Black Truth Rhythm Band, Ifetayo

Peter Shapiro

By Peter Shapiro

on 12.05.11 in Reviews

The Trinidadian Black Truth Rhythm Band’s 1976 album Ifetayo is an essential, much-bootlegged artifact of the rare funk underground that has finally been properly (both legally and sonically) reissued. Led by the recently deceased Oluko Imo (who would later record the very fine Oduduwa with both Fela and Femi Kuti), Black Truth Rhythm Band combined the jazzy branch of American funk; Afrobeat and Caribbean polyrhythms; and pan-African spiritual mumbo jumbo to create slow-burning grooves that were never undercut by the flute solos or joss-stick vibes.

An essential artifact of the rare funk underground

The group is at its most charmingly and liltingly tropical on the almost straight-ahead calypso “Aspire,” but it’s the deeper, more intense tracks — like the simmering tribal drum jam “Umbala,” where even the steel pans sound moody and eerie — that give Ifetayo its funk cachet. The highlights are the storming title track, which finds the perfect middle ground between the uncouth but dizzying rhythms of Fela’s Afrika 70 band and the more restrained but clinical Cymande, and the endearingly ramshackle “Save D Musician,” which has long been a favourite on the rare funk circuit. While Soundway always puts together beautiful packages, Ifetayo is one of the best-sounding funk reissues of recent years, vivid with tiny details and lovely, cocooning bass reproduction.