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Background information
OriginLondon, England
GenresPost-disco,[1] funk, jazz-funk, R&B,[2] smooth jazz, jazz fusion
Years active1980–present
LabelsPolydor Records, Secret Records
MembersJill Saward
Bill Sharpe
Roger Odell
George Anderson
Past membersKeith Winter
Jackie Rawe
Nigel Wright
Steve Underwood
Norma Lewis
Friðrik Karlsson
Shakatak performing at Knebworth Park as part of the Capital Radio Jazz Festival, 1982.
Shakatak performing at Wuppertal, Germany, 2014

Shakatak is an English jazz-funk band founded in 1980[3] by Bill Sharpe, Nigel Wright, Roger Odell and Keith Winter. Following an initial white label release, "Steppin", the band's name was derived from a record store in Soho, London Record Shack with the name created by Les McCutcheon, Passion records label owner and Northern Soul DJ Kev Roberts, It was they who first showed interest in the initial single.

Shakatak scored a number of chart entries, including two Top 10 hits in the UK Singles Chart, "Night Birds" (1982) and "Down on the Street" (1984), plus a further 12 entries in the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles.[4] The group is still active and popular throughout the world, particularly in Japan and the Far East, and generally produce a new album every two years on JVC Records.

From their first release in August 1980 (the Bill Sharpe composition "Steppin'" on the Polydor record label), and their first 1981 album, Drivin' Hard, the band's singles and albums have entered the charts regularly.


It was the release of the 1981 single "Easier Said Than Done" that gave the band the radio exposure needed for their first top-twenty hit.[3] This record introduced their instrumental-unison vocal sound[clarification needed] to a much wider audience, and the track stayed in the UK Singles Chart for seventeen weeks. The follow-up, "Night Birds" (1982), was their first single to reach the top ten and it also peaked in Australia at number 92.[5] The album of the same name gave Shakatak their first gold album, entering at number four and remaining in the charts for twenty-eight weeks.[4] By now a major international act, the success of the release gave them the number-one jazz album slot in Japan, and attracted interest across Europe and South America. "Night Birds" was used in the 2009 feature film Away We Go, directed by Sam Mendes, and was used as the demonstration song on many Casio piano keyboards such as the Casio CT-460.

Two more albums – Invitations and Out of This World – were recorded in 1982 and 1983, resulting in several more chart hits, and paving the way for the next major breakthrough in the band's career. With a subtle change in musical direction, yet still retaining the band's identity, Jill Saward (formerly of Fusion Orchestra, Brandy and Citizen Gang) became their sole lead singer to make Shakatak's fifth album, Down on the Street (1984). The resulting single releases "Down on the Street" and "Watching You" had great success, and brought them attention in new parts of the world. The following year saw the release of the group's second live album, Live! (1985), which was recorded in both Tokyo and London.

In 1988, Shakatak were commissioned to write the official song for the 1988 Kenwood Cup yacht race entitled "Racing with the Wind" which was used in Japanese Kenwood advertisements and was released on an album called Da Makani (1988) exclusively released in Japan.

However, following this success the band felt it was time that they re-directed their efforts back to singles and an album for release to the rest of the world. The result was "Something Special" (1987), closely followed by the night club and chart hit "Mr Manic & Sister Cool" from their next LP, Manic & Cool (1988).

In the 1990s, the band achieved success in the US when two of their albums went to No 1 in the contemporary jazz charts and were also awarded the Japanese Grammy for best international instrumental album six years running.

Shakatak continue to appear regularly throughout the world with recent festival performances at Jakjazz, the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival, Bangkok Jazz Festival, Hua Hin Jazz Festival and the Bratislava Jazz Days. They make annual appearances at the Billboard Clubs in Japan, and the Pizza Express Jazz Room in London, plus numerous other concert and club performances.

The band celebrated their thirtieth anniversary year in 2010.

Bassist George Anderson released his second solo album, Expressions, on 3 September 2012 through Secret Records. Coming three years after his first 2009 album Positivity, this album again had Anderson writing, arranging and producing all of the tracks.

Keyboardist Bill Sharpe worked with American jazz pianist Don Grusin on a joint project called Geography released in 2007. Sharpe's second collaboration with Grusin, Trans Atlantica, was released on 3 September 2012. It was also issued through Secret Records, and included Geography as a special 2-CD package.

Drummer Roger Odell has released three albums with his band Roger Odell's Beatifik: The Blue Window (2000, Passion Jazz), Intrigue (15 November 2015, Secret Records) and The Long Drive Home (2019, Secret Records as Beatifik). These albums feature Jacqui Hicks (lead vocals), saxophonist Mornington Lockett as well as Roger's wife Larraine Odell (vocals) and son Jamie Odell a.k.a. Jimpster (keyboards, vocals, producer).

To celebrate their fortieth anniversary year in 2020, the 3-CD and DVD box set All Around The World 40th Anniversary was released through Secret Records.


Current members
  • Jill Saward – vocals, percussion, flute (1980–present)[6]
  • Bill Sharpe – keyboards (1980–present)[7]
  • Roger Odell – drums (1980–present)[8][9]
  • George Anderson – bass (1981–present)[10]
Touring musicians
  • Jacqui Hicks – backing vocals, sax & flute
  • Debby Bracknell – backing vocals, flute
  • Malcolm MacFarlane – guitar
Former members
  • Keith Winter – electric guitar (1980–1989) has returned in 2023 and currently touring with the band.
  • Jackie Rawe – vocals (1980–1983)[11]
  • Nigel Wright – keyboards (1980–1982)
  • Steve Underwood – bass guitar (1980–1981)
  • Tracy Ackerman – vocals (1980s–1990s)
  • Lorna Bannon – vocals (1982)
  • Norma Lewis – vocals (1983)
  • Friðrik Karlsson – electric guitar (1990s–2000s)[12]
  • Alan Wormald – guitar (1995-2023)

In studio[edit]



  1. ^ Shapiro, Peter (1999). Drum 'n' Bass: The Rough Guide – Jimpster: "Odell [Jamie] combines Down Tempo and sorta-Junglist rhythms with flutes and jazzy atmospheres in the same way his father's band [Roger Odell, Shakatak] combined post-disco beats with flutes and jazzy atmospheres." Publisher: Rough Guides, p. 293. ISBN 1-85828-433-3
  2. ^ "Shakatak".
  3. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1073. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  4. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 492. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  5. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 269. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  6. ^ "Jill Saward – 'The Voice of Shakatak' – Jill Saward – Biography 1". 7 February 2011. Archived from the original on 7 February 2011.
  7. ^ "Official Bill Sharpe website". Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  8. ^ "Official Roger Odell website". Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  9. ^ "EE".
  10. ^ "Official George Anderson website". Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  11. ^ "Official Jackie Rawe website". Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  12. ^ "Fridrik Karlsson". Retrieved 14 September 2013.

External links[edit]