Bluesfest 2017 – An Awe Inspiring Wealth of Musical Experience

Byron Bay Bluesfest is all about the music. It’s not a festival you go to find a patch of luscious green grass to chill out on and catch up with friends. For starters you’re not likely to find such grass or any other festival spaces to chill out comfortably (unless you pay hundreds extra to sit on a couch in the VIP bar). And besides that there’s just so many incredible artists playing on its five stages throughout the five-day Easter festival to keep you on the move and happily engrossed in music.

Mary J Blige live concert 2017

Mary J Blige at Bluesfest 2017

Over its 28 year history Bluesfest has continued to diversify its line-up extending beyond “blues and roots” music to include more hip hop, funk, soul, jazz and reggae acts so there’s something to satisfy the broadest range of tastes.

Nas live concert 2017

Nas at Bluesfest 2017

No matter your musical taste and even where an act mightn’t be your cup of tea, what you’re sure to find on just about any Bluesfest stage are musicians and vocalists who are highly skilled, accomplished masters and mistresses of their craft; and who each have a wealth of experience in playing and performing. Thinking about the collective skills and experience of all Bluesfest 2017 artists combined, is both mind-boggling and awe-inspiring.

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Those gold standard levels of musicianship make for plenty of special music moments to be found during the festival. You know the ones I mean: those completely-present, thoughtless, blissful moments that make life feel so much better than however it might actually be at the time.

This year I found most of my special moments with Michael Kiwanuka, Miles Electric Band, Nas and The Soul Rebels, Roy Ayers, Laura Mvula, Snarky Puppy, Mavis Staples, Mary J Blige and Booker T.  Check out glimpses of those shows below- and look elsewhere for the low-down on shows by other 2017 artists including Santana, Gregory Porter, Patti Smith, Buddy Guy, Beth Hart, Nikki Hill, Busby Marou, Courtney Barnett, The Doobie Brothers and Neil Finn.

Miles Electric Band

First up there was that absolute sublime found in hearing and seeing the stunning chops of the multi-generational members of Miles Electric Band paying contemporary homage to Miles Davis’ electronic era.

Christian Scott - trumpet

Christian Scott with Miles Electric Band

The group’s second festival show, where the band seemed way more relaxed and wasn’t plagued by the sound issues of the first , fell on Blackbyrd McKnight’s birthday with the band acknowledging that in the most subtle and beautiful of musical ways.

Blackbyrd McKnight - Miles Electric Band concert 2017

Blackbyrd McKnight

Check out a track below from an album you mightn’t yet have discovered- Blackbyrd McKnight’s solo project ’bout Funkin’ Time – as well as video snippets from Miles Electric Band’s Bluesfest shows.

Blackbyrd McKnight - 'bout funkin' time

“Funkin Where You Belong” by Blackbyrd McKnight

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Nas & The Soul Rebels

Then came the delightful experience of hearing Nas perfectly spitting poetic rhymes with positive, inspiring messages accompanied by the sounds of a DJ and live instrumentation by New Orleans band The Soul Rebels (a perfect combo yes?). Nas threw the crowd back into the golden sounds of hip hop days gone, to cassette tapes and the forever-lasting influence of Michael Jackson’s music.

Nas live concert 2017

Nas

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Michael Kiwanuka

A spiritual experience of the highest order was also found in hearing the unique, old-soul voice of Michael Kiwanuka live-  especially when accompanied by his supporting female vocalist for some songs like ‘Rule the World’. He and his band opened both Bluesfest shows with the slow instrumental build-up of ‘Cold Little Heart’ before performing most other tracks from the latest album Love & Hate, ‘Home Again’ and a timely Prince cover, introduced with a bold statement to the effect that “without Prince, there would be no music”.

Michael Kiwanuka live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka’s Australian shows kicked off a long list of tour dates you can get along to over coming months in the U.K, U.S.A and Europe. In the meantime treat your ears to the song below from Love & Hate, check out video footage from his Bluesfest shows and hear more Michael Kiwanuka music here. Any good local music store should have both albums to buy and keep in your beloved-forever-after collection 🙂 .

Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate

“Place I Belong” by Michael Kiwanuka 

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Roy Ayers

Both of Roy Ayers’ festival shows were nothing short of instrumental sublime. It was a joy to see this funk-soul-jazz legend in his late 70s, still creating magic on the vibraphone and visibly taking great pleasure in creating live music with his band.

Roy Ayers live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Roy Ayers

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Mavis Staples

At one of her earlier festival shows Mavis Staples told the crowd in no uncertain terms: “You know, my sisters are The Staple Sisters. We’ve been taking you all down for 60 years. And. I. ain’t. tired.”. Now although she (justifiably) looked a little worn by the end of her final show, the overwhelming feeling in the crowd seemed to be that Ms. Mavis Staples just gets better and better with age.

Mavis Staples live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Mavis Staples

Snarky Puppy

There were also all those good vibes brought to Australian stages again by contemporary instrumental jazz maestros Snarky Puppy – this time around with the personal added bonus for me of Bobby Sparks II being amongst them on organ/keys next to Shaun Martin.

Snarky Puppy live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Snarky Puppy

Bobby Sparks - Snarky Puppy concert 2017

Bobby Sparks II

Snarky Puppy live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Shaun Martin

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Mary J Blige

Watching the ever-strong and sassy Mary J Blige completely fill and command the largest stage space any one performer gave themselves at the festival (with her band and support vocalists positioned around the outer stage edge) brought more musical and visual delight.

Mary J Blige live concert 2017

Mary J Blige

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Booker T

Booker T inspired ear-to-ear smiles as he effortlessly bust it out on the organ alongside his son Ted Jones on guitar and other band members, performing a bunch of beloved Stax Records label classics like ‘Green Onions’.

Booker T Jones concert - Bluesfest 2017

Booker T Jones & Ted Jones

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Laura Mvula

Hearing and feeling the power of Laura Mvula’s vocal abilities live as she sang emotively about those places of darkness in which light can be found; and in her own words “making music that helps people”, was a blessed festival experience too.

Laura Mvula live concert 2017

Laura Mvula

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One of the greatest pleasures in being at all those shows was witnessing how each artist on stage clearly respects, encourages and appreciates the others’ musicianship and skills; and takes great pleasure in making music together. From Booker T joining his band on stage, walking to and acknowledging the members one-by-one before sitting down at his organ to play; to seeing Roy Ayers listen intently and smile at music made by his younger band members; to hearing the spokesperson or leader of each group take the time in their set to introduce all individual band members for the crowd to show their appreciation to.

Roy Ayers concert - Bluesfest 2017Roy Ayers live concert - Bluesfest 2017

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I’m certainly grateful to all the stunning musicians and vocalists who I heard perform at Bluesfest 2017; who created those special moments of music bliss. I wish I could tell you every one of their names. Blessed and enriched are all festival folk for their individual experiences- and for the existence of Byron Bay Bluesfest.

Michael Kiwanuka live concert - Bluesfest 2017

You can check out more Bluesfest 2017 photos on Facebook and additional live video footage on YouTube or Vimeo.

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H Is For Hip Hop And Its Queens

H in the A to Z of fusion goes to Hip Hop music – leaving aside here the other core elements that make up hip hop culture.

Hip Hop earns its place because its creation definitely involves the refined art of fusion. From DJs mixing records they spin to studio producers/beat makers sampling, chopping, looping, sequencing, recording and mixing-  the beats, sounds and grooves that make up hip hop music are found and blended together from a broad range of worldwide music sources including funk, soul, rhythm and blues, disco, jazz, rock, heavy metal, reggae, salsa, cumbia, soca, pop and well, any other genre you choose really.

The evolution of hip hop music is long and involved. Its characters and contributors are many. Its history fills pages you can find elsewhere. Sufficed to say here its original roots are found in Africa and since its formation in New York in the 70’s the hip hop phenomena has spread far and wide throughout the world. Erykah Badu perfectly describes its contemporary influence in ‘The Healer’ when she sings “It’s bigger than religion, hip hop. It’s bigger than my nigga, hip hop. It’s bigger than the government”.  And thankfully so.

“The Healer” by Erykah Badu – New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)

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It’s the hip hop Kings of the world who’ve generally been the most heard and celebrated. Check out “essential hip hop” albums to find most are compilations of tracks by male artists. But of course there are female artists all over the world creating hip hop music whether they be DJ’s, MCs, beat makers or producers. Sampled below are songs featuring just a handful of those many hip hop Queens – some widely known and celebrated, others less so.

