First of all, welcome to Soul Sides if you’ve never been here before. I’m assuming those who are visiting via today’s New York Times article on the Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache” are looking for the post on the song that appeared here last year: here you go.
I also assume, if you actually found your way here, you were able to do so through excellent google skills since the NYT, for all their touted fact-checking skills, managed to get our URL completely, absolutely wrong. No doubt, Mark Stanwyck, whoever you are, is enjoying a lot of traffic today despite the fact that his site is literally an empty template. Good god, it’s a URL, not leaked intelligence about Iraqi’s nuclear program. In any case, does this mean we get to be a “greenie“?
I greatly enjoyed Will’s piece – the whole history behind “Apache” is such a remarkable tale about how a throwaway song became an anthem for an entire movement but I do have one, small nitpick. In the article, Will writes, ““Bongo Rock” is significant, however, for being one of the musical cornerstones of rap. While it’s hard to measure these things accurately, it is certainly one of the most sampled LP’s in history, if not the most sampled. Most every history-minded hip-hop D.J. has a copy…”
Well…not exactly. With all due respect to Will (who had an excellently researched and written piece otherwise)… what most hip-hop DJs have is a copy of “Apache” but not necessarily a copy of Bongo Rock. The song was what got bootlegged…by the early ’80s, it was on at least three important sources: Paul Winley attributed the song to the “Arawalk All-Stars” and put it on 12″ as well as one of his Super Disco Breaks series and of course, it was also on one of the Ultimate Beats and Breaks volumes. Between that trio of sources, no one ever really needed a copy of the Bongo Rock album and though I don’t doubt many an interested DJ and collector has sought out the LP over the years, the LP always took a backseat to the song.
Likewise, “Apache” is a well-sampled song but in fact, there is some place where this sort of statistic is measured, however unscientifically: the-breaks.com. And what this reveals is that “Apache” barely makes the top 20 list. In contrast to the most sampled song of all-time, James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” (182), “Apache” isn’t nearly as popular (45). The reason: the “Apache” break is fantastic…a great, stand-alone breakbeat for dancers. It does not, in my opinion, translate as well as sample fodder. In those cases, you really want something that’s cleaner, with more “open” space between kick and snare…this is why the Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President” is almost three times as better sampled than “Apache.” With “Apache” what you hear is what you get: you can’t really manipulate the “Apache” break unlike “Funky Drummer,” “Sing a Simple Song,” “Impeach the President,” etc. It’s those bongos – they’re wonderful for the sense of polyrhythm but they also pack the break with a lot more sonic detail which can’t be fiddled with easily.
Anyways, like I said, I’m being nitpicky but I think these distinctions are actually important to note.