Here is a band that you have to hear to believe it. From left to right, Ahmad Dayes, Kareem Dayes, Yussef Dayes and Wayne Francis are United Vibrations. On their debut album Galaxies Not Ghettos they created a hip swaying mix of ska, jazz and funk. They put on an insane show, that you really have to see to believe it! With Fela Kuti and and Bob Marley being but two of their influences musically and socially, this creative foursome do more than your average band. They are on their way to building sustainable, carbon-negative housing in London.
It was a pleasure having a chat with them before they recently performed at the New Cross Inn.
The Wonder- so how did you all meet?
Ahmad- Well, the three of us are brothers and Wayne is our brother from another mother.
TW- the names on your website have a list of your spiritual names. Could you tell me more about that? Is it to do with your heritage or just something you’re interested in?
Kareem - It’s a bit of both. We had this idea of having alter egos, about going into a trance, going on a journey. My one is an Indian one and I’m not Indian, so it’s not a direct. Some of them are more…like Yussef’s is African.
TW- Yes, I recognised that one! Shango.
Yussef- Yes, he’s quite aggressive.
A- We try and tie it to the music and the whole message of the band. But it’s a way of kind of going beyond the human level. That’s what music’s about. They’re all archetypes and you can interpret them however you want to, however you want to tap into that energy.
TW- Could you each say your spiritual names and what it means to you.
A- Mine is Horus and he’s an ancient Egyptian god and he was the bringer of knowledge about farming, manufacturing and building. Getting people out of the dark ages. He’s a falcon- headed god with a funny nose.
TW- Sounds familiar. What’s the link to you?
A-My link to him is if you look at the Egyptian god there’s lots of things tied up into it, stars, knowledge…and what it represents for me is what I’m trying to tap into. A lot of our music is ‘shake a leg’ and we want to engage the mind as well.
K- Mine is Kalki. The anagram of that is my middle name. He is the unifier of opposites. Throughout my life it’s really rang true of what I’ve been doing. Even on a literal level as well, being mixed race. We’re in a country that still thinks in black and white, so it rings through with Kalki being the unifier of opposites. In the Hindi version he has a sword of truth and the shield of destiny. These visual things capture your imagination and you really identify with it.
Wayne- Mine is Kumara. I thought about the different things that I’m into. He’s a mediator. He’s contradictory and brings things together.
A-Kind of similar to Kareem’s.
W- It is similar, but from a different perspective!
Yussef- Mine is Shango. I don’t really know that much about him. I was kind of pressured into it…(laughs) had a bit of a deadline. But I found out he was a thunder god and I suppose as I’m the drummer of the band, a kind of heartbeat. I also read he was aggressive. I don’t really like that side of him and I’m trying to be more humble.
A- But I think you’ve got an aggressive side (all laugh)
K- But if you just let that side of yourself come out when you drum it’s a way of healing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to let that out on the drums. I need to do more research on this! But definitely when I play, music is a spiritual thing. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does happen it’s a great thing!
TW- It seems to be why you have your names is because your music is more than getting people to ‘shake a leg’. It means a lot more to you than that. Is that why you started your company?
W- 12 tone is a record label, but the aim of that is to raise money in a creative way to build homes through the trust.
K- The Community Land Trust aims to build a community of self-sustaining homes. It’s the future of how we’re all going to be building Zero waste, recycling water…we want to buy land and build the homes in London. We are working with architects who believe we can live in places with a high density but with a relatively low impact on the environment. There are only a couple of places in Europe that are doing it and the idea is to do it here and show London what it’s all about. It’s a complicated topic with issues of politics, conservation, sociology…
A-the bottom line is, we’ll be waiting forever if we’re waiting for our government. If we do it and people see we can make it happen, then they can make it happen.
Y- Our house in London was built by my father built our house and that’s what inspires me to do what we’re doing.
TW- It’s great that you use your music in different ways. Apart from this initiative, what is it that keeps you writing music? What inspires you?
W- I think for all of us- they’ve obviously got the same parents and I don’t (laughs) but for all of us growing up in homes where a wide selection of music was played, we’ve grew up listening to classical music, jazz, all sorts. We’re all open-minded and we’ve tapped into that. People like Fela and Bob Marley, the reason they stand out is because they were free thinking artists. They acted on things and they weren’t static. They were talking and making music about things they believed in and taking part in it as well. They were involved.
A-I think going back to the question of what keeps us going, I think to be honest, I can’t remember not doing it. (laughs) We’ve come so far down this path. I think as well we’re making music, the energy, we’re making something fresh.
K- there’s always something new to write about.
A-I mean the day you stop coming up with ideas is maybe the day you should start thinking of doing something else! For me it’s all about the inspiration of those ideas. Whether it’s harmonically, lyrically, culturally. Whatever it is. Seeing other people doing great things as well is always inspiring.
A-I think music is spiritual and it’s a gateway to a whole bunch of things that our minds are yet to truly grasp. You can’t see music but it affects you.
TW- What’s your writing process? What comes first?
W- every song is different. Someone might have an idea and bring it to rehearsal or I it could be like last week when [Kareem] was playing a beat that I liked that also reminded me of something I heard on the bus. We might just play that and it might not go anywhere and later I might just hear that beat again and see where it goes again. It might happen that way.
K- It’s usually a good sign if you keep going back to a certain beat.
A-most of the music we play doesn’t come out of the rehearsal room (laughs)
Y- We need to start recording our rehearsals!
TW- but then you won’t have your memory thing. Tell me about what you wear onstage…
Y- It makes sense that we have an image that represents what we’re about. And through what we wear we communicate that. I don’t want to be wearing my adidas tracksuit, it’ll be a bit of a contradiction!
A-I’m taking it one step further and going out in my tie-dye trousers tonight.
TW- Can’t wait to see that!
K- yeah…no. I bought my shirt from a Nigerian woman in Peckham. These guys have moved on to other ones but I’m still on my first.
TW- but no tie-dye trousers
A- these lot have some catching up to do. (all laugh)
TW- What’s your dream venue to play?
K- The woods
A- in a cave
Y- it’d be cool to play on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury
Thank you Angela for the photo!