The usual warning applies: versions you find here are just dirty, compressed mp3s. Get the real deal on hard copy from your local music store, in their sweetest of forms on vinyl.

Erykah Badu (U.S.A)

Erykah Badu - Worldwide Underground

“Love Of My Life Worldwide” featuring Queen Latifah, Angie Stone & Bahamadia – Worldwide Underground

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Fugees (inc. Ms Lauryn Hill) (U.S.A)

Fugees - Blunted On Reality

“Some Seek Stardom” – Blunted on Reality

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ChocQuibTown (Colombia)

ChocQuibTown - Somos Pacifico

“Somos Pacifico” – Somos Pacifico

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Georgia Anne Muldrow (U.S.A)

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

“Monoculture” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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Ladi6 (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Ladi6 - Time Is Not Much

“Give Me The Light” – Time Is Not Much

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Nneka (Nigeria/Germany)

Nneka - No Longer At Ease

“Halfcast” – No Longer At Ease 

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Telmary (Cuba)

Telmary - A Diario

“Ando” – A Diario

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Yep, blessed are we for the birth of hip hop music and its ongoing fusionary evolution since by artists all over the world.  Thankful are we for both its Queens and its Kings.

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Aaradhna – Brown Girl

The new album from New Zealand’s young soul diva Aaradhna, Brown Girl, is another wonderful opportunity to acquaint yourself with the uniquely-flavoured sounds of the South Pacific.

Aaradhna - Brown Girl

Aaradhna – Brown Girl (2016)

Musically this album gives you a diverse fusion of flavours from smooth, smokin’ R&B to a hint of island skank and some cruisy country vibes. It’s simply the sound of Aaradhna; an expression of all her many influences from a Samoan/Indian ancestry – to an upbringing on the islands of Aotearoa New Zealand with its incredible natural and cultural landscape like no other in the world, and its many contemporary music artists fusing the sounds of soul/jazz/hip hop/reggae – whilst Aaradhna herself was listening to and taking note of the sublime music masters and mistresses of old.

Love and heartache are prominent lyrical themes on Brown Girl. Fundamentally so too are the experiences of prejudice, inequality and discrimination humans inflict upon each other for a range of crazy reasons, including the colour of one’s skin. Hopefully one day we’ll evolve to a place where artists like Aaradhna have no need to write lyrics like this. We should already be there. But for some reason completely incomprehensible to me we’re still so far away – with song lyrics like “Brown Girl” highly relevant the world over. Here you can read Aaradhna’s own words about the album and the meaning of its title track.

Aaradhna - Brown Girl letter

Aaradhna - Welcome To The Jungle

Leaving aside the album’s lyrical content, musical flavours and high class production by Brooklyn’s Truth & Soul RecordsBrown Girl is worth its weight in gold alone for the experience of feeling Aaradhna’s stunning voice hit you where you want it to over and over again. Each and every word she sings on this album is oozing with raw and honest emotion. Unfailingly I believe her, and empathise.

Check out two sample tracks from Brown Girl here. If you like what you hear you should of course gift yourself an uncompressed hard-copy of the album. That way you can also get to know and appreciate the names of the many talented musicians who helped Aaradhna in the studio to create this music.

Aaradhna - Brown Girl

Brown Girl (2016)

Aaradhna – “brown girl”

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Aaradhna – “devil’s living in my shadow”

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I can’t say from experience, yet, but I’m guessing Aaradhna is a vocalist most sublimely experienced live. Keep an eye out for an upcoming show near you.

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Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016 – All Along The Jazz Continuum

Melbourne International Jazz Festival has again succeeded in bringing some of the world’s greatest musical innovators to perform on stages throughout Melbourne over 10 days; creators from all along the jazz continuum – some whose music we’ve known and loved for our entire lifetime so far, others whose new music we’ll benefit from knowing better and may very well love for the rest of our lifetime to come.

Amongst the 129 festival events making up the musical feast on offer, opening weekend saw performances by the Robert Glasper Trio and Gary Bartz Quartet; as well as a screening of the film Miles Ahead– which has only just arrived in a few Australian cinemas.

