Incredible Bongo Band: “Apache”

I’ve been enthralled by the recent writing on the revival of the Incredible Bongo Band’s 1972 LP, Bongo Rock, which contains the cover track Apache, a heavily sampled song in hip-hop for its wicked bongo/percussion breakbeat.

The New York Times wrote a piece about the album, which is being properly reissued after decades of bootlegging. Soul Sides followed with a little more detail about Apache. (An aside: If you’re not reading Soul Sides, you’re really missing out.) As a fan of hip-hop, I’d probably heard Apache copped thousands of times with no idea about the rich, and somewhat sordid, history of the song.

The short version is that the legendary Kool Herc got his hands on a copy of Bongo Rock, which was all but forgotten, and introduced it to his weekly DJ night in New York. Extra copies of the same record “allowed him [Herc] to extend percussion-driven sections of songs indefinitely through hand manipulation of the turntables, creating hypnotic percussive loops” (Times story). That gave rise to the use of the breakbeat, an especially vital part of a track for the B-boys and B-girls (or breakdancers).

Another post by Soul Sides from last year gives you mp3s of the various versions of Apache and just a few of the hip-hop songs (The Roots’ Thought @ Work, Nas’ Made You Look) that sampled it. DJ Z-Trip blended the break in Apache with Madonna’s Like a Prayer on the never-cleared but popular Uneasy Listening Vol. I with DJ P. gives a list of songs that use the sample, though I’m guessing it’s only partial.

Needless to say, I defer to Soul Sides, the New York Times article and music writer Michaelangelo Matos for historical context of Apache. It’s quite an amazing piece of hip-hop history. (Meanwhile, the reissue of Bongo Rock is available at eMusic, which includes the 7-plus-minute Grandmaster Flash remix.)

I’ll add to Oliver’s extensive post of mp3s with L.L. Cool J’s You Can’t Dance. From Matos: “I believe the first major rapper to utilize “Apache” is—and I’m happy to be proven wrong about this—L.L. Cool J, with “You Can’t Dance” from his 1985 debut, Radio.”

Listen for the bongo break right at the chorus after L.L. spits, “You can’t dance.” On the raw and beat-heavy Radio, it seems like a natural spot for Apache’s introduction to the sampling world.

L.L. Cool J | You Can’t Dance

IN A BIZARRE COINCIDENCE, I swung by Z-Trip’s Web site. He’s made Uneasy Listening available for download in four parts on a new downloads page. I strongly suggest you grab that; it was a mash-up before the term was ever popular.The album never got a proper release, likely because attempting to clear the hundreds of songs used would be a lawyer’s nightmare. I believe about 1,000 copies were pressed; I’ve seen numbered vinyl at Amoeba.(If you’re looking for the use of Apache/Like a Prayer, it comes early in the mix.)

3 thoughts on “Incredible Bongo Band: “Apache””

  1. damn, i’ve been looking for the bongo band’s version for a really long time… i’m heading over to soulsides now… thanks! (i like the ventures version- it’s “cool”)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *