From the earliest years of his life Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick was literally surrounded by music. Born in the late 1950s on the small island of Mauritius (off the coast of Madagascar), Maunick was the son of Edouard Maunick, a distinguished African poet and writer, who was his country's ambassador to South Africa after Nelson Mandela became president. Young Jean-Paul - nicknamed Bluey at an early age - immediately gravitated to a different kind of lyric and verse. He spent the first decade of his life listening to the various folk bands that played around the bonfires and cookouts that sprang up on the nearby beaches.
He writes: "Being a teenager in 1970's London, you could not escape the music. It was all around you. Every pub had live music and there were several record shops on every main road. Basements and garages doubled up as rehearsal rooms for eclectic musicians and energetic teenagers getting their kicks playing Rock & Roll, Reggae, Ska, Folk, Jazz, Funk and Soul music, all preparing to take on the world! There was a buzz in every record store. People searching through the crates to catch up on the latest offerings from across the pond. I'd be looking for the names... Harvey Mason, Steve Gadd, Ralph McDonald... "Hey heard the new one from Rufus & Chaka Khan?" In another corner funky folks would be boogying down to BT Express and Eddie Russ beneath huge sets of headphones and exploding afros! Long haired students with patches on their jeans trawling through the Prog Rock section. That was the scene and I was hooked, line and sinker... those vinyls transported across the Atlantic had me buzzing like a junky looking for his next hit!"
His family moved to London when he was only ten, and by then, the music had made its way under his skin. By the early '70s, Bluey sought out every available opportunity to check out U.S. bands touring in the UK, like Earth Wind & Fire, Weather Report, Kool and the Gang, Tower of Power and the Doobie Brothers - many of whom played at London's legendary Rainbow Theatre, which he still considers "the best music venue ever." In addition, he hung out with bands from the UK's emerging jazz funk scene, like Gonzalez, FBI, Kokomo, Hi Tension and the Average White Band. He would often help them load in their equipment, then stay outside for the duration of their shows because he was underage and penniless.
Bluey and Paul "Tubbs" Williams formed a disco-funk group in the 1970s known as Light of the World, a disco-funk group that scored a few moderate UK hits, including a cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff." After three LPs, Bluey and Williams made a few personnel changes and renamed the band Incognito.
The band released Jazz Funk in 1981, but was generally inactive for the remainder of the decade. In that time, however, Bluey continued to write for the group, while at the same time writing and producing for a variety of other artists, including George Benson, Philip Bailey, Maxi Priest and Brenda Russell. During this time, Williams left the project, and Bluey became the sole driving force behind Incognito.
Ten years after Jazz Funk, Incognito released the long-awaited Inside Life, a 1991 album that spawned the single, "Always There," which became a top ten hit in Britain's burgeoning acid jazz scene, thanks in large part to the song's vocal track by Jocelyn Brown. Inside Life boasted a large cast that included some of the best funk players in England at the time.
Since then, the band has released a consistent string of high-quality recordings, beginning with Tribes Vibes & Scribes, a 1992 album that marked the first appearance of American vocalist Maysa Leaks in the lineup. Maysa would reappear on several Incognito albums for the remainder of the '90s and beyond. Along the way, they've generated numerous hit singles on either side of the Atlantic, most notably "Always There" and a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing."
More than just a band in the traditional sense, Incognito is an ever-changing collective of musicians hand-picked by Bluey from a worldwide pool to capture whatever vibe he is seeking on any given project. The result is a dynamic musical entity that spans a vast range of styles and cultures. He claims to have used more than 1,000 different musicians and vocalists during the band's 30-year career, with lineups varying in size from eight pieces to fourteen to even larger configurations.
Given this approach, Bluey is the leader of what is probably the most multicultural band in Britain, with current and past members hailing from all corners: Mauritius, England, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, India, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Jamaica, Grenada, St Lucia, Barbados, Israel, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, China, Australia, New Zealand, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Ghana, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Russia, Poland, Portugal and Belgium.
Many of the current key members, however, have been in place for several years, including drummer Richard Bailey, bassist Francis Hylton and keyboard player Matt Cooper. Vocalists Tony Momrelle, Joy Rose and Imaani have also been regulars for the past four years.
Since January 2007 alone, they have performed in more than 25 countries - in some cases taking the roads less travelled. In addition to playing almost all the European countries, the U.S. and Japan, Incognito has played in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Mauritius and Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The Mauritius concert was Bluey's first time performing on the island since leaving for London at age 10.