Xavier Rudd finds new sunshine



By Steve Newton

In the booklet that accompanies Xavier Rudd’s new CD, Koonyum Sun, there’s a picture of the Aussie roots artist in concert at an outdoor venue in Banff. He’s laying down some lap-slide guitar while his young sons Joaquin and Finojet bust moves across the stage floor. They seem to be about as happy as two kids on the road with their dad could be, but as Rudd explains on the line from his home in Bells Beach, Australia, the breakup of his 10-year marriage put all three of them through the emotional wringer.

“We had a pretty rough year last year,” he reveals. “Our family sort of fell apart, and the boys and I at that time were a bit confused. We covered some ground that we didn’t expect to cover and sort of came out the other side, and the music I think reflects on all that.”

Koonyum Sun takes its name from the Koonyum Range on Australia’s east coast, where Rudd and his sons were living while he made the album. The setting was very specific to the hypnotic, tribal-sounding title track, in which nine-year-old Joaquin steps out as an improvisational lyricist with the cutely sung line: “If you could see exactly what I could see, it would be a great mystery.”

“We were sitting by the fire and the sun was goin’ down,” Rudd recalls, “the crickets or cicadas were alive, everything was happening—the land was very strong—and I was playing the riff from ”˜Koonyum Sun’. It wasn’t anything yet—it was just a guitar riff—and I was just playing it over and over and he started singing that line to what I was playing. Then I wrote my lyrics around that whole situation.”

In the aforementioned photo from Banff, you can also see Tio Moloantoa grinning joyfully as he vigorously thumb-slaps his bass, no doubt bringing the South African bounce that got the kids moving in the first place. He joined the lineup—now known as Xavier Rudd & Izintaba—last year, along with drummer-percussionist Andile Nqubezelo, his former partner in the rhythm section of murdered reggae icon Lucky Dube.

“It’s definitely brought in new sunshine,” Rudd reckons of the recruitment. “They came at a hard time for me, and it was just like a gift from the universe. We formed this massive friendship, and on top of everything else we formed this amazing musical connection. They provide this incredible African groove to sit with, you know; it’s like I’m just in awe of what they do. I gotta pinch myself regularly.”

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