Folk singer Jeremy Loops talks about his tunes, and what not learning music taught him

Jeremy Loops, “modern folk artist” from Cape Town, South Africa, harbours traits of “unconventionality” and “loopholes” to leave an indelible mark on world music. The 29-year-old musician, along with his gang of collaborators — rapper Motheo Moleko and saxophonist Jamie Faull — jammed at Blu Frog in the Capital on their maiden visit to India recently.

Talking about the viability of folk music, Loops said, “I feel that in the last few years there’s been a real rise in folk/roots music. Mumford and Sons have gained huge popularity and that was something I never thought was possible. I was making music like this for a long time but it was never something I felt was commercially viable.”

Following the tradition of legends like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, whose music was often inseparable from social commentary, Loops also attempts to incorporate social realities in his work. “In my head I think I write folk music because I write things that I see around me, I have views on society and I feel like I need to put them out there,” he said. Loops is also one of the directors of Greenpop, an organisation that aims at planting trees to bridge social, economic and environmental divides. This, he said, is a part of his psychology now.

Loops’ music is marked by border crossings and genre hopping, looping styles like, hip-hop, gypsy-jazz, up-tempo music and collaborating with a varied range of sounds, from a Celtic taught violinist to trained tabla player. “I wasn’t musically trained growing up. I don’t know how to read music and I don’t care to know how to read music, because I feel that the fact that I have none of that knowledge has allowed me to do things my way, and as long as people like it I will continue probably to have no boundaries because I don’t know what my boundaries should be,” he said.

Loops owes his knowledge of music and interest in folk sounds to his travels across the world, more specifically to his sailing and yachting, undertaken after finishing school and university, covering 20 countries over two years. In this sojourn an integral role was played by the loop pedal.

Contrary to what most believe, however, why he calls himself Jeremy Loops is not because of the loop pedal, but because of a nickname he earned in the University – “Loophole”. He was notorious for exploiting loopholes in “the system” and getting better results.

Drawing images from Shantaram, Loops recalled his initial reaction to the sights and sounds of India. “Seeing a man on a motorbike with two ladies wearing saris on the back, looking so neat, while he’s driving like a maniac. Here it’s madness but it’s making sense at the same time.” He signed off by laughingly noting, “I feel like there are a lot of loopholes here probably.”