“WE CONCEIVED SILA & THE AFRO
funk Experience to describe a melding of two
continents,” says San Francisco Bay Area
native Wendell Rand. “The frontman, Sila,
was Kenyan, and the other principal players
were American.” In 2009, Sila and the band
parted ways. With his lo-fi, raw tone and
super-supportive style, Rand continues to lead
the Afrofunk Experience into new territories
pertaining to the African diaspora. He and
drummer Paul Oliphant also power the more
electronically oriented ensemble Afrolicious.
What does Afrofunk mean to you?
Afrofunk is a mixture of American and
African dance music. My bass playing is
mostly influenced by the black American
players who informed modern African dance
music. For example, I immediately hear
Verdine White in the lyrical bass line to Fela
Kuti’s “O.D.O.O. (Overtake Don Overtake Overtake).” When I hear the 6/8 bass line
on “Naam” by Christy Azuma and Uppers
International, Fred Thomas’ playing on James
Brown’s “Doing It to Death” comes to mind.
What is unique about locking down an
Afrofunk feel compared to American funk?
The biggest difference is where the bass line
starts and ends; it’s not necessarily on the one.
Fela Kuti’s “Confusion Break Bones” is a good
example of an elusive count. The tune has a
three-against-four feel, and the bass comes in
on beat three playing a four-beat phrase. On
“Mesquite,” from the new Afrofunk Experience
record, I actually do come in on the one, but
our drummer Paul’s first note is on the snare.
That’s another principal difference.
You’re not necessarily going to lock
with the kick playing Afrobeat like
you usually do playing American dance
music. The Fela song “Lady” is a good
example; “Authority Stealing” is another.
If you had to choose only one bass
to use on every gig from now on, which
would you bring and why?
I’d have to choose my Modulus VJ
because of its durability. It stays true to
its setup and it’s in tune no matter where
on the planet I take it, which is especially
impressive considering my aggressive
plucking style. I pull very hard. I do slap
and pop with AFE, which is why I mostly
play Lakland 5-strings with roundwounds
for those gigs.
What are your thoughts on slapping as it
pertains to Afrobeat and Afrofunk?
It’s just not done in Afrobeat because it
doesn’t sound right with the feel. I won’t slap
unless the tune has more of an American
funk style, like “Ambush” from Sila & the
Afrofunk Experience’s The Funkiest Man
in Africa [Visila, 2006].
What’s your take on effects?
I don’t think bass effects work in large
ensembles, because they draw attention, and
I believe that the support role of the bass
is especially important when there’s a big
band onstage like the Afrofunk Experience
or Afrolicious. I get off on being in the center
of it all, and driving the dynamic along with
the energy of the audience. There’s no other
feeling like that in the world.
HEAR HIM ON
Sila & the Afrofunk Experience,
Black President [Visila,
VJ Bass, Lakland Skyline 55-01,
Subway Guitars custom P-style bass,
Subway Guitars custom J-style bass
Rig SWR SM-500 and 750x heads, SWR
Henry the 8x8 and Triad cabinets, Tech 21
SansAmp Bass Driver DI
Strings DR Lo-Riders (.045–.150), various
flatwound and half-round sets