Tag Archives: Flaming Lips


October 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

We’re literally like clones,” says Gabriel Burkum, describing what it is like to be in a band with his twin brother, Graham. The 29-year-old, Council Bluffs-born twins are the musical duo behind JAGAJA (pronounced jag-uhh-jaw).

Their sound breaks away from what many expect from the Omaha scene. Dense guitar riffs, played by Graham, cascade over layers of rhythm, melody, and reverb. Then comes Gabriel with the bass line. Mixed with instruments and vocals, the brothers blend modern pop with tinges of psychedelia. Gabriel described it as if early 2000s Flaming Lips were recording in New York with the Strokes. In their terms, they’re happy to be from the Omaha area, but they claim to be an “American band” and try their best to take “all our influences and make them ours.”

jagaja2They started playing together in a band called Skypiper, their first official band (from 2007 to 2015). “Skypiper was more folky, or adult contemporary,” recalls Gabriel. It began as an acoustic project, but became more elaborate once they hit the studio. When Skypiper called it quits last year, Graham and Gabriel trudged on and formed JAGAJA. They are the only official members of JAGAJA with an ever-changing lineup of drums, synthesizers, and other instruments that they add into the mix. “It has to be just me and Graham,” says Gabriel. Graham plays guitar, Gabriel plays bass, and they share vocal duties. They try to keep JAGAJA small and between the two of them because “we want to make the record we want.”

“The best part about being in a band with your twin brother is you can (want to) kill them, but like 10 minutes later you’re still twin brothers and can get back to business,” Gabriel says. Their close work relationship is assisted by time apart. The brothers write songs separately and collaborate later. “Half of the album was written by me, and the other half was written by Graham,” says Gabriel. When it comes to process, Graham says, “Maybe I’ll have a hook, and we’ll build on that…We like hooks.”

They have been steadily touring and hope to play an Omaha homecoming show in December. Graham says, “When we play a show, we want it to be an event.”

The band self-released their first, self-titled album in June, which is available on streaming services and at many record stores in Omaha.

Visit jagajamusic.com for more information.



Maha Music Festival 2013

June 20, 2013 by

It’s hard to believe the Maha Music Festival will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year. First held in 2009 at the Lewis & Clark Landing in Downtown Omaha, the all-day outdoor indie rock festival moved to Stinson Park at Aksarben Village in 2011, where it remains today. Each year, the event expands and evolves into a bigger musical machine than it was the year before.

Even more surprisingly, Maha is a nonprofit endeavor, run strictly by volunteers and supported by a host of generous corporate sponsors, including Centris Federal Credit Union, Weitz Investment Management, Schnackel Engineers, and 20 other local and national companies. The event is built on a love for the Omaha community and a passion for music. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy feat. Maha Board President Tre Brashear admits he didn’t exactly know what he was getting into when it first began.

Photo by Chip Duden.

Photo by Chip Duden.

“I jokingly say if we knew how much work [Maha] was going to be, we probably would have never done it in the first place,” Brashear says. “But once it gets in your blood a little bit, you want to make it better and better so it keeps going. It was hard to explain to our families that we weren’t making any money [laughs].”

This year’s music lineup announcement sent shockwaves through the Omaha community when people got word The Flaming Lips were headlining the August 17 event. Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne and his wild, gray-streaked Afro are all over television lately, with Coyne serving as the spokesperson for Virgin Mobile. Not only are The Flaming Lips huge right now, they’re also the most expensive act Maha has ever booked. The organizers spent 25 percent more on talent this year than last, Brashear shares.

Photo by Josh Hollowell.

Photo by Josh Hollowell.

The initial Maha concept was to generate enough profit from the event to donate to various nonprofit organizations around the community; so far, that hasn’t happened. But the Maha committee is determined to make that goal a reality. With The Flaming Lips headlining and prolific artists such as Matt & Kim, The Thermals, and Bob Mould (Sugar) rounding out the bill, Brashear is hopeful this is the year.

“We thought we’d come out gangbusters out of the gate, but we didn’t do that,” he says. “We’re trying to get enough money to put aside so we know Maha is safe and will continue on, even if it rains or nobody likes the headliners. We are slowly getting there, but it’s not to the point we can distribute anything [to nonprofits] yet.”

Despite the challenges, Maha always has an eye on the future. Hip-Hop has been noticeably absent over the years, and the festival also seems a bit confined with just one day of performances.

“Our vision for Maha is to have multiple days on a weekend,” Brashear explains. “We want to be able to expand to different genres. We still want to be true to all of our indie fans that have grown up with us, but we’re not trying to only be this indie music festival. We want to go beyond that.”

Tickets for the Maha Music Festival are available for purchase online at mahamusicfestival.com. Advanced general admission tickets are $45, and day-of general admission tickets are $55.