The final days of the festival feast, the ones I was blessed to experience first-hand, included live performances by “modern masters” Eddie Palmieri and the Wayne Shorter Quartet – and contemporary “jazz explorers” Snarky Puppy and Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life. Every single musician who performed with those groups, representing 60+ decades of music, was an absolute delight to hear live.

Wayne Shorter Quartet live concert 2016

Wayne Shorter Quartet at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

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Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet

Puerto Rican-born Eddie Palmieri has over 60 years experience as a piano player, composer, bandleader and innovator in Latin jazz and salsa music. His performance at Hamer Hall stunningly showcased the full breadth and depth of that experience.

He began his MIJF show with a piano solo of “Life” – a deeply moving song written for his wife before she passed. From the first of every magnificent note he played during those first few minutes I was completely immersed in the experience; present in the heart-wrenching emotions his playing stirred up inside me.

Those feelings quickly turned to joy when Eddie Palmieri’s seasoned band joined him on stage for the second song – beginning an upbeat, energetic party that didn’t stop until the last beat of the encore.

Eddie Palmieri Septet live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Eddie Palmieri Septet at Hamer Hall

Jonathan Powell on trumpet – Louis Fouche on alto saxophone – Vincente “Little Johnny” Rivero on congas – Camilo Molina on timbales – Nicky Marrero on bongo/timbalitos and Luques Curtis (the youngest in the group) on bass.

When the party started many sitting in the theatre crowd were quick to grab the rare opportunity to move onto the dance floor created front-of stage for this show only.

Appreciators of the group’s musicianship got to watch the hands, feet, faces and smiles of the seven musicians on stage up-close and in awe. Dedicated salsa dancers became frustrated at the lack of space to dance “salsa-proper” with a partner. But most people got to dance exactly how they wanted – salsa, Australian-Style – ie. any way they feel to. This inspired Eddie Palmieri to say something I wasn’t surprised by – “You don’t dance like any other crowd I’ve seen before”.

Eddie Palmieri Septet live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Check out video snippets from the show here:


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Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life 

Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life shows is one of countless examples of Melbourne International Jazz Festival keeping its finger on the contemporary music pulse; always maintaining a revolving door of interconnected performing artists ready to share their new music projects. Having performed at the 2015 festival with Chris Dave and the Drumhedz  Marcus Strickland went home to the U.S. and finished recording his new album Nihil Novi with Bob Power, Meshell Ndegeocello and Twi-Life. In their good judgment the festival brought him back in 2016 to share those new sounds with Melbourne audiences.

Marcus Strickland live concert 2016

Marcus Strickland at Bennetts Lane

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Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life performed four intimate shows at Bennetts Lane: featuring Keyon Harrold on trumpet, Charles Haynes on drums, Kyle Miles on bass and Mitch Henry on organ and keys.

Mitch Henry live concert with Twi-Life 2016

Mitch Henry at Bennetts Lane

The connection between these five musicians and the inspiration they gleaned from playing together was palpable. They share a lot including a long personal and professional history together; experience in composing and producing as well as playing, and importantly; a shared view that music is music – an expression of themselves and the combined sum of all their many musical and other influences- free from the limitations of genre labels, expectations and boundaries imposed by others.

All that matters is that they express their voices in music – and that people feel it. And judging from the good-vibes mood and big smiles on everyone’s faces (including mine), I’d say Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life most definitely achieved that in abundance at Bennetts Lane.


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Marcus Strickland audiences got the special bonus of hearing he and Twi-Life perform a beautifully-haunting new song by Keyon Harrold called “Lullabye” (video footage of the first half of the song below). And folks who made it to the Arts Centre for MzRizk’s daytime interview with Strickland and Harrold were played a recording of another new killer track from Keyon Harrold’s forthcoming album, featuring prolific hip hop producer and vocalist Georgia Anne Muldrow. 

Keyon Harrold live concert 2016

Keyon Harrold at Bennetts Lane

It seems only natural that the revolving festival door will bring Keyon Harrold back in 2017 to perform his new album live.  

Click on these links to read interviews with Marcus Strickland and Keyon Harrold in the lead-up to Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016.

