The Scorpions & Saif Abu Bakr – Jazz, Jazz, Jazz

the scorpions

You’d never guess with the most awkward band photo of all time, but these motherfuckers have balls the size of overgrown cantaloupes at a GMO farm. This album was recorded in the ’80s but it won’t sound like cocaine or spandex. This is that straight funky shit. And, more surprisingly than this, it was made in Sudan. 

Welcome to the musical version of “Cool Runnings”, motherfuckers. Mind your hats.

If you’re one of those cynical assholes that think it’s difficult to pursue art now of days, you’re going to need to check yourself. The Scorpions will make you look like a fragile milksop pissing themselves cause the soup’s too cold. These guys are badass. Check it: They had this dream of being a funk band but, living in Sudan and shit, they didn’t have access to traditional western instruments. So, what do you do when you don’t have a drum set? You build that shit. They approached their local blacksmith, with a picture of a drum set in hand, and said, “Hey man, can ya try and make this?” The blacksmith, somehow, manufactured a frame. But then, what about the drum skins? The band went to a tannery and wrapped animal skin over the frame built by the blacksmith. This isn’t the only story The Scorpions have like this. You know what they did to their poor acoustic guitars? They did up their own wiring and soldered that shit by hand. What about that bass? Thankfully, one of those band members was a carpenter, so he built that shit from scratch. You can guarantee these motherfuckers didn’t pull a Hendrix and light that shit on fire. They probably tapped that shit to their leg and would stab a bitch if anyone came near. You can’t get more authentically funky than that. And remember, this is all before they even knew how to play a single note. Now, that’s some mammoth sized gumption. Feel like a milksop yet? Personally, I feel like a milksop getting breastfed at a dairy farm while sitting in a pile of cottage cheese. 

One of The Scorpions late founders, Al Tayeb Rabeh, was one of the first Sudanese to ever play the guitar. That’s for real. You’d think with all this homemade equipment that the album would sound like shit. But you’d be wrong. All the dedication that went into building their instruments also went into learning that shit. These guys are tight. They have solid horns, good drums, punchy bass, and slick fucking guitar licks on this motherfucker. On top of this, you get a distinct Sudanese influence into these funky jams that you won’t find anywhere else. This is the music of pure rebellion and a couple dudes with a dream. There’s a fuckton more to their story, but I’m not gonna ruin the whole surprise.

Everytime I listen to this album I find a new inspiration to do what I fucking want. Got a job interview? Listen to this shit for inspiration. Not enough confidence to stand out from the crowd? Try this shit on for size. Want to build a Jamaican bobsled team? Bring that shit. A Sudanese funk band? Why the fuck not? History favours the bold and adores the defiant. But if you want history to give ya a reach around you gotta do that shit with some pep in your step and a sweet-looking smile. It takes some huge fucking cantaloupes to break down social barriers, it takes sheer coolness to do it and look fly at the same time. The Scorpions are what funk is all about. 

 

7 thoughts

  1. Insane. I gotta wonder why funk spread so successfully overseas; really only ‘pop’ and ‘rock’, two barely-defined genres, spread as far from the West to international locales. I guess it’s becuase funk’s reliance on rhythm and interplay is pretty close to a lot of traditional dance musics, not least in Africa, the obvious direct ancestor of Funk. And so it inspired, and I mean really inspired, gems like this! I love the slightly odd shapes of the guitar and bass – a little smoother than non-handmade ones, to my eyes, and proof of how inspiring ‘dance music’ (the term as used by elitist fucks to look down on, well, most other people) can be.

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  2. Dude, your comments are the fucking best. I totally agree there is something in Funk music that speaks to a large variety of people internationally. But, to go out on a bit of a limb, I think Fuck’s influence is way deeper than this. Funk became the music of the oppressed and underrepresented. Even the word funky (bad odour, unpredictable, unpleasant, harsh) somehow changed to represent what it is now. And it’s because of motherfuckers like Sly, Kool, Stevie, Parliament, Miles, Herbie, Rick James, Prince, and their samples that Hip-Hop was able to speak for the oppressed and underrepresented. You don’t get Rap without Funk. Shit just doesn’t happen. The fact that James Brown’s track “Funky Drummer” is sampled on songs Public Enemy songs like “Fight the Power” and “Rebel Without a Pause” is no fucking coincidence. The fact that these oppressed and underrepresented Sudanese dudes felt inspired to play Funk is not a coincidence. The fact that they continued to play (for a while anyway) under Sharia law is not a coincidence. Something in this music loves to rebel. And, ya, who doesn’t love that homemade bass shape. Shit is one of a fucking kind.

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    1. Yeah, I guess funk’s social legacy has roots just as wide as its musical ones. Punk is another genre which reclaimed a word, and also had the whole parcel of social implications – but more nihilistic, I think, whereas the more utopian and optimistic stuff from Sly, Steve, P-Funk et al, had an easier time spreading. And when you add in all the context about Hip-Hop, especially the raw protest energy of the PE songs, it really puts the lie to the idea that utopianism/optimism is weaker than nihilism, can’t make a change, can’t stand up for itself. I hadn’t heard about the Sharia thing, thanks for the knowledge.

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  3. No problem man. If you want to get into that good shit in funk/rap I’d look into the idea of Afrofuturism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afrofuturism). Shit is a combination of spaceships and afros. It’s where motherfuckers like Parliament-Funkadelic, Deltron 3030, and Sun Ra come from. In this I think lives the ideological difference between nihilist punk rock and that keep hoping funk mentality. With one, nothing will make a difference and we’re all going to die. The other can imagine a super fantastic future where there are black superheroes and it ain’t no thang! Shit is off the hook.

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  4. I’m well into the Afrofuturist vibe, although I never have gotten around to Deltron 3030. I gotta recommend ‘Funk: The Music, The People, and the Rhythm of the One’ by Rickey Vincent (Foreword by George Clinton himself!). The writing isn’t incredible, but the depth of knowledge is obvious, the timeline extends from Mahalia Jackson and Ray Charles to the then-contemporary Dr. Dre and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and the discography at the end is, while heavily biased and I would argue flat-out wrong (Chic is “musically useless”; Prince’s ‘Dirty Mind’ and ‘Sign O’ The Times’ get the lowest ratings the book offers), but on the whole, it makes up for it by telling the (or at least a) story of funk, from early rebellion through to disco, to rebirth as Hip-Hop.

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    1. I LOVE the story of funk. I’ll def give it a read even though … Dirty Mind getting a low rating? Come on!! Nobody fucks with Prince. Prince fucks with you. And what a live show … jesus. I just recently watched season 2 of “Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus” which is a bunch of tour members surrounding funk legends talking about what happened. It’s fucking hilarious and heavy informative. Season one of same show focuses on country music. Equally hilarious and informative.

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