Kraftwerk's connection to R&B and black DJs in America

Pioneering hip hop musician Afrika Bambaataa's love for Kraftwerk is evidenced by his groundbreaking 1982 electro track "Planet Rock" (above). Indeed, Bambataaa's underground DJ sets in black nightclubs were a key point-of-entry into the United States for many international electronic musicians in the early 1980s, from Yellow Magic Orchestra to Gary Numan. I hadn't realized though that Kraftwerk readily acknowledged that it was a two-way musical conversation: Black American music, particularly R&B, was a massive influence on Kraftwerk's music. In The Wire, John Morrison writes:

In an interview with Dan Sicko, the late author of Techno Rebels: The Renegades Of Electronic Funk, former Kraftwerk percussionist Karl Bartos gives an essential statement on the influence of black R&B on the band's work: “We were all fans of American music: soul, the Tamla/Motown thing, and of course, James Brown. We always tried to make an American rhythm feel, with a European approach to harmony and melody.” When exploring the band’s early work, this rhythmic influence does occasionally peek its head up through their abstract sound. On “Tone Float” (the title track from founder members Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben’s pre-Kraftwerk 1970 debut album as members of Organisation), the band can be heard experimenting with a rhythmic framework similar to the “Bo Diddley'' beat, the heavily accented drum pattern that dominated rock ’n’ roll in the 50s and early 60s. For their first release as Kraftwerk, the “Bo Diddley” beat remerges, albeit with an aggressive Jazz flair courtesy of drummer Charly Weiss providing the driving pulse for the the album’s ten minute closer “Vom Himmel Hoch”.

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Watch Sade's stunning TV performance of "Is It A Crime" (1985)

Almost every night for the last week, I've been listening to my vinyl copy of Sade's 1985 masterpiece "Promise." Sade's deeply sexy, jazzy soul stands the test of time. This morning, I was surprised and delighted to see this stunning 1985 TV performance of "Is It A Crime" on The Old Grey Whistle Test that Reddit user castigamat posted to r/LiveIsBetter. Read the rest

Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White (RIP)

Maurice White, founder of the incredible psychedelic R&B group Earth, Wind & Fire, has died at age 74.

“Although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music … which somehow ended up becoming pop,” White wrote. “We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness. I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners’ spiritual content.”

(New York Times)

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Ska is the mother of reggae

Public Radio International aired this short audio piece on ska, the musical form that took off in the early 1960s, blending Jamaican jazz with American soul and rhythm and blues, and influenced numerous excellent bands, from The Clash and The Specials to No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Read the rest

Watch this deeply bizarre and sexual Autre Ne Veut video

Allie Avital directed this wonderfully strange video for "World War Pt. 2," a new track by avant-R&B artist Autre Ne Veut (aka Arthur Ashin), starring Ashin, nude, and Macy Sullivan, nude, attached in what seems to be perpetual intercourse. And you can dance to it! NSFW. Read the rest