paul simon – diamonds on the soles (138 afrobeat edit)
fela kuti & ginger baker – let’s start
willie colon – sigue feliz
nkengas – jungle funk
pat thomas jwashibu area band – gyae su
noro morales – saona
tito rodriguez – descarga cachao
earth wind & fire – evil
ray barretto – power
eric burdon & war – spill the wine (extended edit)
sons of kemet – the long night of octavia e butler
cal tjader – guachi guaro
trio maraya – canto de ossanha (intro acapella)
jurasssic 5 – canto de ossanha
peter king – ajo
irakere – chereke son
maalem mahmoud guinia & floating points – mimoun marhaba
the rhoda scott trio – shabazz
the awakening epilogue
When Maurice White passed, I posted Earth Wind & Fire’s “Evil” on FB as a great example of bands that consistently embraced the rhythmic connections between Black and Latino music. This inspired this new mix, which is a mixture of sounds from Nigeria, Puerto Rico, London, Morocco, Newark, Cuba, The South Bronx, Los Angeles, Chicago, Brasil, and all points in-between.
The Awakening Prologue – This mix is bookended with the poem “Awakening” by Monica Chaney, which opens and closes the 1972 “Hear, Sense, Feel” LP from the dope-ass Chicago group also called The Awakening. I just recently came across this album, and their even better “Mirage” – both on SF’s Black Jazz label.
Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes (138 afrobeat edit) – When they reissued “Graceland” in 2004, they included a version of this song that was just vocals and Bakithi Kumalo’s amazing, signature, fretless bassline. I grabbed some live afrobeat drums from some dude on Youtube and blended the two, giving the track some real Tony Allen-ish funk.
Let’s Start – Speaking of dope baselines, of all of his songs, this 1971 live recording of Fela with Ginger Baker from Cream has always sounded the most like James Brown to me. After the initial chorus, they settle into a dope groove that could have easily been a JB’s riff. This was recorded live at Abbey Road with about 150 people in the room. When the time machine gets invented, this gig is on my list.
Sigue Feliz – Another classic track from 1971. Also a staple of every single Latino bar jukebox in every borough of NYC. This is on the “La Gran Fuga” LP, the final Willie Colon / Hector Lavoe collaboration, before Hector joined the Fania All Stars. It was their biggest seller too. A flawless, trombone-heavy salsa record of the highest order. And Hector… perfection as usual.
Jungle Funk – Creeping up to 1974, we have The Nkengas – a spinoff supergroup created from both Fela’s Africa 70 band and Osita Osadebe’s Highlife group, The Nigerian Sound Makers. They called this wicked funk “ikwokilikwo” – an Igbo word that describes the grinding process used in traditional cooking. They chose this word because it paralleled the way 70s American slang referred to live bands as “Cooking”.
Gyae Su – Fast forward to Ghana’s capital of Accra in 2015, where living legends like Pat Thomas and his Jwashibu Area Band are riding high on the Highlife revival, and making brand new beautiful music like this. I must see this guy live.
Saona – Some real OG mambo from Noro Morales – the iconic Puerto Rican pianist and bandleader. He got his start in Venezuela in 1924 playing in Big Band groups. Yes, 1924. He eventually moved to NYC and ended up releasing mambo hits in the 40s on the Decca label. This recording is from 1960, when he was back in PR on the hotel circuit, playing with cats like Jorge Lopez and Ray Santos.
Descarga Cachao – Another Big Band OG, Tito Rodriguez had moved into salsa territory by the time this was recorded in 1965. If you want to know why they named this song after their double bass player, just listen to his fucking solo. It’s NUTS. Not to mention Cachao is basically credited with having invented the entire descarga style of jamming – which is a bit like Louie Armstrong standardizing the musical solo. The world was irrevocably changed henceforth.
Evil – RIP Maurice White. We’ve lost some greats this year, but David Bowie and Maurice White hit me the hardest. EW&F were probably the first funk band I could wrap my head around as a kid. In the 70s, just about every person in America was a fan. Even the weird racist family on my block listened to them. This is from their 1973 masterpiece “Head To The Sky”. It was the lead single off the record and peaked at 50 on the Billboard charts.
Power – There’s a scene in the movie “Soul Power”, where Ray Barretto goes out in to the Kinshasa ghetto and sits in with a street corner drum circle. When speaking of the connections between Latin and African music, that scene really illustrates it directly. The man spoke with his drums, and the whole world listened. Though not as experimental and ground breaking as albums like “Acid”, The “Power” LP from 1972 showcases his band in top form.
