Monday, September 26, 2022


If you've listened to track by The Sugarhill Gang, The Fugees or Soul 2 Soul you've probably heard Cymande sampled.  Their sound is cool jazz, soul, funk, unique.  What you might not know is that they came together in early 1970s South London, first generation immigrants from the West Indies, and despite being ignore at home, discriminated against by society, they rose to be the first British band to play the Apollo, before splitting up in 1975.  After that they might have slipped into obscurity were it not for generations of hip-hop artists that discovered and sampled their work, resulting in a mid-2010s return to touring.  

This documentary is a labour of love from documentarian Tim Mackenzie-Smith and benefits from interviews with five band members, including leaders Steve Scipio and Patrick Patterson. (The latter too became lawyers which helped in actually getting paid for all that sampling!) It also benefits from a lot of interviews with famous musicians talking about how they went on their own journeys to find the band behind the sound, and were inspired by Cymande in their own work. 

Even more consequentially, we see how Cymande's refusal to conform, and refusal to be held back by societal discrimination, spoke to kids experiencing just that - not least a young Craig Charles.  

The result is a film that will speak to fans of Cymande who didnt even know they were - people like me who instantly recognise their sound from endless reinterprations. But it deserves to be seen by anyone with an interest in the post-war British immigrant experience and remains shockingly relevant to our time. What I really loved was its message of getting on with it anyway, refusing to be pigeonholed and ignored, and carving your own path.

GETTING IT BACK - THE STORY OF CYMANDE has a running time of 89 minutes. It played SXSW 2022 and will play the BFI London Film Festival in October.

No comments:

Post a Comment