Groovin’ With The Bongolian’s ‘Harlem Hipshake’

Harlem Hipshake is a release that will keep you movin’ and groovin’ all day and night. It’s a full on party with a throwback style to the Latin soul of Ray Barreto and Mongo Santamaria in the ’60s.  The Bongolian, multi-instrumentalist Nasser Bouzida, plays all the instruments except the funky horns on the album, and there’s plenty of that.  Fans of retro cool bands like The New Mastersounds, New Cool Collective and The Filthy Six should feel Harlem Hipshake’s vibe from the get go.  Let’s get right into the track-by-track rundown.


East Side

Give the Drummer Some:  Appropriately, ‘Drummer’ starts with some groovy bongos, as the only track where Nasser plays all the instruments. After some cheering on, the bassline drops in and there’s some egging the crowd on with some cheers. ‘Make some noise’ and other calls bring in some funky organ that plays a nice back and forth with the drummer and at the ending the call ‘Give the Drummer Some’ has the crowd cheering the intro track.

The title track starts with some organ grooves and the chant ‘ooh, aah’ and the horns come blasting in.  The retro organ is followed by a blast of ‘bah dah DAH daaaaa’ from the horns and then flute (Terry Edwards) smoothly takes the lead. The break resets the tone with some piano and the main rhythm comes back with some nice Wurlitzer retro sounds. This song really kicks with the leads of the horns, flute and keys at different points. The eand features a nice trumpet solo from Terry Edwards.

East Side Rumble: I’m guessing the title is an homage to West Side Story’s  classic “The Rumble.” The horns blast in in with the lead before bass and keys take hold.  Midway, Gary Alesbrook takes a turn on muted trumpet. This one reeks with that street tension.

LSD Got A Hold On Me: The piano and horns intro is reminiscent of an old television theme or even Johnny Rivers’ classic “Secret Agent Man.” There’s a fun trading session between echo-rich organ and bongos. It’s followed by a fuzzed up guitar solo that trails off into a trippy space. 

Flatfoot Hustle:  The short bass intro ushers in some very funky drums/percussion. The staccato horns play off the organ for the main theme here. Nasser plays a sprite piano piece when the horns again apply their sauce.  The second half features a very cool organ dash segueing into some super funky guitar, then a silent break before the horns close it out. 

Soul Drums on 110th Street:  Even though it’s NYC style, the opening groove here has that Stax Booker T feel as well. James Morton takes a scorching alto solo before The Bongolian shows his stuff. Andrew Ross kills it on baritone sax for the low end. 

Do You Like It Like That: This is another super groove oriented tune, akin to Ramsey Lewis’ “The In Crowd.” another classic. The effect of the horn chorus and the jazzy key work is invigorating.

West Side

Manhattan Cornbread: Nasser really knows how to set the table. The bongos with the bass build for the piano and then the full horn impact.  The organ work here is impressive – it just swings inducing involuntary head bobs. Ralph Lamb on trumpet and Andrew Ross on tenor have a nice duel toward the end and then some syrupy organ comes back for a solo fadeout.

El Beardo: Man, that cowbell (ha!) propels this one all the way through.  This is a rollicking organ heavy piece with horns playing an accenting chorus.  James Morton has a Maceo-like solo midway and then Nasser takes over and dominates with sound left to right channel and back percussion.

West Side Stories: This one kicks off with some primal percussion before that Latin beat washes over you.  Again, Nasser plays some nasty organ challenging the horns for domination. Craig Crofton has a greasy alto solo midway and carries it through to end.

Mojito Time Baby: Some nifty piano starts and then some terrific bongo playing comes in and then the lead is again taken on by some Memphis sounding organ. The break reverts back to the piano and tambourine section. Nasser plays the second half on piano sounding keys.  This one is perhaps the most heavy bongo-oriented piece and it really shakes things up.

Tito’s Pay Off: Here’s a nice tribute to Tito Puente presumably. It cruising along with some organ and horns melody interspersed with really rolling percussion. I really enjoy the bouncing organ on this one with the bouncing in and out of horns and percussion.  This one also sounds like a tune one of my other favorite bands, The New Mastersounds could perform. And I definitely enjoy the groove that Gareth brings on trombone at the end.

Swinging At Palm Gardens: Craig Crofton intros this one on alto and plays the main melody throughout.  He definitely blows it out and the solo in the middle is top notch. The sax definitely commands attention for the duration of this closer out piece.

Harlem Hipshake is Nasser Bouzida’s sixth album under The Bongolian moniker, and follows the highly acclaimed Moog Maximus. It’s out now on Blow Up Records (UK).  The album has plenty to satisfy all fans of funk, swinging jazz and Latin soul and is highly recommended. Check it out and you can purchase it on the link to the right.


Harlem Hipshake was written, performed, and produced by Nasser Bouzida. 


Nasser Bouzida Drums, Percussion, Bass Guitar, Hammond Organ, Voice, Piano, Fender Rhodes Electric Piano, Wurlitzer EP200 Electric Piano, Electric Guitar.

With thanks to the following musicians for their performances on these recordings.

Terry Edwards Trumpet, Baritone Saxophone, Flute (A2) / Trumpet (A4) / Tenor Saxophone and Trumpet (A5) / Tenor Saxophone, Trumpet, Baritone Sax (B4)

Gareth James Bailey Trombone (A3, A7, B3, B5)

Craig Crofton Alto Saxophone (A3, A7, B3, B5, B6)

Gary Alesbrook Trumpet (A3, A7, B3, B5)

James Morton Alto Saxophone (A6 / B1 / B2)

Andrew Ross Tenor and Baritone Saxophone (A6 / B1 / B2)

Ralph Lamb Trumpet (A6 / B1 / B2)