SummaryMulticultural and multi-talented composer and performer Shawn Lee lives in what he calls a "World of Funk." His mother is half Lebanese and a quarter Native American Indian. His wife is Indian, born in London from parents who are from Tanzania, East Africa. Their daughters (Mela & Seela) are half British/Asian and half American with the family roots to American Indian and Lebanese. As an American living in London he has his ears open to sounds from around the world, and all the spin-offs, mash-ups and fusions that pop-up. "Turkish Psych, Thai Funk, African Disco, Cambodian rock, Brazilian soul," lists Lee. "If you can say it, it exists."
Lee has as an uncanny ability to pick-up and play any instrument he can lay his hands on (his studio is like a candy-store for curious musicians) and for World of Funk he went global playing sitar, ektar, Balaphone, Tanpura, kalimba, Steel drum, Guitarron, Moroccan castanets, Cithare, vibraphone, Xylophone, Bulbul tarang, Charango, Bouzouki, talking drum, and Udu.
But it wasn't just geography, family roots, and a well-stocked studio that fueled this album. Lee is a massive fan of worldly-funk. The Turkish psych of Selda and Ersen, early 1970s Bollywood soundtracks by RD Burman and Asha Bhosle, the Brazilian soul and disco of Tim Maia, Ethiopian Jazz great Mulatu Astatke and the Afro funk of Pat Thomas and Marijata were all big influences on World of Funk.
"Like many western musicians, my ears have been seduced by the exotic sounds of the East and beyond. By the same token, many musicians from around the world have been inspired by the music of America and England as well. What we've got here is a universal language," says Lee. "When we bastardize each other's sounds/ music and get it wrong - we get it so right. It mutates and becomes something extraordinary. Now that is funky!"
Adding to Lees melting pot of sounds are guests from around the world. Brazilian singer-multi instrumentalist Curumin (Hailing from Sao Paulo, and of Japanese/Spanish Brazilian background) and British/Egyptian singer Natacha Atlas completely embody the spirit of World of Funk. While on-tour in Los Angeles this Summer Lee locked down three very special collaborations. The first was with Chhom Nimol the LA based Cambodian singer with the band Dengue Fever. Lee made an instrumental track with Clutchy Hopkins (which includes the sound of a 1960's Smith and Corona typewriter!) for Dengue Fever member Paul Smith who recorded Chhoms haunting vocal. A chance meeting with Bardo of Chicano Batman on Sunset Boulevard led to some garage-y flavored West Coast Latino-funk. And then both Willie McNeal and Money Mark suggested Lee work with Cava.
The album also features Truth and Soul Recording artist Michael Leonhart, NOMO bandleader Elliot Bergman, and Lee's mother-in-law (aka Nanny Jee)!