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Snarky Puppy

I’m not gonna talk about the music Snarky Puppy played at The Forum– except to say I appreciated it and the musicianship with which it was played. Check out a tiny video snippet from the show yourself:

Instead I want to share something else I appreciated about my Snarky Puppy experience. And that’s the encouragement bandleader and bass player Michael League gave the crowd throughout the night to make the right choices in supporting music and the artists who make it.

Snarky Puppy concert at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Michael League at The Forum

It began with Canadian support act Michelle Willis. She was accompanied by League on bass and Mark Lettieri on guitar – with League introducing her as a talented independent artist they kidnapped to bring on tour with them so people could hear her music.

Michelle Willis live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Michael Lettieri & Michelle Willis at The Forum

More encouraging words came during Snarky Puppy’s set when League took time to talk about the ways people choose to consume music today, the importance of supporting artists by going to their shows and buying albums – and the efforts the group makes to support independent artists through their own GroundUP Music Label.

Hopefully it ended up with everyone buying a Snarky Puppy, Bill Laurance, Mark Lettieri, Charlie Hunter or GroundUP compilation cd on their way out of the venue. If so they would’ve been in the foyer with the band to hear and smile at the “woh-oh-ohhh-oh-oh-ohhh” melody from the song “Shofukan (We Like It Here)” which a group of fans coming from the show spontaneously broke into.

Listen here to a dirty mp3-only sample of a Snarky Puppy song from their latest album Culcha Vulcha– and buy an uncompressed, hard copy of the complete album here.

“Grown Folks” by Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy - Culcha Vulcha (2016)

Culcha Vulcha (2016)

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Wayne Shorter Quartet

Joining Wayne Shorter on stage at Hamer Hall on closing night of the festival was Brian Blade on drums, Danilo Pérez on piano and John Patitucci on bass.

Wayne Shorter Quartet live concert 2016

Wayne Shorter Quartet at Hamer Hall

The one and only word I need to describe the 90-minute musical journey with the Quartet that followed is exquisite.

It was a joy to see and hear the pleasure and inspiration all four musicians took in listening to each other, playing and bouncing off each together and in connecting – with each other and by consequence, the audience.

Check out some video snippets from the show here:

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Future Modern Masters of Melbourne International Jazz Festival

Every live music experience I had at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016 left me feeling happy, high, energised and inspired…as live music experiences should. Blessed am I and every other festival participant for their own experiences.

I’m certain many of this year’s performing artists are making music now that will be known, loved, remembered and cherished for a very long time to come, maybe even forever-after. I guess that in 20 years+ time some of the “modern masters” programmed at future festivals will be the “jazz explorers” performing in these years now. That makes me excited about all Melbourne International Jazz Festivals still to come.

Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life live concert 2016

Marcus Strickland & Keyon Harrold at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

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Orishas Reunited For New Album

Orishas only did two things that troubled me during their 11 years together creating stunning, one-of-a-kind Cuban hip hop music. The first was featuring Pitbull on one of their tracks “Quien Te Dijo” – and there ain’t no way of ever undoing that.

The second and much more devastating thing was their decision to split up in 2010.  All five Orishas albums have been on high listening and dancing rotation since- well and truly part of my Love & Appreciate For Forever-After Music Collection. But each listen still made me wish for new Orishas music to add to it (I’m greedy I know).

Six years on and the trio has remedied that selfish trouble of mine by delivering the super-exciting news of their reunion.

Orishas

How far that reunion goes beyond the recently-recorded single is anyone’s guess. Hopefully it involves the recording of many more Orishas albums to come and the blessed opportunity for fans around the world to have themselves the live Orishas experience. It’s one I never got to have- and since the split thought I never could. With this news Orishas goes back up high on my Live Music Bucket List, in hope.

Orishas are Yotuel Romero Manzanares, Roldán González Rivero and Hiram Riveri Medina (“Ruzzo”). If their music-making history is at all reflective of what’s to come, the world is in for a special treat. The elements that make up their distinctive sound – the very different rap flows of Ruzzo and Yotuel, the heavenly singing voice (+ guitar & bass) of Roldán and the beautiful sounds of traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms seamlessly fused with modern hip hop beats and live instrumentation – with lyrical stories, sentiments and slang dearly particular to Cuba…ain’t found anywhere else in this wide world of music.

