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Play That Funky Beat

“Funk is the means by which black folks confirm identity through rhythm, dance, bodily fluids, and attitude,” writes Rickey Vincent in his classic book Funk: The Music, the People and the Rhythm of the One. But, Vincent insists, “every booty is funky.” Vincent is obviously referring to American whites, but the implications are global in scope.


Indeed, “every booty is funky” is a much more compelling call to the delights of “world music” than the current promotional literature, which posits the genre as a politically correct yuppie condiment. Like American soul music, the compilation Pakistani Soul Music is about rhythm and dance, love and lust, loss and the struggle to overcome it. Unlike American soul music, which is quite distinct from its forerunner, black gospel, Pakistani soul remains suffused with seven hundred years of religious history and ritual.


Represented here are eight groups, some of which have been around for more than half a century, all of which function something like hip-hop crews, expanding and contracting in pursuit of the perfect beat. There’s the impassioned vocalizing and pulsing rhythms of Qurban Fakir and Ensemble, who perform every night at the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif, a venerated poet and master musician. Their style is similar enough to gospel’s call and response that American churchgoers would recognize it, and the way the chorus sometimes slides into wordless ecstasy parallels the slur of a snarling punk rocker.


On Bahauddin Outbudden Qawal and Party’s “Naat”--a graceful air driven by harmonium and handclaps--outpourings of devotion to the prophet Muhammad nestle comfortably with tales of failed romances. Even more compelling is “Dhol,” by Pappu and Joora Sain. This percussion duo creates a whirling dervish of a trance by trading off the roles of steady rhythm-keeper and improviser. These guys redefine the meaning of the term “jam band.” They’d drive the audiences flocking to the H.O.R.D.E. tour wild.



Miami New Times / 1997

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