There's a Ra connection here in more than name. And there's a legend surrounding one of the key players and his relationship to the Great One. True or untrue, that story only adds to the mystery behind this good-time release.
Formed in 2013, this Texas collective bends toward the Great Father, Sun Ra, along with touches of funk, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. Texas is a mysterious place, where large collectives can come together under one or two roofs, add dancers and visual artists where and when they need, amalgamate one subgenre and another and emerge with something that is exhilarating in its newness and invigorating in its ability to make us forget that we ever knew life before it. And, yeah, although the name and obvious Ra influence via the name might have you believing that this is a throwback unit, y’all are in for a pleasant surprise.
Golden Dawn Arkestra, like some contemporary soulmeisters such as Adrian Younge et al., looks to the past for inspiration but decidedly wants us to believe that this is the music of the future. One listen to this, the band’s debut long-player, proves that.
The funky thide of things, as Billy Cobham would have called it, comes to light in the full tilt groove that is “Sama Chaka”. The band eschews anything close to traditional lyrics, preferring to repeat the title when the mood strikes and to let the groove do the talking. It’s hypnotic and meditative, reminding one of services at some sort of space church where Father Ra is worshipped and where we respect his apostles. It’s hypnotic enough, one must concede, that one might just sod it all and join this lot’s cult.
There’s also room for a sense of humor via “Shabuki”, a spooky nod to Asian music and culture that’ll still have you shaking your groove thing. In a spiritual sense, of course. The same might be said for its companion, “Osaka”, which is as addictive as it is hypnotic. If the story that band founder Zapot Mgwana was told as a child, that Ra was his father, isn’t true, it might as well be. There’s something deeply embedded in the DNA of this band that could have only come from one man and could only be part of some greater, interplanetary plan.
Though Ra is not the only father here. “Disko” asks us to consider what might have happened if Frank Zappa would have been far less cynical about the music of the 1970s and gotten himself a case of Saturday night fever.
Then again, Zappa was a major fan of blues and R&B and even dabbled in jazz and there’s some lead playing in the closing tune, “All Is Light”, which sounds like it could come from him or at least from the same source material. Of course we’re not playing spot the influence or look at the chip off the ol’ mythological block. Instead, we’re focusing (or should be) on this perfect culmination of everything this band does well. Except, of course, for the dancing and visual arts stuff that is rumored to go down when the group takes the stage. In all, this is an excellent way to bring to a close a record that’s destined to become one of the great underground favorites of 2016.