Spill The Wine (extended edit) – One of my all time favorite songs. Get this: I’m almost in my grave and I’ll be damned if I didn’t just discover this song has three verses! I’ve been playing the radio edit 45 for 30+ years. I guess I never bothered to listen to the 1970 LP version. Holy Shit, a new verse. Mind blown. Just me? I created a short instrumental intro, just cuz I always wanted to hear the groove run for a minute.
The Long Night of Octavia E Butler – A smoking Afrojazz cut from the Sons of Kemet – a London Jazz group that released their second LP “Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do” in 2015. From reading about them, I gather band leader Shabaka Hutchings is to London sort of the what Kamasi Washington is to LA right now. A central figure and composer that draws on the hottest newjack talent in the club scene, to wonderful results. This track is a tribute to the black science fiction writer, best known for her book “Kindred” (1979).
Guachi Guaro – Almost hard to imagine a world where this song was a top radio hit (at least on the East Coast). But that was then (1964) and this is now (what year is it, again?). This was Cal Tjader’s biggest hit, and is credited with introducing salsa to a much wider audience at a time when most people didn’t even know the word. The song is a cover of Dizzy Gillespie’s faster, happier “Soul Sauce” from 1961, which Cal Tjader played on.
Canto de Ossanha (intro acapella) – I threw in just the beginning of this track, where the Trio Maraya sings in those beautifully weird minor key harmonies that Samba folks seem to intrinsically understand better than most. Ossanha is the Yoruban Orisha of medicinal plants. The song laments the man who falls victim to the witchcraft of love. Sheeeeit. Been there.
Canto de Ossanha – I was never a huge Jurassic Five fan. Not that they aren’t good. They’re great. Yet, the retro, Cold-Crush rhyming style just always felt kinda gimmicky to me. I get way more excited when MCs break new ground. That said, as a DJ, the depth of Cut Chemist and Nu Mark’s sample library (not to mention their skillz) was always something to behold. They ended their 2006 “Feedback” LP with this beefed up, cut up interpretation of Baden Powell’s 60s Samba classic. Few Hip Hop groups ever bothered to put these kind of tracks on their albums, and for that I am grateful.
Ajo – This Afro Funk number from 1976 by Peter King was a favorite of mine and many of my DJ friends in the early 90s that claimed to play (what we then called) “rare groove”. The term did kinda mean something, because with no access to digital music, you had to physically own one of the few vinyl copies in existence (or a compilation) in order to play it in a club. An obvious point, perhaps – but it did separate the wheat from the chaff – so to speak. To quote Slim Charles: “the thing about tha old days… dems tha OLD days.” Sigh. Anyway. I haven’t listened to it in years, but god damn does it hold up, for real. The album got reissued in 2013 on the Secret Stash label out of Minneapolis.
Chereke Son – These guys are probably the most influential Cuban band of the latter 20th Century. They mixed traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms with Jazz, Acid Rock, and even early electronica to create a whole new hybrid sound. They recorded this song for two different LPs, but this 1976 version is the one to beat IMO. I only recently discovered it was loosely based on Charlie Parker’s Be-Bop number “Billie’s Bounce”.
Mimoun Marhaba – in 2014, UK DJs James Holden and Sam Shepherd (aka Floating Points) were invited down to Marrakech to collaborate with The OG master of Morrocan Gnawa music, Maalem Mahmoud Guinia. Maalem simply means “master”. He was/is commonly called “The King” of the Gnawa tradition. They set up poolside at a hotel and proceeded to jam, Mimoun with his group of singers and the two DJs with some keyboards and loops. The recordings that resulted from this jam session are pretty fascinating to me. They are certainly imperfect and meandering, but there is a looseness and fluidity to the songs that just grabs me. Good thing they got it on tape, cuz Mimoun Marhaba passed away a year later. RIP.
Sha Bazz – Listen to this rip-roaring free Jazz avalanche, recorded live at The Key Club in Newark 1963, and tell me Rhoda Scott, Bill Elliot, and Joe Thomas don’t make a helluva lotta noise for just three mother fuckin’ people. God DAMN, that Hammond Organ is on FIRE. And like any good Sun Ra fan, I appreciate a band that is not afraid to yell incoherently.
The Awakening Epilogue – Thus ends the mix. Absorb the inner secrets of the ages, y’all. Immerse within your heart of hearts the overflowing fountain of yours and my awakening. No, really.