Jamiroquai (// ( listen)) are a British funk and jazz band from London, formed in 1991. Fronted by singer-songwriter Jay Kay, the band's best-known line-up was additionally composed of 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. They debuted as an acid-jazz band and have since explored other musical directions such as pop, rock, disco and electronica.
The group rose to international fame in the 1990s as one of the most prominent components in the London-based funk/acid jazz movement. Their 1996 album Travelling Without Moving, had entered the Guinness World Records as the best-selling funk album in history. Jamiroquai has thus sold more than 26 million albums worldwide. 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 " Outstanding Song Collection", as well as 13 Brit Award nominations during the course of their career.
After a failed audition to become a singer of the Brand New Heavies, songwriter Jason "Jay" Kay formed Jamiroquai alongside co-songwriter and keyboardist Toby Smith, Stuart Zender on bass guitar, didgeridoo player Wallis Buchanan and drummer Nick van Gelder, who left shortly after the group's first album. Being the front-man, Kay is occasionally referred to as 'Jamiroquai', due to misconception by some 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, the group were offered multiple major-label contracts and settled for a US$1 million record deal with Sony Soho2. Emergency on Planet Earth, was released in 1993 and reached the UK albums chart at number 1. The album's second single, "Too Young to Die" entered the UK singles chart at number 10.
The Return of the Space Cowboy followed in 1994. The single "Space Cowboy", is the group's first number 1 in the US Dance Chart; while "Stillness in Time" was another UK top ten hit, peaking at number 9. The non single tracks "Manifest Destiny" and "Morning Glory" were sampled by 2Pac and Missy Elliot respectively.
With Jamiroquai growing in popularity in Europe and Japan, their American breakthrough came with the 1996 album, Travelling Without Moving. It reached number 24 in the US Billboard 200, and number 2 in the UK albums chart. The album yielded two big hits: "Virtual Insanity" and "Cosmic Girl". The success of the former song was due in part of its music video and remains a popular track. It sold 356,000 copies and is streamed 4.5 million times as of 2014. The song was also number 1 in Italy. "Cosmic Girl" peaked at number 6 and remained in the chart for 12 weeks.
A 1998 single titled, "Deeper Underground" was issued and was listed in the Godzilla soundtrack. "Canned Heat" (1999) was their second number 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. Bassist Stuart Zender left Jamiroquai during the production of the album, and was replaced by Nick Fyffe to record new sessions. The success of Synkronized in the US was limited due to non-music press coverage, including Kay assaulting a tabloid photographer.