Gem of the Week: “Bra”-Cymande

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Song: “Bra”

Artist: Cymande

Album: Cymande (1972)

As far as Afro-Brit 70s funk goes, Cymande takes the cake for cuckoo rhythms and multi-cultural dimension. Flavored with vibrant, West Indies percussion, Jamaican tempos, Calypso-ed out vocals—and hollow, electric American familiarity to neutralize the bongo-heavy atmosphere—the free-flowing 9-piece, though now dissolved, brought all their roots to the surface during a time where rock took nearly all precedence.

The band rotated its members—some who hailed from Guyana to Saint Vincent, London, Jamaica, and beyond—to even better seal their credibility in the areas of blues, jazz, and other African-based styles. They etched world-fusion onto rock’s door, merging colorful melodies with percussive intricacy, especially on tracks like “Zion I” and “One More”–which drum-n-snare fadeouts succumb to explosive, funky relapses of full-on jazz tantrums.

Though modest, Cymande did spark a kind of following. Jazz and funk lovers alike could flock to the group’s soulful substance and find it an equally satisfying charm to the ear. Decades later,  Cymande’s material continues to resurface, some tracks even employed as samples on iconic hip-hop albums such as De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising and The Fugees’ The Score.

“Bra” is one of Cymande’s eternally cool tracks; a loose jam sesh that generously spans five minutes, featuring a chunky, muffled bass guitar, rich saxophone, and some the tightest-sounding congas ever. 2:50 pauses for a bluesy solo: a minute-long, bass and kick-drum buildup that gets the feet shuffling and head bobbing. As for the message: Cymande’s Ray King sings a single, unfazed hook (“It’s alright, you can still go home…”) over the funky, multi-ethnic symphony.

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