Jamiroquai (/əˈmɪrkw/ (About this sound listen)) are a British funk and jazz band from London, formed in 1992 by singer-songwriter Jay Kay. The band's best-known line-up were composed of Kay, co-songwriter Toby Smith (keyboard), Stuart Zender (bass), Derrick McKenzie (drums) and Wallis Buchanan (vibraphone/didgeridoo). The group has changed its line-up several times; with McKenzie and Sola Akingbola (percussion), who both joined in 1994, still in the official line-up.

Jamiroquai Automaton Performance 2017.jpg
Jamiroquai performing in London (2017)
Background information
OriginLondon, England
Years active1992–present
Associated acts
Past membersSee former members

The band were one of the most prominent components in the London-based funk/acid jazz movement in the 1990s; since then, subsequent albums have explored other musical directions such as pop, rock, disco and electronica. Their best-known track, particularly for its music video, is "Virtual Insanity", which won four MTV Video Music Awards and a Grammy. Front-man Kay won a BMI Presidents Award, "in recognition of his profound influence on songwriting within the music industry;" and with the band, also won an Ivor Novello Award for "[an] Outstanding Song Collection", as well as 13 Brit Award nominations during the course of their career. Jamiroquai has sold more than 26 million albums worldwide, with their 1996 album Travelling Without Moving entering the Guinness World Records as the best-selling funk album in history.



1992–1999: Formation and breakthrough

The band's "Buffalo Man" logo by James Marsh, taken from their Emergency on Planet Earth cover art

Singer-songwriter Jason "Jay" Kay formed Jamiroquai after he was rejected from an audition to become a singer of the Brand New Heavies. The band's name is an interlock of the words, "jam" and "iroquai", the latter is based on the Iroquois, a Native American tribe. Being the front-man, Kay is occasionally referred to as 'Jamiroquai', due to misconception that the band is a solo artist.

Kay's home demos were noticed by Acid Jazz Records, and under that label, Jamiroquai's first single "When You Gonna Learn", was released in 1992. Following its success, Kay signed an eight-album record deal with Sony Music Entertainment. The band's first studio album, Emergency on Planet Earth, was released in 1993 and reached the UK albums chart at no. 1. With the album, they "turn out gritty organic grooves with enthusiasm," in the opinion of Marisa Fox of Entertainment Weekly, with BBC Music additionally saying that it was a "[...]funk mezze of trumpets, saxophones, didgeridoos and flutes..." Another single from the album titled, "Too Young to Die" entered the UK singles chart at no. 10.

It was followed by The Return of the Space Cowboy, released in 1994. Rolling Stone commented that "Jamiroquai parlay jazzy soul pop so tight it crackles... when most funk comes out of cans, [their] live spark glows." John Bush of AllMusic would also say that they "refused to be known as simply a party band; the group takes on social issues such as homelessness and Native Americans' rights." Its single "Space Cowboy" entered no.1 in the US Dance Chart. At this point, the band were composed of their best-known lineup; Kay, co-songwriter and keyboardist Toby Smith, bassist Stuart Zender, drummer Derrick McKenzie, and vibraphonist Wallis Buchanan.

With Jamiroquai growing in popularity in Europe and Japan, their American breakthrough came with the 1996 album, Travelling Without Moving. It peaked at no. 24 in the US Billboard 200, and no. 2 in the UK albums chart; it entered the Guinness World Records as the best-selling funk album in history. A review from Q magazine stated that the album is "tighter and more compact in its production than[...] The Return of the Space Cowboy;" while music journalist Stephen Thomas Erlewine commented that it "doesn't have the uniform consistency of its predecessor. [But their] fusions sound more fully realized with each outing..." Two big selling singles from the album were released: "Virtual Insanity" and "Cosmic Girl". The latter single is a disco song; which became an apparent theme to their later work. The success of "Virtual Insanity" was due in part to its music video which won a MTV Video Music Award for video of the year. The song also reached no. 1 in Italy.

A 1998 single titled, "Deeper Underground" was issued and was listed in the Godzilla soundtrack. The 1999 single "Canned Heat" was their second no. 1 in the U.S. Dance Chart, and was also included in the soundtrack for the 2004 cult film Napoleon Dynamite. Their fourth studio album, Synkronized was released in 1999. Rolling Stone stated that it is, "a party album delivered with something like conviction..." Spin Magazine also mentioned it "...redirects the band's British tendency toward smoothed-out old black jams....soaring strings, gyrating congas, hell-bent wah-wah's, and an undeniably live rhythm section..." Bassist Stuart Zender left Jamiroquai during the production of the album, and was replaced by Nick Fyffe to record new sessions. At that time, Synkronized would be finished and released within six months. The album's success in the US was limited due to non-music press coverage, including Kay assaulting a tabloid photographer.

2001–2011: Release from Sony Music

Jamiroquai performing in London (2006)

Their follow-up, A Funk Odyssey was released in September 2001. Slant Magazine commented that, "like its predecessors, [the album] mixes self-samplage with Jamiroquai’s now-signature robo-funk." Both the album and its single "Little L" were in Top 100 charts worldwide. Co-songwriter and keyboardist Toby Smith left the band in 2002.

Their next single, "Feels Just Like It Should", was released in June 2005, and the band's sixth album titled Dynamite, was released in the same month. Music Journalist Matt Collar commented that Kay "makes the most of his experimentation[...]" with Dynamite. It reached no. 3 on the UK chart. Two singles were later issued from the album, "Seven Days in Sunny June", and "(Don't) Give Hate a Chance". The former was featured in the soundtrack for The Devil Wears Prada.

