- Buddhism first surfaced in Western rock, pop and jazz in the late '60s. In 1967, David Bowie released "Silly Boy Blue," singing about reincarnation and "yak butter statues." Pharoah Sanders called his 1969 album Karma. By the early '70s, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter were practicing Buddhists. The psych-rock band Gong took the faith less seriously, but their Radio Gnome Invisible albums allude to various Buddhist tenets. John Lennon summed up this enthusiasm with what for Buddhists must have seemed a bullish turn of phrase: "Instant karma's gonna get you / gonna knock you off your feet!"
It's hard to say how fresh Ozo's "Listen To The Buddha," a minor hit from the band's debut LP, might've felt by 1976, but neither its reggae rock nor its spiritual messages was subtly delivered. (The band performed the song on TV alongside a large Buddha statue.) "Anambra," released on the same album and reissued here by Isle Of Jura, is far better. Its lovely vocal harmonies soar over tambourines, church bells, flutes and nyabinghi drumming, a steady, hypnotic rhythm pioneered by the Rastafarian band leader Count Ossie.
In the song's second half, you can hear Ozo's cofounder Keni St. George chanting a Sanskrit Buddhist mantra: "Om mani padme hum." It's easy to imagine how transcendent this all might've felt at The Loft, where David Mancuso apparently closed some sets with "Anambra." "Anambra River," first released in the early '80s, is a busier mix—the bells and vibraphones are brighter, the chant more insistent. It's a fine version, but it's no match for the serenely rousing original.
A1 Anambra (12" Extended Mix)
B1 Anambra (Edited Version)
B2 Anambra River