Jafunkae is quite the name. What is it? What’s it mean? Is it a new drink at Starbucks? Possibly some sort of fashionable scarf all the kids are wearing on the south side? Fortunately, it’s none of those things (but I will have to say I’d drink something called Jafunkae with a little rum thrown in.) No, Jafunkae is the name of a new band in the Fort Wayne area. The name comes from the main musical elements thrown into the pot that makes this rock n’ roll jambalaya kick. Jazz, funk and reggae are interspersed throughout the songs on Jafunkae’s debut EP. This well-produced and -performed EP just may be your favorite summer jam.
Jafunkae are Dave Ealy on lead vocals, Patrick Mathews on lead guitar, Peter Klopfenstein on keyboards, Daniel Gomez on bass and Will Heingartner on drums. This group of young dudes is showing a lot of potential for a bunch of guys just out of high school. (Ealy and Heingartner are seniors at South Side High School, for the love of Pete!)
The songs these fellas have written and recorded are tight and well played and show off more than just a bunch of high school kids jamming. Ealy has the voice of someone far beyond his years. After a few more years of living, I can’t imagine what he’ll sound like. But as it stands, even as an 18-year old he’s got a hell of a lot of range and soul to match. In fact, everyone here can play – great guitar, tight rhythm section and songs with great melody.
“Don’t Take Me Away Johnny” has some peppy organ and groove. With Ealy’s vocals it almost has a Curtis Mayfield meets Fishbone skank to it. “Hillside Terrace” seems to float along like a cross between Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” and an island breeze – more palm trees and sunshine than London fog and gray skies. “Bright Eyes” has a ska back beat and Allman Brothers swing, while “One More Time” has a big old classic rock vibe.
I think “Ska”funkae would be a more accurate name for these whippersnappers. They have more in common with the likes of Fishbone and The Specials than guys like Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. If they add a horn section, these guys would be cookin’ for sure. With the oldest cat at a barely graduated 20 years old, I can’t imagine what Jafunkae will sound like in a couple years, with a little bit of life’s grit under their fingernails.