In March 2006, Jamiroquai announced their switch to Columbia Records. A greatest hits collection, High Times: Singles 1992–2006, was released in November and marked the end of Kay's contract with Sony. He stated that the compilation was issued out of contractual obligation. The album reached no. 1 in the UK album chart after its first week of release, and is certified triple platinum by the BPI. Its exclusive track "Runaway", was first released as a single in October. In February 2007, Jamiroquai performed in Gig in the Sky, in association with Sony Ericsson. They formerly held the Guinness World Record for the highest ever concert performed on aircraft.

In September 2010, Kay was featured on The Chris Moyles Show, and the song "White Knuckle Ride" was played on air live for the first time; which would be on their seventh album, Rock Dust Light Star, released in November 2010 under Mercury Records. Music journalist Matt Collar said that the band were "heading back to its rock and organic soul roots," and journalist Thomas H. Green called the album "a more organically recorded set of songs that practically glow with sunny brass and Californian Seventies funk rock flavours." In June 2011, the band released a track called "Smile" for free download via their SoundCloud page.

2017–present: Automaton

On 16 January 2017, Jamiroquai released an online short teaser video from their eighth studio album Automaton, scheduled for a March release. In the following week, the album's eponymous single was issued, followed up by "Cloud 9" in February. an Exclaim! review of the album stated that the band "carefully balance[s] their signature sound with[...] EDM [...] and trap sounds." In May, Kay seriously injured his spine, requiring surgery; it led to cancellation of several dates for their Automaton Tour; which continued in July. In January 2018, a song titled, "Now We Are Alone", originally an out-take from Automaton was made available for streaming via the band's official YouTube page, and is the first in a series of upcoming bonus tracks.


Jamiroquai were initially the most prominent component in the London-based funk/acid jazz movement, alongside groups such as Incognito, the James Taylor Quartet, and the Brand New Heavies. Their music is described by journalist Greg Prato as a "blend of house rhythms and '70s-era soul/funk" which has led to comparisons with Stevie Wonder, including Kay's vocals. A 2003 compilation titled Late Night Tales: Jamiroquai under Azuli Records, contains a selection of the band's soul, funk and disco influences; including tracks from The Pointer Sisters, The Commodores, and Johnny "Hammond" Smith. With Jamiroquai initially incorporating acid-jazz in their 1993 album Emergency on Planet Earth, the 1996 single, "Cosmic Girl" showcased the band's increasing disco influence into their later work.

Front-man Jay Kay is known for his elaborate headdresses.

Their lyrical themes occasionally discuss Kay's concerns such as homelessness and Native American rights. The song "Dr. Buzz" from the 2017 album Automaton is about racial inequality and gun violence in America, and "Nights Out in the Jungle" references Kay's own struggles with excess and addiction. He described the inspiration for the 2017 single "Automaton": "in recognition of the rise of artificial intelligence and technology in our world... and how we as humans are beginning to forget the more pleasant[...] things in life..." However, Kay at one point was lambasted by press for hypocrisy. The lyrics from the 1992 single "When You Gonna Learn", contained themes of environmental concern; and by the time the 1996 album Travelling Without Moving was released, he developed a passion for sports cars. He eventually responded, "[People] keep talking to me about cars and environment, and I reckon I do about 3,000 miles a year." with an additional statement that he "[doesn't] really drive that much at all any more, because I'm either on tour or doing stuff."

Visually, the group are known for their music video of "Virtual Insanity", directed by Jonathan Glazer. In the video, Kay: "performed in a room where the floors, walls and furniture all moved simultaneously." The music video won four MTV Video Music Awards, including "Breakthrough Video" and the "Best Video of the Year." Jamiroquai are also noted for Kay's array of elaborate headgear, prompting descriptions of Kay as "the mad hatter". Additionally, Kay has worn indigenous themed headgear, which was met with criticism from the Indian Country Media Network, commenting that he had worn sacred regalia of the First Nations.



Awards and Nominations

BMI Awards

2017Jay KayBMI Presidents AwardWon

Brit Awards

1994ThemselvesBest British BreakthroughNominated
Best British GroupNominated
Best British Dance ActNominated
Emergency on Planet EarthMasterCard British AlbumNominated
1995"Space Cowboy"Best British VideoNominated
1997"Virtual Insanity"Nominated
ThemselvesBest British Dance ActNominated
"Deeper Underground"Best British VideoNominated
2000ThemselvesBest British Dance ActNominated
2002Best British GroupNominated
2003Best British Dance ActNominated

Grammy Award

1997Virtual InsanityBest Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With VocalWon

International Dance Music Award

2007"Runaway"Best Breaks / Electro TrackNominated

Ivor Novello Award

1999ThemselvesOutstanding Song CollectionWon

MOBO Award

1997Travelling Without MovingBest AlbumWon

MTV Europe Music Awards

1996ThemselvesMTV SelectNominated
1999Best GroupNominated
Best DanceNominated

MTV Video Music Awards (with an additional two wins and four nominations for staff)

1997Virtual InsanityVideo of the YearWon
Best New ArtistNominated
Breakthrough VideoWon
Best Choreography(Choreographers: Jason Kay)Nominated
International Viewer's Choice Award for MTV EuropeNominated

MVPA Awards

2006"Feels Just Like It Should"Best Director of a Male ArtistWon
Best Pop VideoNominated
"Don't Give Hate a Chance"Best International VideoNominated
Best Animated VideoNominated


  • Emergency on Planet Earth Tour (1993)
  • The Return of the Space Cowboy Tour (1994–1995)
  • Travelling Without Moving Tour (1996–1997)
  • Synkronized Tour (1999)
  • A Funk Odyssey Tour (2001–2002)
  • The Midnight Sun Tour (2003)
  • Dynamite Tour (2005–2006)
  • High Times Singles Tour (2006–2009)
  • Rock Dust Light Star Tour (2010–2014)
  • Automaton Tour (2017–)

See also