Savanna came together in 1979, a group of musicians who’d met whilst hanging out at a local roller skating club and various clubs such as The Royalty, Crackers and Zero 6…

Inspired by bands like FBI, Light Of The World, Hi-Tension and Heatwave, the band consisted of bassist Sammy Jacobs, Orphy Robinson vibes/keyboards/trumpet and drummer Jeffrey Durrant.

The three friends had previously played together in another local band that later went to become Second Image. With the final addition of guitarist Leroy Osbourne they became a quartet and began writing and rehearsing together, doing a few local shows and trying out material before starting to establish their sound and style.

Their first demo was picked up by local DJ Michael Thompson who arranged for the band to work with a local production team led by local music impresario Joe Williams, (Light Of The World, David Grant & Incognito).  Initially, Savanna played in a more jazz funk instrumental style with the dominant use of the vibraphone as a lead sound but Leroy brought other ideas and options into the mix, revealing a voice influenced by such vocal giants as Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke.

Their next demo recorded, Savanna were offered a recording deal from famed 1980’s independent label, R&B Records, who’d just achieved national chart success with Imagination.

The first single ‘I Can’t Turn Away’ was recorded with a top notch horn section which included Claude Deppa, Ray Carless and Mark Bassie, as well as LOTW’s Peter Hinds on keys and Mel Gaynor, a school friend of Leroy’s who eventually became drummer for rock group Simple Minds. The single achieved No.1 in several dance music charts internationally and achieved a high chart position in the UK National chart.

Their follow up ‘Never Let You Go’ went straight to the top of the dance music charts and attained another high national UK chart position. However following significant changes at the record label, the band parted company soon after and they finally disbanded in 1983.

Orphy continued to work on the busy session circuit recording with many artists including Total Contrast, Hudson Brothers, Working Week and Mica Paris until finally changing to a more jazz orientated path. Sammy and Jeffrey put together a new band named LW5, releasing an album for Virgin Records and supporting heavyweight acts like The Commodores and Frankie Beverley & Maze during the mid-1980’s.

Fast forward to June 2010, and with fellow funkateers Atmosfear on the same bill, Savanna reform to play a much anticipated comeback gig with Orphy and Sammy in the line up plus the new additions of Richard Anthony Davis and Chantelle Nandi (vocals), Jessica Lauren (keys), Michael Antoniou (guitar), Renel Shaw (bass) and Kaz Rodriguez (drums).

More recently founder member Orphy has created a new band from many of these musicians called Nu Savanna, which mixes his own eclectic jazz influences, with a large slice of his funkier side. Those of us there on that sunny afternoon back in 2010, bore witness to something special and a little bit of UK musical history being made at Summer Soulstice.

Savanna in 2010. Left to right: Jeffrey Durrant, Sammy Jacobs, Richard Anthony Davis, Orphy Robinson

Orphy Robinson & Nu Savanna on Facebook

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