May/June 2018

by Cassandra King

Fresh Talent: Round Buddah

by Cassandra King

Fresh Talent: Round Buddah

The debut EP from Auckland hip hop-jazz fusionists Round Buddah received a warm welcome into the world with an enthusiastic reception at a release party in late 2017.

‘People and Trees’ was recorded at Depot Sound Recording Studio, with the help of engineer Morgan Allen who vocalist Holly Afoa praises as being very accommodating with the Round Buddah style. That said, as her co-vocalist Jackson Lester reveals, it was a relief to have the finished EP. Along with this release came many valuable lessons learnt during their first time recording together.

“As soon as you think the song is finished, it is so far from finished,” Jackson acknowledges. “Once you hear it in the studio you can hear what is missing. You have to go in with a set plan – you have a bit more wiggle room when playing live.”

The band’s signature style, as described on their Facebook page, is ‘sick-shit.’ The question that genre description begs is received with a laugh.

“Is that still there?” Afoa quickly follows. “Round Buddah came together before all of us. It began as a quartet who did instrumental gigs around the place. I eventually came along and then these guys. For around the past year, it’s been the five of us.”

The line-up includes Chris Townsend on drums, with Sam Nash adding bass. Tom Taylor lifts the sound with keys while Lester and Afoa provide raw and honest lyrics as the cherry on top of the band’s big sound.

A diversity of artists including Erykah Badu, Tom Scott and A Tribe Called Quest influence their sound, they say, with the band working easily together from their range of musical inspiration. They find common ground in creation – more often than not finding a link between the messages they are trying to get across with ideas they individually bring to the band.

“When we first started, I would bring my song to the group and Jackson would bring a verse. We always wonder what the other is talking about,” says Afoa.

“There is usually a juxtaposition in content, but you can always find a link,” Lester takes over. “To an extent, everyone has an influence, we are just influenced by everything around us. Jamming with the band puts a twist on what you would write about. I write in my own zone and bring it to the band to see what works. It generally fits pretty well, which is fortunate.”

The EP release held in St Kevins Arcade sold out. An understandably exciting turnout and a humbling one as Holly explains.

“It is our music and we wrote that together, people came to listen to our music, rather than covers.”

Rejected, one of the digital EP’s tracks, featured on Spotify playlist Summer Soul alongside artists like Anderson Paak and Tom Misch. Round Buddah share a dream of one day playing alongside Anderson Paak. A goal that doesn’t necessarily seem too out of reach.