With song, harmony, melody and rhythm being the main focus of Aquilina, it’s very difficult not to focus on anything else. The group started when Joseph Aquilina met double bass player Paul Baker outside the Royal College of music and asked Paul to have a jam. Mod After many phone calls, failed attempts at meeting each other, they finally met, jammed and decided to work on Joseph’s material. Egyptian virtuoso violinist Samy Bishai, again after a confusing advert in the Loot newspaper also joined the group. Joseph’s old friend from his anarchic teens, the Chilean drummer Lenin Alegria, now plays drums after an invitation from the band to complete the quartet.
The sound and influences
Joseph was born in South London hailing from Brixton. With his Maltese genealogy and its Semitic language, his interest in all things Arabic and other cultures was sparked from growing up in this multicultural town. Surrounded by the sound of Fela Kuti being played by Nigerian neighbours and reggae blasted out from cars driven by Rastafarians, its now wonder he would be confused be many Rastas with his then long dreadlike hair. However from also also listening to such artists like Davey Grayham, Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden, Nick Drake and funk, these sounds are reflected in Aquilina’s music, through the grooves, harmonies and melodies spanning the world local and afar. Even though the band has adopted Joseph’s surname, it is very much a band. The members are influenced by Jazz, Classical, Latin, Rock, Electronica, Pop, Folk and World music which all filters in to what is produced and performed.
Aquilina’s music has always been tricky to describe or put into a category, but one thing the remains certain, is that the majority of listeners with whatever fad they may be into: they like what they hear. Joseph’s voice producing powerful emotive tones fits perfectly with the skilfully played acoustic instruments, creating sonorous arrangements anchored by Lenin’s drumming. Comparisons have been made with Arcade Fire, Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, Chris Cornell, Seal, Sting and the Dave Mathews Band with a North African and Eastern European flavour making their sound a little bit more open to “Worldy” influences as some may describe.
Aquilina has had several members join and leave the band including cellist/singer-songwriter Jeni Saint, Percussionist Martin Pyne and Drummer Nikolaj Bjerre (session drummer and formerly from the 90s trip-hop band Lamb). Other musicians that have worked and will feature on future recordings include: Zoe Rahman (2006 Mercury music nominee) on Piano, Oli Savil (Basement Jaxx) Percussion, Idris Rahman (The Soothsayers and producer of Mercury Nominees Basquiat Strings & Mercury Nominee Zoe Rahman) and Calum Cook (BSO, ECO, LPO) on Cello.