- Digging at Amsterdam's Red Light Records a few years ago, I was surprised to see the number of records from Surinam, South America's smallest country. After a little research, though, it started to make sense. As a former Dutch colony, Surinam has had a connection to The Netherlands since the 17th century. Most albums cut by Surinamese artists in the late '70s were either recorded in Dutch studios or pressed by Dutch record companies, which makes it easier for Amsterdam's DJs to dig up with these funk gems. Tom Trago remixed the leather-clad, Prince-via-Surinam standout Sumy a few years back, and Rush Hour co-founder Antal Heitlager unearthed ten sumptuous Surinamese joints for the compilation Surinam! Boogie & Disco Funk From The Surinamese Dance Floors '76 - '83.
Four years on, Heitlager follows the collection with Surinam Funk Force, finding another ten tracks and artists, with Sumy being the only holdover. But the risk that's run in going back to the well of one specific musical era in a small country is that there are bound to be diminishing returns. Or maybe, after years of compilations that cull boogie, disco and funk from Ghana, Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa and the Caribbean, the exotic novelty of hearing African-American dance music filtered through another culture's sensibilities starts to wear off. The charming sound of such bands mastering funk and soul doesn't diminish the grooves, but some comps leave little trace of the indigenous cultures themselves.
Still, Surinam Funk Force is not without its charms. The speedy drums and gentle flute of Ronald Snijders' "Kaseko Attack" makes for an alluring speedball of funk and new age. The slinky breakdown of Jam Band 80's "Jammin'" is choice, and hearing Sumy's falsetto atop the slow and silky "The Funky 'G' (Only Comes At Night)" is a nice change of pace.
On the other hand, Steve Watson's "Born to Boogie" is charming but not the most original sentiment, as it's been uttered by everyone from T. Rex to Hank Williams Jr. The bands straddle rock guitar and disco slink on songs like "Wakka Mang" and "Love Dance," but the grooves are so short-lived (only one song passes four minutes) that they don't quite take effect. Since a lot of these bands were just trying to copy groups like Kool & The Gang and Chic, I came away from this compilation wondering what the musical spice of Surinam might actually be.
01. Steve Watson - Born To Boogie
02. Jam Band 80 - Jammin'
03. Sonny Khoeblal - Craziest
04. Errol De La Fuente - Happiness
05. Sumy - The Funky "G" (Only Comes At Night)
06. Explosion - Wakka Mang
07. Eddie Tailor - Love Dance
08. Ronald Snijders - Kaseko Attack
09. Astaria - Jamasa Roro
10. Sound Track Orchestra and Silvy - Tirsa Song