Toronto electronic-soul duo DATU are making some seriously strong music with a message.
Their debut album, High Blood (out July 25), blends electronic, hip-hop, pop, R&B, rock and soul into memorable, heart-stirring tunes informed in part by their Filipino heritage. Vocals soar, gongs and kulintangs pepper the songs, and the production has a calm but energized quality that leaves you wanting to cut a mellow groove on a nearby dance floor.
“Filipinx Futurism,” they’ve been known to call it.
Made up of Alexander Junior and Romeo Candido, the two-piece has spent the last couple of years releasing singles and collaborating with Filipinx musicians like Han Han (she takes the lead vocals on seventh song World Gong Crazy), Victoria Marie and Casey Garcia, all of whom have new music coming soon.
But High Blood focuses the spotlight on them, and the longer running time allows them to say so much more than they’ve been able to via three-minute singles.
“In this singles-driven age, we wanted to craft something a bit longer that told more of a story,” Candido tells NOW. “The idea of High Blood calls up a couple of important things for us: As diasporic artists, we have a responsibility to reference where we come from, and in our instrumentation there are definitely intentional references to our traditional music.
“But, to take a page out of Afrofuturism, we’re also imagining what our cultural traditions look like moving into the future, which is why we discuss the idea of Filipinx Futurism so much with our work. With High Blood, we are imagining our people at a crossroads between the past and future.”
Junior and Candido tackle big issues head on: “the search for God, love, acceptance, history and to be freed of the curses that burden us,” Candido says.
“Apart from the ties to royalty, the album name references ailments in our community like hypertension and high blood pressure. [It] also refers to the pressures we feel as a people, with the turmoil in our homeland, and the general anxieties we feel in trying to find our place in the world.”
They recorded High Blood over the last two years in a studio near Bloor and Parliament with friends and collaborators Gavin Whelehan and Rudy Boquilla.
“It’s where so many Filipino immigrants have started the Canadian part of their journey,” says Junior. “It was such an important time in our recording process, as we definitely felt the legacy of the Filipino experience there, especially when we were eating from the turo-turo – which means ‘point point,’ a Filipino style of ordering food – stores there.
“We’ve also been based out of Kensington Market, where we have a studio located in the back room of the Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture, which has served as a hub for young Filipinx artists for the last 10 years. The centre has since moved to a new location, but we’ve stayed there, still feeding off of the energy from that space that feels both familiar and new at the same time.”
Aside from their appearances at Camp Wavelength on August 18 (a collab with dance troupe HATAW at the Garrison) and Yonge-Dundas Square on September 11, they’ve also got a song (Gatekeeper from High Blood) in a forthcoming Zara campaign, more collabs with Han Han, Victoria Marie, Casey Garcia and emerging gospel singer Dylan St. Clair, and a forthcoming documentary about Han Han, which they’re producing, directing and soundtracking.
Listen to High Blood here:
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