Orishas

If you don’t already know and appreciate the musical goodness of this group check out these sample tracks from their albums past- and watch the Orishas space to hear new music they’re gifting the world in 2016.

Orishas - A Lo Cubano (1999)“A Lo Cubano” – A Lo Cubano (1999)

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Orishas - Emigrante (2002)“Niños” – Emigrante (2002)

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Orishas - El Kilo (2005)“Al Que Le Guste” – El Kilo (2005)

 

 

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Antidiotico (2007)

“Que Vola?” – Antidiotico (2007)

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Cosita Buena (2008)

“Machete” – Cosita Buena (2008)

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Get any or all of those hard-copy Orishas albums into your own music collection here.

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‘F’ Must Be For Funk

‘F’ in the A to Z of Fusion must go to Funk.

Why? Because put simply and personally, funk on the downbeat (like reggae’s offbeat) moves my body into action and takes me to a higher, happier place than any other breed of music in this world. More generally, because funk music in its original and many evolving forms of fusion since, makes up a huge chunk of the timelessly-sublime music available in the world to listen to, love and most definitely cherish, forever-after.

George Clinton live concert - Electric Ballroom, London 2015

George Clinton live at Electric Ballroom, London 2015

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The Birth of Funk

A fusion of R&B, soul and jazz, funk music was brewing in the 50’s before being characterised as a genre in the mid-60’s with James Brown and his signature “on the one” groove.

James Brown - The Godfather of Funk

James Brown - I Got You (I Feel Good)

 

James Brown – “I Got You (I Feel Good)” (1965)

 

 

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Funk Fusion

Since the 60’s funk music has evolved into countless other musical forms through its fusion with pop, jazz, rock, metal, electro, highlife, gangsta rap and more – including Fela Kuti’s development of Afrobeat in the 70’s – and hip hop since the 80’s via its heavy sampling of funk tunes.

The Funk Collection

These names here are just some of the world’s many artists who’ve contributed to the evolution of funk music: anywhere from dabbling in it, to living and breathing the funk. If their music is not already known and loved by you, it can be from now and forever hereafter…

Horace Silver. Cannonball Adderley. Little Richard. James Brown. Sly Stone. George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. The Meters. Earth, Wind & Fire. Fred Wesley. Cameo. Brides of Funkenstein. War. Maceo Parker. Larry Graham. Parlet. Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Dyke and the Blazers. Marva Whitney. Bernadette Cooper. Klymaxx. Ohio Players. Chaka Khan. The Commodores. Steve Arrington. Lyn Collins. Cymande. Zapp. Madame X. The Isley Brothers. Stevie Wonder. Mother’s Finest. Vicki Anderson. Slave. Labelle. Platypus. Sheila E. Lakeside. Betty Davis. The Bar-Kays. Buddy Miles. Con Funk Shon. The Horny Horns. Lynn Mabry.  Kool & The Gang. Mallia Franklin. Sun. Starleana Young. Heatwave. Miles Davis. Roy Ayers. Millie Jackson. Herbie Hancock. Patrice Rushen. Fela Kuti. Femi Kuti. Seun Kuti. Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Living Colour. Brooklyn Funk Essentials. Afrika BambaataaFishbone. Dam Funk. Prince. Rick James. The Dazz Band. Jesse Johnson. Brand New Heavies. JamiroquaiMe’shell Ndegeocello. D’Angelo. Erykah Badu. The Soul RebelsSharon Jones. The Bamboos. The Cactus Channel. The Putbacks.

Sly & The Family Stone - Fresh (1973)x

Sly & The Family Stone – “Thankful N’ Thoughtful” – Fresh (1973)

 

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The collective of visionary funk artists and the music they’ve created throughout its history remind us always that universal possibilities, musical and otherwise, are limitless.

Longevity in Funk

From that collective there’s one whose name we can link to almost every funk variety in its history. One who has contributed to keeping the funk, glorious funk alive in countless reinvented forms according to changing times and musical landscapes since its beginnings until today. That artist is George Clinton – working alongside the many revolving artists within the Parliament Funkadelic / P-Funk collective.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Late last year George Clinton released the 3-disc masterpiece First Ya Gotta Shake The Gateand has been delivering the funk live on worldwide stages since alongside a multi-generational group of artists. His grandkiddies and Garrett Shider (son of dearly departed Parliament Funkadelic guitarist Garry Shider) are amongst them. So too is the legendary Blackbyrd McKnight.

