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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Notes On a Funk Revolution

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Standing in the Shadows of Funk: Bnai Rebelfront - EKAPHOTOGRAPHY
  • EKAphotography
  • Standing in the Shadows of Funk: Bnai Rebelfront
Having just spent the past three nights at Yoshi's SF for the "We Got the Funk" series--featuring emerging neo-funksters Punk Funk Mob, Bnai Rebelfront, and Greg Scott--I've come to some realizations.

Funk is forever
. While classic funk lives on via '70s reissues, old-school funk fests, and occasional KBLX play, there's a perception that hip-hop killed funk, or that the music died when platform shoes and two-story Afros went out of style. Nope. That's just not the case. There will always be a need for funky music--sounds which speak to one's inner starchild--and the funk template has already lent itself not just to hip-hop, but neo-soul, nu-Afrobeat, house, and other genres, subgenres, and microgenres.

There's a new generation of funk. If nothing else, "WGtF" made this perfectly clear. It's all well and good to have nostalgia for classic Isaac Hayes, James Brown, or Ohio Players tunes, but don't spend too much time looking in the rear-view mirror of nostalgia. You might miss something fresh and new.

There are many variations on The One. As "WGtF" played out, it was interesting to see all the different approaches to funky music. The Punk Funk Mob delivered on its advance billing as "Funkadelic meets Betty Davis," and vocalist Femi was all that and a bag of chips, telling the crowd at one point, "I didn't say you could stop clapping." Thus chastened, the seated crowd resumed its soul clap with vigor. B'nai Rebelfront, meanwhile, showed immaculate songcraft with his guitar-based tunes, recalling both Ernie Isley and Prince, though he could have used a pinch of Femi's aggressive attitude. And Greg Scott displayed futuristic keyboard-based funk, helped along considerably by bassist Angeline Saris' slap-happy chording.

The Bay Area is a veritable funk Mecca. Watching three different groups on three consecutive nights, each with their own feel, flavor, and flair, one couldn't help but feel sorry for funk-deprived regions lacking a deep well of talent and, one speculates, surviving solely on K-Tel compilations and well-worn copies of the P.Funk Earth Tour.

Ask not for whom the funk is for. It's not only for you, but within you. Ya dig? Now go out there and funkitize.

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Eric Arnold


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