I have to admit that seeing Incognito‘s leader Bluey dressed in a flowered shirt and a short reminding of the World War II famous desert rats had something of surrealistic. With the band occupying the center stage of the London’s Royal Albert Hall during the JVC Capitol Jazz Festival that July 13, 1991! But who cares, as the motivation of my coming was first and foremost to listen to his music! With real musicians on top of it. This at a period when a lot of people had already started putting out computerized-based music.
From far, he could have eventually gone… incognito! Havin’ said that, the image he would give of himself back then seemed to be the last of his concerns. This as opposed to be torturing melodies and arrangements and getting the best of them. Back then, Jean-Paul Bluey Maunick was already to be seen as one of, if not the who’s who in the history of the British Black music. And this for more than 15 years already. From the creation of Light Of The World at the end of the seventies. To the release legendary ‘Jazz Funk’ album, his first effort under the Incognito guise in 1981. Then his debut on Gilles Peterson‘s Talkin’ Loud label 10 years after with ‘Inside Life’. An album that would get the memorable ‘Always There’ featuring Jocelyn Brown into history…
“I’ve grown up while listening to albums by the likes of Johnny Hallyday and Sylvie Vartan, Pat Boone and Johnny Reeves. Which is more or less all we could get around” (he’s hailing from the Mauritius island). We didn’t have that many radios then. And whatever they played was so far from what we could get on the US and British stations…
I’ve been deeply touched by Sega (one of the major music genres in Mauritius which finds its origins in the music of the slaves on the island). My grand dad’s mom was a slave. As regarding my mom, she was Euro-Hindu mixed.” As many reasons explaining the versatility of our man, musicwise. Inbetween so many different influences.
The so to say revelation would happen to him soon after the divorce of his parents, while relocating in London with his mom. “My cousins were into Rock. I suppose they were Hippies. They got me for a weekend at a festival to the Isle of Wight. There I saw Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher. This got me into the will to know about Folk songs and learn to play electric guitar. I loved Focus, Yes and Franck Zapa (by the time of his debut). And more specifically what I could feel as the most melodic side of their music.”
Still along with his cousins, he would come to discover Herbie Hancock at some Piccadilly Circus record shop. An artist whose compositions – and most likely ‘Headhunter’- happened to stand as the big revelation for him… “Within a week from then, I would chase whatever could more or less sound like Jazz. From Bob Jones to Grover Washington, Jr., I would read the credits on the album sleeves. I had to play this music… My guitar soon became Funk!”
“I would just be unable to sell my personality based on the way I look alongside Incognito. The word is only given to music. In a sense, nobody has to know us personally. Incognito is nothing but a musician affair. And I’m happy to see that it fascinates the crowd…”
At the age of 18, the then neo funkster started playing alongside New Life. A group whose lead singer happened to be David Grant. Then he launched his own record shop in Tottenham. Using its basement as a rehearsal room before meeting Light Of the World‘s Nevil ‘Breeze’ McKrieth and Paul ‘Tubbs’ Williams. He then would make his debut as Incognito a couple of years after. This with the release of the ‘Jazz Funk’ album on Ensign before a 10 years hiatus…
“10 years might seem kinda long. But that’s the time an artist, a group, a musician, a producer needs to get the necessary maturity. Something that many do not reach because of their assimilation to a certain genre for more and more obvious commercial reasons along with time.” A reality that nearly got Brand New Heavies to be dropped by their label back in 1988. “What BNH are doin’, I was already into it 10 years ago with LOTW. As for me, there was no way how I could feel that kind of pressure. When Acid House popped in, I focused on writing and production (more specifically alongside Steven Dante) with the musicians who followed me during that 10 year hiatus until the return of Incognito.
The concept of the band has always been firmly kept in my mind. Therefore, I couldn’t see myself comin’ up with a slice of Acid House for the sake of selling a bunch of extra records. And by that takin’ the risk of doin’ like Stock, Aitken & Waterman.
Music is what comes first to me. And I keep on writing away from the obsession of havin’ it comin’ out the moment after. It’s therefore even worse Stateside with everyone jumpin’ on the trendy wagon and doin’ under this or under that all along. I had to live there to realize this. I couldn’t believe that what stands as the cradle of Black Music got to such a pathetic situation…”
Deliberately anti conformist didn’t take away Bluey and his acolytes from havin’ reached a definitive popularity that goes way beyond the sole niche of people who love Dance Music. “Our fan base is very selective. The one who’s into Jazz has necessarily something in his head. Meanwhile fools wouldn’t like this kind of music. They could somehow pretend, in the name of some snob effect. Or pushed by some trend because they would have liked the way an artist is dressed. That said, there’s nothing like this at us, as we’ve done whatever we could to avoid falling into any kind of stardom process.
I would just be unable to sell my personality based on the way I look alongside Incognito. The word is only given to music. In a sense, nobody has to know us personally. Incognito is nothing but a musician affair. And I’m happy to see that it fascinates the crowd…”
Incognito – Jazz Funk (Ensign)
Incognito – Inside Life (Talkin’ Loud)
Incognito – Tribes, Vibes And Scribes (Talkin’ Loud)
Incognito – 100° And Rising (Takin’ Loud)
Incognito – Remixed (Talkin’ Loud)
Incognito – Who Needs Love (Dome Records)
Incognito – More Tales Remixed (Dome Records)
Bluey of Incognito – Leap Of Faith (Dome Records)
Bluey of Incognito – Life Between The Notes (Dome Records)