism. The Christian church, dance clubs, mosques and men’s bathrooms all serve as interchangeable backdrops for the stories, which are delivered through a pitch-shifting, androgynous baritone that recalls Sarah Vaughan and Grace Jones. Whether through the Quranic imagery of the slinking, burbling “Akhar Virgin” or the cleverly minimalist cover of Gwen Guthrie’s “Ain’t Nothin Goin On But The Rent,” he skillfully manages to keep it light when the concepts get heavy. Self-seriousness is often the undoing of many a project this ambitious; hearing Juha rap “I am: the bridge between ghetto and high falootin/between Huey Lewis and Huey Newton” makes it clear that he wants the listener in on the jokes as well along the journey.
- Juba Kalamka, Colorlines Magazine
Some artists are quick to describe their work as “hard to categorize” or “beyond category” when in fact they are easy to categorize; in other words, the artists aren’t as daring or unorthodox as they like to think they are. But Juha really can’t be categorized. He offers a quirky, theatrical blend of funk, hip-hop, alternative rock, dance-pop, reggae and world music. A wide variety of direct or indirect influences can be heard on The Grooms of God, ranging from Prince and Parliament/Funkadelic to Bob Marley to alternative rappers (De La Soul, Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest) to G. Love & Special Sauce to Bollywood and modern Indian pop. G. Love, in fact, is a valid comparison because like G. Love, Juha is all over the place stylistically and refuses to confine himself to one genre.
Juha, for all his quirkiness maintains a strong sense of groove, and that yields infectious results on funky originals such as “The Gargoyle,” “Akhar Virgin” and “Dip Dip” (which borrows and reworks some lyrics from Michael Zager’s 1978 disco hit “Let’s All Chant”). Juha also lets the funk flow on an unlikely remake of the late Gwen Guthrie’s 1986 hit “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But the Rent,” which was considered the golddigger’s national anthem in its day (along with Madonna’s “Material Girl”) and found Guthrie portraying herself as a woman who was after one thing only: money. The very fact that Juha is a man makes his decision to record “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But the Rent” ironic, and he has a lot of fun with a song written from a female perspective.
Juha successfully puts a reggae spin on bluesman Willie Dixon’s “My Love Will Never Die,” which was recorded by Magic Sam, Otis Rush and other Chicago blues singers. On “Paul in Swan Lake,” Juha even draws on Euro-classical music, sampling an excerpt from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1875/1876 ballet “Swan Lake.” Uniting Tchaikovsky with a funk/hip-hop beat might have been a train wreck coming from someone else, but Juha makes them sound like a perfectly natural combination.
Juha’s adopted home of London has had a large Indian community for many years, and the influence of Indian pop is especially evident on “Weasel (A Begging Brother in Line),” “We Become the Men We Hated,” and the a cappella “Can the Bengal Bend All Day.” Meanwhile, “Dip Dip” contains a sample of the late African pop star Miriam Makeba along with the abovementioned Michael Zager reference. Never let it be said that Juha isn’t multicultural in his outlook.
At times, Juha can be self-indulgent, but never to the point of turning the listener off. And because he has so many interesting ideas, one can easily live with that self-indulgence, or even appreciate it.
- Alex Henderson, AMG
Aptly named for the trickster in Islamic folklore, Juha leaves you guessing. Polari is a cotton-candy swirled concoction of Eastern and Western styles thrown forth like dice in an art-performance carnival atmosphere. Outspoken politically and all-over-the-map musically, Polari is one of the most interesting and satisfying albums we've heard in years.
Juha creates an exciting musical journey that says more in 14 tracks than most hip hop artists do on their entire oeuvre.
- The Tablet | Seattle
People are always chewing their fingernails, speculating on the state of hiphop; I don't so much worry as long as artists like Juha "just don't give a fuck" (a central tenet of vital hiphop) and thrive on the fringe of hip hop culture.
- The Portland Mercury