Today we have a German funk band using Caribbean steel drums to cover an influential electronic song written by a singer-songwriter most famous for his acoustic folk. Got all that?
The band is Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, an offshoot of the Hamburg instrumentalist collective the Mighty Mocambos. Lead by guitarist Björn Wanger, the group, which specializes in several styles of funk, uses steel drums to reinterpret a wide range of songs, from 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” to Dennis Coffey’s “Scorpio” (their debut LP, 55, which includes several steel drum covers, is out now on Big Crown). Rather than cheesing up the place, the band is tasteful with its steel drums and adds elements of dub and jazz for a more compelling listen.
The cover song is just as interesting as the band itself; Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, most famous for acoustic folk hits like “Wild World” and “Father And Son,” recorded “Was Dog A Doughnut” in 1977. While it’s not the first style you’d associate with Stevens, that song is now regarded as a pioneering electronic song with its early use of synthesizers and drum machines. Today, Stevens’ hit sounds wonderfully dated, yet Bacao’s trick is its inversion; the steel drums play Stevens’ synthesizer notes and a drum kit replaces the machine. It’s a simple twist of the composition that retains Stevens’ grooviness, but now it’s not so weird to say that Stevens had groove all along.
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