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Hiatus Kaiyote brings funk from down under

In the last decade, a quartet of talent has turned heads and developed a distinct sound that keeps people infatuated and mesmerized through its use of layered harmonies, exotic beats and poetic lyrics. With the likes of Erykah Badu, Drake and Anderson .Paak, this band has left a permanent mark in the music world just by being its authentic self.

Stemming from Melbourne, Australia, is a colorful, Grammy-nominated group named Hiatus Kaiyote. It comprises vocalist and guitarist Naomi Saalfield (Nai Palm), drummer Perrin Moss, bassist Paul Bender and keyboardist Simon Mavin. 

In April 2012, the band independently released its debut album, “Tawk Tomahawk,” which soared through all kinds of musical genres. The band gained the attention of record producer Salaam Remi, who later signed Hiatus Kaiyote to his label, Flying Buddha Records, and rereleased the debut album.

“Tawk Tomahawk” is an experience worth listening to. The first song, “Mobius Streak,” transports anyone to a land of curiosity and wonder. The use of intricate percussive instruments and a soothing synthesizer makes this song a perfect foundation for the journey you will embark on. Jazzy interludes are built upon each other and create a lead-up to the end.

The last song on the album, “Nakamarra,” which features old-school rapper Q-Tip, became a worldwide favorite. In 2013, they became the first Australian act to be Grammy-nominated for “Best R&B Performance” for the track. 

Palm’s velvety voice glides through the beats in a way that transcends listeners. Her unique sound makes the adventure through Hiatus Kaiyote’s discography all the better.

Its second album, “Choose Your Weapon,” was released in May 2015. This project is a great shift from the first album. It features complex time signatures and a rhythmic fluidity that flows throughout. It was also sampled and acclaimed by Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Beyoncé. 

In an interview with Apple Music, Palm said, “Each song is its own little universe.” The vivid details and storytelling in this album do not go unnoticed.

For example, the song “Atari” features retro video game sounds that take you to an arcade. In the same Apple Music interview, she said, “I found that the word ‘atari’ is also a Yoruba word from Nigeria, meaning the place where your third eye is on top of your head, connecting you to divinity or a sense of your higher self.”

Hiatus Kaiyote often leaves its songs for listeners’ interpretations. Its battles are heard and felt, especially in the third album, “Mood Valiant.”

The group started writing for the album in 2018; however, there was a shift in musical perspectives after Palm’s breast cancer diagnosis. There was a pause needed for healing and finding comfort in the chaos. Meanwhile, Palm released her side project, “Needle Paw,” later that year.

After going through such a life-changing time, she took an acoustic and independent route. It was a breath of isolation and a look into who Palm really is. She was declared cancer-free in 2019.

The four members combined their sounds again and tightened up on what would be the first album after six years. “Mood Valiant” was released in June 2021. It is an album that explores the things life can give you through the eyes of nature and growing as a person. 

One song that discusses the attraction and creation of something new is “Chivalry Is Not Dead.” There are verses that talk about obscure mating rituals and reproduction but in an interesting and beautiful way. It’s intricate and other-worldly. “Mood Valiant” is a perfect album for those discovering themselves and undergoing change.

The band released a new single, “Everything’s Beautiful,” last month. It is a small taste of what its upcoming project will be. The song is about celebrating the simplicity and joy life can bring.

Hiatus Kaiyote is a band that makes music for the curious. Each member has a distinctive vibe, and together, their creativity runs wild for those who love experimental jazz and funk. 


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