YouTube Sessions: Damon Bell

Damon Bell (pictured above, right) has long been one of California’s most respected selectors, one of those djs that other djs like to spout praise about. This reputation in part stems from Bell’s long-running residencies at 389 in his hometown of Oakland and the revered Make Out Room in San Francisco. Residencies that have allowed him the space and time to carve out a signature style that fuses globe spanning sounds and styles into a singular throb – from dusty Afrobeat, Bossa and Boogie, through to rare Disco, Deep House, Funk and beyond.

Following many years of high quality 12″ and EP releases, Bell recently put out his hypnotic debut album ‘Blues For The Libyan’ on Deepblak, the label originally founded in Oakland by his peer Aybee, an imprint that today also operates out of Berlin and New York. The overall vibe of the record lends from his approach to djing and constructing polyrhythms from various influences, a trait also crafted from years spent studying percussion whilst growing up. Collaborations on the record come from the likes of label mate Afrikan Sciences and Oakland based vocalist Khalil Anthony. For this week’s YouYube workout Bell runs us through an assortment of influences that traverse the globe, lovingly plucked from a lifetime’s obsession with music, accompanied by thoroughly insight commentary. 

1. Jungle Brothers – ‘Straight Out The Jungle’
This is a Hip-Hop classic, this record has had so much influence on me since it came out in ’88; a beautiful era in music that time was. The resurgence of conscious music during that time played a part in shaping many young minds, including mine. The title track ‘Straight Out The Jungle’  was, and still is, one of those joints you may be privileged enough to hear at a club and kats will loose their minds. Using the guitar, bass and horns from Mandrills ‘Mango Meat’, and drums from Bill Withers ‘Kissing My Love’ along with the JB’s (Jungle Brothers) conscious lyrics, sets this song as a classic.

2. Gasper Nali – ‘Abale Ndikum Gem’

Got turned on to this song from a friend of mine a while back and was sent the released recording of it. This live version, even though it’s online, gives you an irrefutable feeling… it inspired me. The first time I heard this, it moved me in so many ways – sonically with the sounds he gets out his drums and babaton. Gasper Nali from Mali makes his instruments and taught himself how to play which also inspires me and reminds me that anything can be used to make music. Something any producer or musician should hold on too.

3. Bernie Worrell – ‘Happy To Have (Happiness On Our Side)’

The backbone to Parliament, Bernie Worrell’s classic first album finds its way on to the record player quite frequently. This whole album has tons of  musical inspiration, ‘Happy To Have’ is one of my favourite songs on this record. So much soul and feeling in this joint, with its loose instrumentation, defining vocal arrangements and Bernie’s signature piano progressions, as it rides on the wave of a loose cymbal. The groove at the end gets me every time…so loose, yet so tight.

4. Czeslaw Neiman – ‘Z Listu do M’

Just recently found out about Czeslaw Neiman through Afrikan Sciences, he was given the album as a gift at a show. An undeniable gem of an album this is, from Polish artist Czeslaw Neiman. The album, N. AE. – ‘Katharsis’ is something of a listening pleasure as it goes through ethereal soundscapes and touches on space, ‘Z Listu do M’ is thus far my favourite aural experience. One of those jaw-dropping first time heard songs. From beginning to end I captivated.

5. Walter Bishop Jr.’s 4th Cycle – ‘Summertime’

A stone cold groove, this tune is by Walter Bishop Jr. The album featuring Ronnie Laws – Reeds, Gerald Brown – Bass, Shakur M. Abdulla – Percussion, Bahir Hassan – Drums, Woody Murray – Vibes and of course Walter Bishop Jr. on Keys. ‘Summertime’ is a one of those songs you vibe to with some Rum Punch and a spliff. 

6. Underground Repairs (Marshall Jefferson) – Stay In The Life (Underground Mix)

Marshall Jefferson at his finest, ‘Stay In The Life’ is a profound tune with undeniable rhythm. Flowing from beginning to end with classic House piano stabs, Latin shuffle and defining kick that’ll make any dance floor wet. A favorite of mine for that exact reason.

7. I-Roy – ‘Blackman Time’

True Conscious Roots, this quote speaks for its self: “People of low mentality will never get around to equality… Equality and justice stands for all… You know that Satan’s kingdom must fall.” One of I-Roy’s top hits and a sweltering riddim beast of a tune. My essence can’t deny the rhythm of this one. A skanker’s choice, full of uplifting cultural vibes.

8. Young Disciples – ‘As We Come To Be’

Classic group consisting of Carleen Anderson, Femi Williams and Marco Nelson. The album ‘Road To Freedom’ is a masterpiece of music consisting of many memorable and favourite songs. This is a a mood setter for me, ‘As We Come To Be’ sways with the words as the music carries you along with the lyrically painted perfect picture set by Carleen’s poem. “As we come to be”, a metamorphosis in its own right.

9. USG Presents African Blues – ‘Sunpower’

USG, consisting of bother Ron Trent and Anthony Nicolson, have both separately been a musical force for decades, and will be for more to come. From the album African Blues, ‘Sunpower’ is spiritual and laced with praise. This record has not left my bag since ’99 occasionally finding its way on a system during a set. There’s movement throughout the entire song, Ron’s beautiful production ethos (Movement), takes you on a journey leaving you fulfilled…as it has shown everytime this record is played

10. Aybee & Afrikan Sciences (Sketches Of Space) – ‘K-Fetisch 02 (Vibes)’

So here I end with two master craftsman, kats that continue to push limits to the outer limits. Title says it all: vibes, brother Afsci and Aybee created a media translucent document that is a work if art. The ‘Sketches of Space’ LP is an adventure worth delivering to every ear. ‘K-Fetisch 02 (Vibes)’ to me is grit at its finest – pumpin’ and moving mind & soul as the rhythm seeps into you. Reminds me and gives me the same feeling of hearing a new favourite song every time I play it. Great work fam!

‘Blues For The Libyan’ is available to buy from Juno.

Featured image: Marie Staggat