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Although underappreciated and woefully overlooked during their original tenure together, the fine early-'70s outfit Cymande (pronounced Sah-mahn-day) was one of the first to merge African rhythms with rock, funk, reggae, and soul. Comprised of members who hailed from such exotic locales as Guyana, Jamaica, and St. Vincent, the nine-man lineup (who were all entirely self-taught) contained Steve Scipio (bass), Ray King (vocals, percussion), Derek Gibbs (alto/soprano), Pablo Gonsales (congas), Joey Dee (vocals, percussion), Peter Serreo (tenor), Sam Kelly (drums), Mike Rose (alto, flute, bongos), and Patrick Patterson (guitar). The band issued a total of three releases: 1972's self-titled debut (which spawned one of their best-known songs, "The Message," peaking at number 22 on the domestic R&B charts in 1974), 1973's Second Time Round, and 1974's Promised Heights -- before splitting up.

But by the '90s, Cymande became the recipient of a strong cult following as another track from their debut, "Bra," was included on the soundtrack to Spike Lee's motion picture Crooklyn, and several of their songs were sampled by rap artists (including Raze, Master Ace, MC Solaar, De La Soul, DJ Kool, and the Fugees). Due to sudden interest in Cymande, a pair of compilations were issued -- a British double-CD titled The Message (which collected all three of their albums), a 13-track collection, The Soul of Rasta, and best of all, Renegades of Funk. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi