This fabulous new documentary charts the history of the UK’s greatest forgotten band
The Funkdub love affair with Cymande goes all the way back to the start – in fact the moment can be pin pointed. Back in the early noughties Sam / 3DJ had a compilation CD called “Funk Rock” on the always on point BBE label, the compilation was golden, artists like Betty Davis, Can & Babe Ruth all became record box fixtures. But there was one track in particular that a small group of us heard for the first time at 3DJ’s flat one never to be forgotten afternoon, the track was “Dove” by Cymande. The excellent new documentary “Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande” vividly makes the point – you *never* forget the first time you hear “Dove” – it’s one of the most transcendental tracks ever created; one that, and this doesn’t overstate the point, changes the way you hear music forever.
But the documentary is about more than just the unique alchemy that led a young group of men from the windrush generation to make some of the most remarkable music ever recorded. It’s about the music scene in the United Kingdom, it’s also about the appalling and entrenched racism that confronted such prodigiously talented musicians in the 70s. A group who should be venerated as all time greats in their home nation, but were essentially forgotten for over 30 years. “Getting It Back” in some ways serves a worthy companion piece to Steve McQueen’s excellent “Small Axe” series, charting the insurmountable problems that faced the band and Carribean diaspora in a country that had promised a warm welcome and delivered quite the opposite. The members of the band are all interviewed and are instantly; likeable, determined and talented in many ways (indeed many of their number turned their attention to other careers including qualifying as barristers to try and ensure the injustices they suffered weren’t visited on others).
As well as the band themselves there is another equally important strand to the film – which is the pervading influence the music of Cymande had on the all that followed. Hip Hop in particular is drenched in their samples – and so many of their tracks still resonate: “Bra” “The Message” (not fogetting the blazing Ed Rush & Optical version) “Fug” “Brothers On The Slide” to pick a handful. Director Tim Mackenzie-Smith gathers a fine selection of talking heads, including from the US: DJ Maseo & Prince Paul (De La Soul), Cut Chemist & Peanut Butter Wolf and from the UK: Jazzie B, Craig Charles, Norman Jay and Greg Wilson, as well as plenty more from both sides of the Atlantic.
We were lucky enough to catch Cymande at a one off show at The Big Chill back in 2007 and the programmers back then knew they were a band who’d captured lightning in a bottle. Hopefully this fine film – thrumming with the energy of their music – will lead more and more people to discover Cymande, and just maybe it will lead the UK to treat some of it’s finest artists with the respect they so richly deserve.
“Getting It Back: The Story Of Cymande” is showing at select cinemas