daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra

daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra

daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra

San Francisco Debut, Unfinished Symphony

Kufala Recordings

The daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra is a 56-piece band led by Geoff “Double-G” Gallegos, here sampled in two double-CD releases from the Kufala label of Los Angeles. The concept is disarmingly simple: hip-hop arranged for orchestra. It gives a multitude of options for making sounds and beats, but runs an easy risk of dissolving into cacophony. More artists than can be named have dabbled in the style as an augmentation of their more orthodox methods (like Kanye West, Portishead and RZA), but few have tried to carry it through an entire album. Well, these are daKAH’s fourth and fifth releases in under two years.

Their heady arrangements recall Max Roach’s attack in the 1990s, much amplified, while the ride-out sections touch on everything from new jack swing back to the classical masters. The gimmick resonates best, I think, when the strings are used prominently as a counterpoint to the vocals, which recall stuff like Heavenly Noise, Floetry and Princess Superstar. The MCs hold up well in what must be a challenging environment, spitting the abstract “backpack” lyrics that have taken a strengthened foothold in the industry — the rare confluence of commerce and consciousness.

SF Debut was recorded in July 2004. Disc one is comprised of “Reepus II in A Minor,” in three movements of a total 39 minutes. Disc two has covers, rather unique and arguably easier-to-grasp statements of the group’s broader intent. Unfinished Symphony is billed as such because the composer intends to revisit the music from time to time as the ensemble itself changes, something he’s already done once or twice already. The first CD contains the original symphony, while the second is devoted to bonus material.

“Daconcerto” pays homage to fallen heroes Digable Planets (cop that Blowout Comb now, if you don’t have it already). “Invocation of the Clown” is perfectly executed, with a none-too-subtle invocation of Mingus in the title reinforced by turbulent turntables and a robust hook — fast, tight, seamless. “Chillintando” builds from a Dangerdoom-sounding trombone riff by I Timothy, and then folds in ska flavor like whipped cream into chocolate.

It’s a credit to the musicians that it doesn’t really sound like so many people. Maybe 20. The numbers add volume and texture, but don’t muddy up the melodies. Music like this reminds us of how the turntable revival spurred by hip-hop helped expose younger generations to the music of our past, while it was still available. The live album is nice, but they come off best in the studio. Unfinished Symphony is quality hip-hop in its own right, but it has even greater value as a pedagogical tool.

Kufala Recordings: www.kufala.com

Leave a Comment

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

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Soul Understated
    Soul Understated

    Soul Understated was a swizzle stick of jazz, funk, pop with a dash of Radiohead in the delightful DC cocktail.

  • Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu
    Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu

    That Trip We Took With Dad is the debut feature by acclaimed Romanian short film director Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu. Generoso Fierro sat down with Lǎzǎrescu during SEEFest to discuss the comedy and drama within the adaptation of her deeply personal family story for the screen.

  • Aware

    The Book Of Wind (Glacial Movements). Review by Carl F Gauze.

  • BANG: The Bert Berns Story
    BANG: The Bert Berns Story

    The music biz collides with the mob in this documentary chronicling the fast and dangerous life of legendary ’60s songwriter, producer, record mogul, Bert Berns.

  • The Suicide Commandos
    The Suicide Commandos

    Time Bomb (Twin/Tone). Review by Scott Adams.

  • Tricot

    3 (Topshelf Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Bush

    One of the most successful rock bands of the ’90s attracted thousands of fans to its recent Orlando concert. Christopher Long was there.

  • New Found Glory
    New Found Glory

    New Found Glory celebrate 20 years of Pop Punk with a string of sold-out intimate dates at The Social. Jen Cray was there for night two.

  • Plasmatics – Live! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes 1978-81
    Plasmatics – Live! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes 1978-81

    Raw video documentation of the Plasmatics evolution from buzzy punk band at CBGB’s to pyrotechnic madness at Bond’s Casino.

  • Vanessa Collier
    Vanessa Collier

    Meeting My Shadow (Ruf Records). Review by Michelle Wilson.

From the Archives