There are few things in the world I would say I fawn over – even less when music and musicians are taken into account. I can say with absolute certainty, though, that Bonobo, real name Simon Green, is one of those rare musicians that not only do I love, but that I must also share with everyone. People speak of artists that manage to change their lives and I always wrote it off mere exaggeration. Now, though, I do realize funnily enough that Bonobo has had an actual impact on my life.
At the end of my Fulbright grant my original plan was to travel around Turkey briefly, before bypassing into Bulgaria and the Balkans. Upon learning that Bonobo was playing a live set in Krakow, however, I immediately changed all my plans and built three weeks of travel in Eastern Europe upon his concert schedule in Poland. This may seem impulsive. Worth it? I can only hope.
For me, Bonobo’s music operates in a zone beyond words or genre qualifications. Superficially, his music may be characterized as ‘downbeat’ or ‘trip-hop’ (which regular readers will know I absolutely adore), but what do these titles actually mean? Yes, Bonobo’s music definitely relies on multiple layerings of tracks, while maintaining a more down-tempo rhythm. Many artists manage this, with varying degrees of success. What truly makes Bonobo unique is his versatility and his humanity.
Each of his albums has a unique character and sound – ranging from more simple trip-hop electronica to lushly layered jazz and blues vocals. It is here that Bonobo’s humanity shines through. In his music, each note – each refrain – has complete meaning and balance; it pulls the listener in gently on a meandering journey through sounds and tracks that feel as if they have an, although unknowable, completely comforting resolution.
A major complaint I hear from people about electronic music is how it lacks soul. What is to be enjoyed about someone ‘merely pushing a button on their laptop?’ Bonobo tackles this charge head-on by having assembled a touring band. All songs, all layers, are deconstructed and played live before the audience. Here, Bonobo manages to cross a line that I have never heard of any other electronic producer doing – he simultaneously acts as producer, composer, and musician. To top it off, the majority of the layers on each studio album were originally recorded and played by Bonobo himself.
So, please, if you have time treat yourself to a little Simon Green tonight. Take some time to put on a pair of good headphones, close your eyes, and let the music of Bonobo carry you away. You won’t be disappointed.