Funkadelic - First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate (2014)

 

George Clinton & Funkadelic -“Yesterdejavu” –  First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate (2014)

 

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Blackbyrd McKnight + George Clinton - Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

George Clinton (l) + Blackbyrd McKnight (c) + Garrett Shider (r)

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The Survival of Funk

Hopefully George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic were right when they sang “the funk will survive just like it always has”.  Certainly it will in some form at least. But an artist promising “the whole funk, nothin’ but the funk” is a rare find in the world these days. For my ears that’s a shame, for sure.

So it gives me hope when I hear that artists like Brooklyn Funk Essentials are helping the funk survive with the recent release of their album Funk Aint’ Ova – the first in seven years.

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It’s reason to feel excited about hearing the new sounds created by funk legends Cymande on their first album in decades – A Simple Act of Faith – just released and available to buy here, with the vinyl coming in January.

Cymande - A Simple Act Of Faith (2015)

A Simple Act of Faith

And reason to count our blessings for contemporary artists like D’Angelo And The Vanguard and Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote for incorporating the funk sounds of old into new musical blends of a totally fresh and innovative kind.

D'Angelo live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

D’Angelo live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

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D'Angelo - Black Messiah (2014)

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D’Angelo And The Vanguard- “Sugah Daddy”- Black Messiah

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No matter what the future holds for the creation of new funk music, we’ll always have reason to count our blessings for all the timelessly-sublime music created through funk history so far. It’s in our world to listen to, love and cherish forever-after. And for that, the world and us mere humans who live within it, are a whole lot richer. Amen.

More of the Funky Kind

Indulge in more sounds of funk here. Click on a photo to check out video footage of live performances and/or sample tracks by that artist.

Erykah Badu live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu

Prince

Prince

Larry Graham live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Larry Graham

Femi Kuti & The Positive Force live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Femi Kuti

Fred Wesley

Fred Wesley

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

D’Angelo

Hiatus Kaiyote live at WOMADelaide 2014

Hiatus Kaiyote

Herbie Hancock concert - Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Herbie Hancock

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George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Parliament Funkadelic

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Got other beloved Funkateers in your music collection whose names are missing from the list above? Do tell.

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The Putbacks – “Kung Fu Pyramids” Sweet Vinyl-Style

HopeStreet Recordings unfailingly gives its music releases a description that stimulates the imagination; that invites you to press play and enter into a kooky adventure. I’d usually call copying and pasting the exact contents of a press release to be a lazy Beaver’s game. But what the label says about “Kung Fu Pyramids” and it’s B-side “Snake Eyes” by Melbourne’s funk outfit The Putbacks just shouldn’t be messed with. Not by this Beaver anyway.

For the fighters, Kung Fu Pyramids is a slice of dark, guitar-driven, psychedelic, martial arts funk. For the gamblers, the brooding downtempo minimalism of Snake Eyes is an ode to the joys of Mia, dice game of champions.

Pressing play to enter this instrumental funk adventure with The Putbacks will bring wonderful rewards you won’t find elsewhere.

Putting the needle down on your super-limited edition 7-inch vinyl copy you can buy through HopeStreet from 9.00 a.m. tomorrow (as part of Independent Label Week), will bring even greater rewards.

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Fat Freddys Drop – Beyond Easy Skanking

Every album so far delivered by Fat Freddys Drop has brilliantly captured and showcased the unique blends of soul, jazz, funk, R&B, reggae and dub that New Zealand music is known and loved for. Those albums have also captured the spirit and sounds of the epic live Fat Freddys Drop journeys – from which the group built their grass-roots following and ultimate success, way back since their beginnings in the late 90s.

Fat Freddys Drop live in Brisbane - Blackbird Tour 2013

Fat Freddys Drop live at the Tivoli, Australia

In many ways the new album Bays repeats that Fat Freddys history, in others not.

