Based in London but universal in scope and expression, Hejira are a group that belie much of their own appearance. A band with deeply immersive textures; moonlighting session musicians with a mastery of the subtle and experimental; recipients of effuse critical and creative praise who self-sufficiently record and release their own music.
The group formed over the late 2000’s, having met through performing in big band and jazz ensembles, playing alongside such musicians as Amy Winehouse, Nitin Sawhney, Floating Points and Eric Lau. As the three core members came together to explore the meeting point of their musical skills and interests, a unique magic began to emerge from unassuming jam sessions. Encouraged and inspired by these new energies of songwriting and collaboration, the band set up a home studio in 2010 – The House of Dreams – to self-record their first album Prayer Before Birth and create the short film Litmus Test.
These recordings, and the surrounding creative exploration caught the attention of renowned UK composer / DJ Matthew Herbert, who co-produced their debut album Prayer Before Birth ahead of its release through his label Accidental Records in 2013. The record was rapturously received and praised across press and radio, generating a sizeable spotlight on Hejira as they began to build a spellbound fanbase, touring the UK with Mercury-nominated supergroup The Invisible. The launch show for Prayer Before Birth was held at the Round Chapel in London, featuring an 18-piece ensemble of choir and brass players.
The band responded to this subsequent rise in profile by continuing to consolidate their creative vision: a model of self-sufficiency in which every aspect of their work is deeply collaborative, from composing to mixing to releasing music. In 2013 they self-released a mixtape titled TRAUMTAPE, a collaboration record created with their tour partners Hello Skinny, The Invisible, Maxixe, Anna Lena, =CoN+KwAkE= and Open Souls. The release was the culmination of the band’s regular club night TRAUM that over the years has seen performances from a diverse array of some of London’s finest including Eska, Micachu and the Shapes, Kwabs, Oliver Coates, The Comet is Coming and Tawiah.
The Name Surname EP – released in 2015 by another celebrated supporter Floating Points on his Eglo Records imprint – was their last outside their own label. The band launched Lima Limo Records in 2016, staging a special concert at St Pancras Old Church in London and releasing 7” EP The Lima Limo Ceremony including breakthrough single I Don’t Belong to Anyone. The label was formed following a period of acute personal change and loss in which singer, bass guitar player and co-songwriter Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne’s father passed away, a heartbreak that drew her to a hugely significant pilgrimage to her homeland of Ethiopia in search of stories of her father and a deeper connection with her heritage. The rest of the band joined her in Addis Ababa, and through this journey into an unknown land of ancient cultures, peoples and musics, they began to write the songs that would eventually make up their second LP Thread of Gold.
Informed by, and infused with Ethiopia, Thread of Gold explores loss and grief, but also life and living. The songs were written and recorded across a multitude of locations over a broad span of time, but all contribute to a single wider story. Due for release in 2019 through Lima Limo, the album connects Hejira’s many musical anchor points – articulate songwriting, soulful arrangements, a love of the unpredictable, and a global and highly humanist outlook.
The band comprises Sam Beste, Alex Reeve and Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne, alongside a close circle of additional musicians and collaborators. They have received commissions to compose, arrange and perform original works from the London Sinfonia, BBC’s Nick Luscombe, Spitalfields Music, Help Refugees, the V&A and the British Council.