By: Camila Álvarez
Benjamin Woods aka Bosq is visiting us this Saturday to headline our second episode of Djembe. Not only does he play & produce amazing disco/funk tracks, but he has also managed to release several albums and EPs under world-renown labels, such as Future Classic, Soul Clap Records, Ubiquity & Fania, with productions that are an amalgam of sounds with influences ranging from afro-latin rhythms; to gospel; to jazz; to hip-hop, his first love. Ben is from Boston and currently resides in Medellin.
We chatted with him…
R17: How did you get into disco and funk? I imagine that happened when you were still a kid?
Bosq: I think it’s a similar story for a lot of DJs from my generation (born in the 80’s, growing up in the 90’s) in that it all started with hiphop. I was absolutely obsessed from a young age (probably 10 or so) with all of the early 90’s records that were sampling soul, funk & disco. Then just being naturally music obsessed I wanted to learn more and more about the samples. That took me first to the more known and easily accessible folks like James Brown & Chic and then deeper and deeper from there. Once I got turntables and I could go to the local thrift or record stores it broadened my horizons even more because I was just grabbing anything and everything that looked like it might be interesting.
Who were your major influences at that time?
The records that made me want to get into producing music were mostly all hip hop or reggae/ dancehall, the first Wu-Tang album above all (and still a top 10 record for me). Also illmatic, all the Outkast records from that time, Super Cat, De La Soul, Mr Vegas…DJ Shadow really made me excited to play with samplers. Then of course James Brown, The Meters, Roy Ayers, P-Funk, Marvin Gaye, and lot’s more!
Tell us about the origins of Whiskey Barons, the duo that helped you launch your career…
That was really born from us (we were originally a crew of 3 called “Flavorheard”) being working DJ’s playing 3 or 4 times a week in Boston, being sort of trapped into the ‘crowd-pleasing’ roll (we were always pretty adventurous and non-conformist even in that vibe but it was still mostly hip hop and dancehall with funk and disco sprinkled in, some Afrobeat and Latin funk sprinkled in, but you always had to bring it back to at least in the ball park of what people expected to hear out). We decided creating a side project more focused on our own remixes could give us more freedom and an outlet to dive deeper into Afro-Latin sounds, as well as give us a way to build up a name outside of just Boston.
Why afro latin rhythms? How exactly did these seduce a Boston guy?
…”for my personal taste it was Afro-Latin music that had EVERYTHING -amazing & complex danceable rhythms, the musical complexity of jazz, the political messages I had come to love from funk & hiphop… And while Boston is really puritanical and viewed as very Irish or very white from the outside, it’s fortunate to have really big immigrant communities from Haiti, Cape Verde, Brazil, Colombia, so if you’re looking for Afro Latin music it’s definitely there to be found!”
I never have a super succinct answer to this ––I think it’s a few different factors, one is that I’ve always searched obsessively to find new music, and my tastes and what grabbed me always dictated which direction the path forward would take. I guess it would be simplistic for me to say “because those are best rhythms” haha, but for my personal taste it was Afro-Latin music that had EVERYTHING ––amazing & complex danceable rhythms, the musical complexity of jazz, the political messages I had come to love from funk & hiphop… And while Boston is really puritanical and viewed as very Irish or very white from the outside, it’s fortunate to have really big immigrant communities from Haiti, Cape Verde, Brazil, Colombia, so if you’re looking for Afro Latin music it’s definitely there to be found!
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why? What would you ask her/him?
It would probably have to be Fela Kuti ––I’d want to pick his brain about musical specifics and how he so seamlessly and powerfully married politics and music. I don’t think anyone else has been able to do it as effectively since.
Who have you been listening to lately?
Always a lot! I have Ana Tijoux’ “Cacerolazo” on repeat at the house. I love the new Sotomayor single “Quema”. I also finally got to really dig into the “Jambú” compilation Analog Africa put out this summer and it’s incredible.
What was your last Shazam and where were you when you got it?
“El Porteñito” by Alexis Lozano. From yesterday celebrating Christmas with my neighbors here in Medellín!