“Take the most infectious bit of a funk record that makes people dance, and repeat it. These are ‘The Breaks’! Witness the Heritage Orchestra, with Jules Buckley and special guests, slice up and reimagine these iconic tracks that spawned breaking and formed the origins of hiphop – a culture that has risen from a single moment on the sidewalks of the Bronx nearly 50 years ago. The concert will feature historic and modern-classic breaking tunes from James Brown, Incredible Bongo Band, Babe Ruth, Herbaliser, Madcon, and Poets of Rhythm, alongside LIVE breaking crew 'Soul Mavericks’, UK turntable royalty DJ Switch, singer Alice Russell, and many more.” [BBC Proms website]

Various guests with the Heritage Orchestra & Jules Buckley
listen online with BBC i-player

BBC Proms 2019's Prom 64
The Breaks brought the Royal Albert Hall to life with breakdancing battles by Soul Mavericks and B-girls Terra and Eddie, as Jules Buckley led The Heritage Orchestra, with special guests Mattiel, Alice Russell and Madcon
Photograph: Chris Christodoulou / BBC Prom 64 took a spirited deep dive into the musically alchemic form of the Break, with Jules Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra in collaboration with an impressive roster of performers, including B-Boy dance collective, The Soul Mavericks, acclaimed funk group Ghost-Note and World DJ champion, Mr Switch.

The musical concept of the Break, pioneered in the mid-1970s within the creative crucible of the Bronx, New York, was developed by the legendary skills of DJ Clive Campbell (aka DJ Kool Herc) integrating and re-imagining elements of Jamaican sound-system culture with jazz, funk and Latin riffs into a whole new form. In isolating and looping the middle section of iconic tracks using two turntables, DJ Kool Herc created a relentless beat designed to keep partygoers dancing. The beat from the middle section became known as the Break, evolving and spreading as a global phenomenon to influence dance, rap and popular styles to the present.

The show opened with a full-throttle launch into the middle section of The Incredible Bongo Band’s dance classic Apache, one of the most instantly recognisable beats, setting the pace for a ninety-minute continuous dance track. The punchy performance, with Ghost-Note delivering the percussive backbone determined the pace which sustained throughout the evening, punctuated by a relentless pulse of funky bongo beats, inspiring us to tap feet, sway shoulders and liberate some serious moves.

Apache segued seamlessly into the frenetic energy of It’s Just Begun, supported by lush strings and an urgent funky drive, leading to the explosive drama of Hot Wheels, capturing the intensity of a movie car-chase, replete with a searing electric-guitar-led melody and freewheeling drum solos. The mystical Space Funk followed, bounding through expansive chord transitions steeped in 1970s’ futurism, replete with psychedelic guitar and keyboard distortions.

BBC Proms 2019's Prom 64
The Breaks brought the Royal Albert Hall to life with breakdancing battles by Soul Mavericks and B-girls Terra and Eddie, as Jules Buckley led The Heritage Orchestra, with special guests Mattiel, Alice Russell and Madcon
Photograph: Chris Christodoulou / BBC Vocalist Vula Malinga performed with authority, rendering Lyn Collins’s Think About It and Gwen McCrae’s All This Love That I’m Giving with sensational soul-power and attitude. Mattiel’s rock-vocal style blended an interesting edge to the distinctive Latin flourishes of Isaac Hayes’s Disco Connection. DJ Switch dominated on the decks, interspersing thrilling samples and sublime scratching skills, particularly during The Soul Searchers’ instrumental funk standard Ashley’s Roachclip.

The essential visual element of breakdancing was delivered with verve and style throughout the set. As the music pulsed, the Soul Mavericks staged epic dance battles, breaking, popping and locking with fluid agility and breathtaking acrobatics. Kid Karam and Lagaet formed an impressive dance partnership, deploying gravity-defying moves, skilful footwork and jaw-dropping head-spins.

The performance rounded to a jubilant conclusion with the Norwegian musical rap-duo Madcon performing their contemporary hit Beggin, featuring the distinctive samples from the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ original. Headed by the accomplished Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra, The Breaks presented an illuminating odyssey through an innovative, evolving musical form – executed with precision, passion and high-energy.

 

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