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The Adults - Album Review: Haja

30 Jul 2018 // A review by hailtree

Okay first up. This album will make you want to dance, and I don’t even like dancing.

If you haven’t heard of The Adults – well. Surely you’ve heard of Shihad – The Adults is frontman Jon Toogood’s side project, a place for him to experiment with other New Zealand artists, that don’t quite fit into Shihad’s genre of Rock. Haja is passion project, that is obviously very, very close to Toogood’s heart.

After getting married in Sudan a few years back, Jon Toogood was inspired by the Aghani Al-Banat music that played at his wedding, and so set out to create a fusion album between the African music, and the current NZ scene.  The rough translation of Aghani Al-Banat is "girls' music". After doing a bit of digging around on what this means in their culture, I was surprised to learn that although it’s respected in one sense, it’s also frowned upon for the educated class to play such music, and so Toogood actually had a bit of a rough time trying to convince the musicians in Sudan that he was serious about recording it.

This adds an almost controversial element to recording such an album, but also highlights how different our culture is to theirs – here musicians may not be considered to be a ‘high end’ profession, but it’s still something that’s valued – and not necessarily frowned upon if we were to pursue it. Whereas in Sudan – the only time that the working class/higher educated come into contact with learning the music, is in the six months prior to the bride’s wedding, where she has one on one training with the artists in order to learn the dance.

Every artist Toogood sourced for this album he contacted via the internet – some he knew, some he found online, but many were through recommendations of friends. He simply contacted the musicians with the music he had and asked them to put their own spin on it.

The first track Boomtown, features Chelsea Jade and Raiza Biza. Chelsea lends her voice to the track beautifully. She sets the tone for the album with a couple of catchy hooks, before Raiza introduces himself halfway through the song, instantly he sounds at home. I mean he is of African descent, so this definitely helps his case.

On initial listen, title track, Haja, is a very small 30 sample taken of the Aghani Al-Banat music, and then Toogood had laid his “white boy bass” over the top. It’s a perfect little bridge song, and set’s us up for the rest of the album.

Take It On The Chin features Kings, and prior to hearing this album in its entirety – it had been the only single I’ve heard. I had really enjoyed it when it was released – and still do. But in the context of the rest of the album? I just couldn’t quite see how it fit. It lacked those dancey beats that are so prominent in every single other song.

Bloodlines is up next. This track combines Estere’s hauntingly stunning vocals, with JessB’s rapping. This song screams anthem at me, with mental images conjuring inside my head of powerful women, flowing dresses, and just a whole lot of grrl power.  It’s fast paced, it makes me want to go for a run with it blasting through my earbuds. I don’t even like running. Man, this entire album just makes me want to move.

Next is That Gold, with Aaradhna starting us off. It’s here that I really take a moment to appreciate how incredible it is that 5/7 of this album is female vocals. Raiza makes a second appearance here – can I just take a moment to point out how incredible it is that most of these artists never actually met? But instead just recorded their parts and sent them to Toogood to mix. It all flows pretty well considering that.

Because of You starts up with some thick basslines, and I’m already sold. Probably my favourite track on the album, I think that Miloux’s take on the brief is stunning.

Like The Moon is another song created with samples taken from the Aghani Al-Banat music – I read in an interview with Jon on The Spinoff that he really struggled to get the Sudanese musicians to feel comfortable in the studio, and so resorted to using his iPhone recordings of the music instead – but then re-working them with layers off his own instrumentals.

Gisma is a love song and a half, sung by Toogood himself and made my heart swoon a little at the realization of how beautiful this entire album would have been to his wife – to have an entire album created merging both of your cultures? With a little song full of quirky little love notes. Someone's definitely in the good books for the next wee while.

All in all, this album is a beautiful collaborative effort, and showcases a pretty interesting side of Sudanese culture - whilst also highlighting some of the beautiful female artists we have here in New Zealand.

Review written by Amanda Hailwood


About The Adults

After twenty-two years at the helm of New Zealand’s most loved rock band, Shihad frontman Jon Toogood has built up a treasure trove of musical connections. Lucky for us they have now collided, resulting in one hell of a project.

After a couple of years “collecting musical ideas” the multi instrumentalist began work in earnest six months ago on what has become The Adults, a celebration of his work with some of New Zealand’s brightest talents and an iconic Kiwi album in-the-making.

A truly collaborative affair, the project began with a wishlist of artists that Jon “loved, admire and respected”, all of whom jumped at the chance to work with him to create the eclectic tracklisting. The roll call of names on the album reads like a who’s who of New Zealand music, including names as diverse as Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits/Dimmer), Anika Moa, Ladi6, Julia Deans, Gary Sullivan (Jean Paul Sartre Experience/Dimmer), Nick Roughan (Skeptics), Ruban & Kody Nielson (The Mint Chicks), Warren Maxwell (TrinityRoots/Little Bushman), Riki Gooch (TrinityRoots), Redford Grenell (ex-Shapeshifter), Steve Bremner and co-producer and collaborator Tiki Taane. Collectively, the group is now known as ‘The Adults’, and the frontman says that after twenty years in the business it was definitely time that he “learned a whole new way of writing music from these people, who do it so well”. They too learned a whole new musical vocabulary from Toogood, and appear on this album in ways you’ve never heard them before.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Adults


Year: 2018
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
The Adults (Deluxe Edition)
Year: 2012
Type: Album
The Adults
Year: 2011
Type: Album

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