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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

‘Sample This’: The Sound of Hip-Hop

“Sample This” film screening
Saturday, Jan. 26
Sciences Lecture Hall
Doors at 6:30 p.m., film at 7

ASUCD’s Entertainment Council will be hosting a special free screening of the documentary “Sample This” on Saturday with a Q&A with both the director Dan Forrer and writer/producer Bob Burris after the screening.

“The story fascinated me from the very beginning not just because it’s an amazing music story, but because it is an incredibly interesting story about pop culture and politics,” Burris said in an email interview.

It is no easy task summing up the immensity of influence a song can make nor the influences surrounding it that generated its inception. Four decades, a blog post by a music historian and an article in The New York Times probably only broke the surface of the song that “Sample This” revolves around alone. Such was the task of the very ambitious Forrer and Burris. Forrer himself spent almost four years working on the film, including one exclusively dedicated to research. What is the name of such a momentous song, you might ask? “Apache,” by the Incredible Bongo Band (IBB).

“Hip-hop starts here,” Forrer said. ”‘Apache’ by the Incredible Bongo Band has been sampled hundreds of times by artists including Kanye, Jay Z, Nas, Amy Winehouse, Missy Elliot and Grandmaster Flash.”

Here lies some irony: “Apache” was covered by the IBB in the early ’70s, its original having been written by Jerry Lordan and first recorded in the ’60s by a British group called The Shadows. This version had a more western vibe. IBB’s version, however, is suited to its time, pulling in the very essence of funk. The now-dubbed “hip-hop anthem” IBB version is considered to be one of the most sampled tracks in music history. Even such performers outside of the hip-hop genre like Moby and Goldie have taken a tune or two from “Apache,” and some artists have even garnered awards for their music that have sampled this song.

The film “Sample This” stems from inspiration brought forth by an article written for the New York Times by Will Hermes in 2006. The article outlines the twisted tale of “a nearly forgotten album and the birth of hip-hop music” which draws upon the creation of IBB, its history adorned with cameos from John Lennon, Robert F. Kennedy, Charles Manson and many others, along with any epic journey’s tragedy, suspense and intrigue. The article points out, for such a highly used track, the album from which it came originally flopped.

“Dan Forrer, the director of the film, approached me through a mutual friend several years ago to see if I would be interested in writing the script. After I heard the story, I not only wanted to write it but told him I wanted to help him produce it,” Burris said. “The most surprising thing to me was the way that so many seemingly diverse storylines interwove to tell a story that you couldn’t make up.”

The interconnectedness doesn’t stop with the film, however. No matter when you were born or where you’re from, some part of the story resonates with your own personal history. In fact, Burris lived only five miles from the Manson family ranch.

“We used to have birthday parties in the park right next to where they were living. Luckily they never stopped by and asked for cake,” Burris said.

Even though Forrer’s background is mainly in broadcasting, he still enjoys learning about musical history and collecting records. For him, hip-hop as a musical genre is a part of his own personal history.

“I heard the music when I was a teenager and it never let go,” Forrer said.

First and foremost, both Forrer and Burris agree they aim to entertain, and that you don’t need to be a hip-hop enthusiast to enjoy the film. ASUCD Entertainment Council’s Cinema Director Andrea Hasson, who organized the screening for this film, knew entertainment was exactly what the film would deliver.

“Entertainment Council is all about music, movies and bringing entertainment to the UC Davis students and community and this event incorporates all three,” Hasson said in an email interview.

All in all, it seems there are greater implications in the film, and according to Forrer, there is something that he wants audiences to take away from his documentary.

“Music is the universal language. It transcends racial and socioeconomic boundaries by bringing people together,” Forrer said.

The free screening of “Sample This” will take place this Saturday in the Sciences Lecture Hall, room 123. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the film starts at 7 p.m., with time to ask Forrer and Burris questions at the end of the screening.

MARIA MARCELINA CRYSTAL VEGA can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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