LEFT FIELD FUNK: ANANDA SHANKAR + MANTECA

Ananda Shankar: Streets of Calcutta + Dancing Drums

From Ananda Shankar and His Music (EMI India, 1975)

Manteca: Afro-Funky + Gozando Tropical

From Ritmo + Sabor (GRC/Sound Triangle, 197?)

The thing about funk’s entry in pop music in the late 1960s and forward was how artists would find ways to work in its rhythmic signature when you least expected it. (See this for a great example). Hearing the Ananda Shankar for the first time just blew my mind, probably because I assume Ananda’s sound would be more like his uncle Ravi’s but clearly, Ananda was on some experimental, world fusion tip by blending his training in classical Indian music with some Moog and a killer trap set drummer. Both of these cuts above are well-comped at this point but they still don’t fail to impress. Sitar funk for real.

Manteca is the nickname for master bongosero Lazaro Pla, a Cuban legend who used to play with Ernesto Lecuona and the Cuban Boys. His Ritmo + Sabor is one of the holy grail Latin funk LPs given its ridiculously funky percussion. It’s an interesting album for Manteca since he didn’t record out of Cuba much as a solo artist yet this album has been pressed up three times: GRC (Miami), Sound Triangle (Colombia) and Desca(?). And despite that, you’ll still end up forking over a few Franklins, unless you’re my man Adam M. who managed to cop one for $3 from Amoeba in Berkeley (that story still kills me). “Afro-Funky” is the outstanding cut here: the interplay between the basslines (which some opine might have been Cachao) and the percussion section is ridiculously funky not to mention pure rhythm – notice, there’s no melodic composition in the song at all. “Gozando Tropical” is more in a conventional Cuban dance style with its piano montuno riff but even here, the hard timbales (alas, uncredited) still put percussion first…sometimes I feel like the song is mis-engineered and should have cooled down the timbales a bit but then I shrug and figure if the drummer wants to get some, who am I to deny? This has been out of print on CD for a while but luckily, they’re about to bring it back later this month.

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