Fat Freddys Drop - Bays (2015)

Bays (2015)

More so than ever before, Bays captures Fat Freddys Drop creating music in the studio rather than in the live arena. Like always, studio-style includes recording equipment and techniques at their most superior (analogue of course), pressed to sweet vinyl. The gentle, soulful voice of Dallas Tamaira is the only one you’ll find on this FFD album, consistently soothing you throughout. The subtle, perfectly-placed horn lines of Toby Laing, Joe Lindsay and Scott Towers are still present. So too are the living guitar and keyboard sounds of Tehimana Kerr and Iain Gordon.

Fat Freddys Drop - Bays

And yes Bays definitely delivers familiar doses of soul, funk, R&B and feel-good, easy skanking within its ten tracks. But this time around you’ll get a heavier-than-ever-before dose of techno rhythms in the mix. For some people those sounds will be welcome, for others they might bring discomfort. Either way, Fat Freddys Drop remain as true as always to the expression of their own evolution, independent of and unconstrained by the expectations of a label or others.

Love Bays or not. Take it or leave it. Whatever you do, at least try it.

I tried and took – ie. went to my local record store and bought it for my Forever-After Collection. And super-surprisingly, it was the epic techno-heavy journey of track 8 on Bays (“Cortina Motors”) that finally convinced me to do so. Producer and MPC genius Chris “Mu” Faiumu (who donated the base track) and the rest of Fat Freddys Drop have here achieved the unthinkable for me: made the experience of listening to techno rhythms an enjoyable and body-moving one.

Fat Freddys Drop concert - WOMADelaide 2014

Mu with Fat Freddys Drop live at WOMADelaide 2014

The killer groove of the album’s ninth and final track “Novak”, cemented my decision without doubt that I’d be a lot poorer if I didn’t have Bays in my music collection.

Check out these (mp3 only) samples of those two all-convincing tracks.

Fat Freddys Drop - Bays

Fat Freddys Drop – “Cortina Motors” – Bays
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Fat Freddys Drop – “Novak” – Bays
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Buy the whole of Bays direct from Fat Freddys Drop  here.

And be sure to find the live experience where you can. That’s generally where the most Fat Freddys Drop magic happens. Peeps around the world get their chance soon with upcoming tours happening in Aotearoa / New Zealand, Australia, the U.K. and Europe.

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Georgia Anne Muldrow Accentuating The Positive

Georgia Anne Muldrow’s most recent album A Thoughtiverse Unmarred, is a fabulous and timely reminder of how very much the world (both humans and the precious environment we live in) benefits from having positive musical messengers like her within it.

During its twelve tracks of hip hop beats and rhymes soaked in funk and soul, Georgia Anne Muldrow’s conscious words unfailingly accentuate the positive over the negative. They encourage love and compassion over hate – call for equality and fairness over injustice and discrimination – promote diversity and spirituality over the monocultural and materialistic – advocate for peace over conflict – and champion self determination, hope and triumph over one’s disadvantaged social, political and economic circumstances.

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

A Thoughtiverse Unmarred (2015)

The bonus is that those positive lyrical messages from Georgia Anne Muldrow and featured rappers Declaime (aka Dudley Perkins) and MP Is Free come with music wholly produced by Chris Keys, all together likely to make you feel good and want to dance with them.

Check out two sample tracks from A Thoughtiverse Unmarred here, remembering they’re just compressed mp3 versions of the real deal. You can buy the full album in all its goodness (including finding a copy on sweet vinyl) to cherish forever-after amongst the other gems of your music collection.

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Monoculture” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Child Shot” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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The Cactus Channel and Chet Faker – Kill The Doubt

The Cactus Channel‘s unique variety of instrumental funk-soul music wouldn’t get value-add with just any ol’ artist’s singing and songwriting talents in the mix. Many contemporary vocalists (I’d say most) would probably be a misfit for the music; do it an injustice.

But with their new single “Kill The Doubt” and it’s B-side “Sleeping Alone”, it is Chet Faker who the group’s joined musical forces with. The result of course, is two gorgeous songs oozing with heart, soul and feeling.

Get your digital dose here of “classic soul and funk seen through a uniquely Melbourne perspective”. The songs sounds damn fine even in digital format; and will undoubtedly sound a million times better on sweet vinyl.

"Kill The Doubt" - The Cactus Channel Feat. Chet Faker

“Kill The Doubt” – The Cactus Channel feat. Chet Faker
“Sleeping Alone” – The Cactus Channel feat. Chet Faker

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