Black Music Month – New Orleans Funk Edition 2021

A deep dive into Funk marks my third show in honor of African American Music Appreciation Month. In addition to celebrating another cultural gift to the world by African Americans, the show makes a pretty solid argument for why New Orleans should also be considered the birth place of Funk.

Get the music started and read on.

While James Brown is widely considered the originator of “Funk,” his work is built off of rhythms that derive from New Orleans. (Read Benjamin Doleac and Alexander Stewart for the academic explanation.)

The Meters, who formed in 1965 but didn’t release a record until 1969, combined those New Orleans rhythms (Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste) with George Porter’s bass, Art Neville’s organ and Leo Nocentelli’s guitar to make early funk classics like “Cissy Strut” and “Look-ka Py Py.” On the show you’ll hear a later song of the band’s “Funkify Your Life.”

As the in-house studio band for Allen Toussaint’s Sansu Records, the Meters provided the backing vocals and rhythm for a wide range of music by Lee Dorsey, Robert Palmer, Albert King, Etta James, the Pointer Sisters, LaBelle and Paul Mccartney. In fact, it was at McCartney’s record release party (Venus and Mars)  in New Orleans when Mick Jagger heard the Meters and arranged for the band to tour with the Rolling Stones.  In this week’s show, you’ll hear other Sansu artists including Betty Harris and Danny White. 

Later, you’ll hear a track from the seminal Wild Tchoupitoulas record which brought together the four Neville brothers as they assist their Uncle George Landry (Big Chief Jolly) record the first major release of a full Mardi Gras Indian album. It was this project that resulted in the brothers coming together as a band. 

You’ll also hear contemporary funk musicians who are still performing Walter Wolfman Washington, Corey Henry, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Sierra Green, Rebirth Brass Band, Soul Rebels and Hot 8 Brass Band. It’s two hours of funk — another great music form that would not exist if not for the fertile creativity of African American artists. 

Next week, the last show for this year’s African American Music Appreciation Month will focus on Blues and Zydeco. Please consider subscribing.

Author: Tim Sweeney

Host of Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa - a two-hour radio show featuring the music of New Orleans -- every Thursday starting at 10 a.m. (PST) on community radio station KAOS 89.3 FM Olympia, Washington -- www.kaosradio.org. Show also airs on Fridays, 7 p.m., KMRE, 102.3 FM, Bellingham.

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