"Funk 'em, just to see the look on their face."
Sitting back in the pocket, the drummer flirts with 4th dimensional space-time. Boom. Clack. Boom-clack. A-boom boom clack-clack-clack…Boom. Syncopated love-making on the One, punching holes in the fabric of reality, finding, creating, exploring and exposing the rhythm inherent to the space within and without. Filling holes, teasing the higher reaches of infrasonic pleasure, the bass slap-walks its way onto the scene. Rising soundscapes, vibrating and pulsating swirls emanating from the Leslie cabinet introduce the four limbed brilliance of the B3 organ. Then, right on time, the entrancing wa-chika-wa-chika-chicka-wa-chika-wa of the electric guitar finally rounds out the players on the stage. This is smooth, this is soulful, this is the dirty, get up to get down glory of The Funk.
A show like this is merely a glimpse into that thang dubbed funk. It’s the sonic introduction into a dimension all its own. San Francisco State professor, Ricky Vincent put it better than I ever could:
“Funk is a many splendored thing. Funk is a nasty vibe, and a sweet sexy feeling…a natural release of the essence within. Funk is a high, but it is also down at the bottom, the low-down earthy essence. Funk is at the extremes of everything…Funk is a release that cannot be denied…Funk can be out of control, like the chaos of a rebellion, or instinctively elegant, like that extended round of lovemaking that hits overdrive. Funk is whatever it needs to be, at the time that it is…Thus, funk in its modern sense is a deliberate reaction to - and a rejection of - the traditional Western world’s predilection for formality, pretense, and self-repression.”
I love the Funk. I love everything about it. I love the extreme versatility of the word itself. I love that we can get a belly ache from eating something Funky. I love that sometimes we can get into a bit of a Funk and have to work our way out. I love the rawness of the Funk. I love that it’s ever-so-slightly uncomfortable. I love that it’s a rhythm, a smell, a taste, a sound and a feeling. I love the way my lip curls when it Funks so good and the only thing to say is UUUUUUNNNGGHHHH!!!
Seems to me we can’t function with out Funk. It’s its own self contained religion steeped in the deep roots of tribal African spirituality, vibratory quantum unfolding, and the absurd characters that act as its prophets. Dr. Alfred B. Pasteur noted that: “The traditional African worldview holds that ‘being’ is identical with life itself. A vital force, similar to that which rhythmically empowers man, enlivens each item, each object, each thing in the universe. Every tree, rock, animal, or substance in the natural world takes on the properties of life. They reverberate with life’s essence.” This tradition, much like many of the world’s great spiritual traditions and recent quantum findings, recognizes the vibrations underlying all of physical existence. The entirety of our scientifically verifiable universe is made up of a multitude of subatomic fermions and bosons spinning, vibrating, and grooving together on the One. We’re right in the middle of a 13.8 billion year funk jam that is sustaining our manifest reality.
George Clinton was even kind enough to provide us with a funky creation myth. As the story goes:
“Funk upon a time, in the days of the funkapus, the concept of specially designed afro-nauts, capable of funkatizing galaxies, was first laid on man-child, but was later repossessed, and placed among the secrets of the pyramids, until a more positive attitude toward this, most sacred phenomenon, clone funk, could be acquired….As it came to be, he indeed begat Funkadelic to restore Order Within The Universe. Nourished by the Pamgrierian mammaristic melonpaps of Mother Nature, the followers of FUNKADELIA multiplied incessantly.”
Count me among the devoted!
Have you ever listened to a James Brown record and heard him shouting at his band members about being “on the One?” This “oneness” is at the essence of the Funk. Rhythmically, the Funk kept the 4/4 time signature that was, and remains, crucial to pop music. However, at the time, all pop music emphasized the two and the four beats. Bucking pretense, as was its predilection, The Funk emphasized the one and the three, creating that syncopated feeling necessary for the genre’s groove. Being on the One also created a tremendous amount of freedom for the musicians. They could fly under, through, around and on top of beats knowing that their band mates would be there sustaining the jam on the One. The One was more than just a rhythmic return, it was a unifying philosophy and an interconnected substrate to funk upon.
I love the rebellious nature of the Funk.
Musically, its roots can be found in the Hard Bop stylings of cats like Horace Silver and Art Blakey. Frustrated at the “west coast cool” whitewashing of Monk, Diz and Bird’s immensely complicated Bebop sound, Silver and Blakey started writing jazz compositions imbued with elements of Blues and Gospel, thus rebelling against the norm and reintroducing its black roots to the genre. Socially, the Funk can be found in any protest. It hears what the so-called leaders have to say, what society declares as acceptable and promptly protrudes its middle finger saying: Naw. Funk that. I’ll do it my damn self.
“You rise as high as your dominant aspiration
You descend to the level of your lowest concept of yourself…
The infinite intelligence within you knows the answers
Its nature is to respond to your thoughts…
Good thoughts bring forth good fruit
Bullshit thoughts rot your meat
Think right, and you can fly…
Free your mind and your ass will follow.”
~Funkadelic, Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts
As is the case with the music, a Funky life exists in the syncopated spaces between the obvious notes, between convention and normalcy. It sits in the pocket, just before and just after what’s expected. It is a paradox all unto its own. It taught me that, like Bootsy Collins “I come equipped with stereophonic funk producin’ disco inducin’ twin magnetic rock receptors, baby.” And I intend to put them to good use. So, you’re all invited to join me at the Non-denominational, Ultra-magical, Super-irrational, Inter-fantastical, Multi-galactical, Ever Pulsating With the Rhythm of The One, Church of The Funk. Services will be held all day, everyday. Bring Grandma.