Mates’ Crates: Tantra – Macumba

Mates’ Crates, a series headed up by our friend Andrei Sandu, dives into the tales behind records and digs deeper into our connections to music. An Italo Disco favourite this time in the form of Tantra’s “Macumba”. 

Label: Importe/12 | Year: 1982 | Discogs: Tantra – Ma-Cum-Ba

When Pitchfork described Italo Disco as “the most amazingly uncool genre ever created”, I tried not to take it as a personal attack. There’s no denying Italo is back, and I love it. Sure, you could call it kitschy low-budget Euro-pop, but where’s the fun in that?

I’m glad that world class selectors from Skatebård to Hunee have been giving it a new lease of life. Sound & Motion’s “Shipwrecked” is a case in point: €15 before Palms Trax’s iconic 2019 Dekmantel set, €100 thereafter. The very same set brought us Pulse’s “Showdown”, which featured on the column back in May 2020.

Having just got back from two weeks in Amsterdam, Porto and Lisbon, I’ve been thumbing through more crates of Italo than usual. Portugal especially had tons of the stuff (including this gem) – more on my digging adventures there soon, including on next week’s radio show! But it was in Amsterdam that I found a copy of Tantra’s 1982 single “Ma-Cum-Ba”.

Despite releasing five albums, not much is known about the band  beyond their ties to prolific Italian producer Celso Valli. Born in Bologna in 1950, Valli also assembled and wrote for Azoto, best known for “San Salvador” and “Anytime Or Place“. From there, he went on to collaborate with some of Italy’s most successful musicians, including Mina, Andrea Bocelli and Eros Ramazzotti.

The story goes that after the 1979 Disco Demolition night, fewer English-speaking artists were releasing new disco music. Alongside the likes of Giorgio Moroder, Valli was amongst a host of Italians who took matters into their own hands, and their DIY response to disco’s stateside decline spawned a genre in its own right.

Whilst most of these records fared much better in mainland Europe than in the UK, the influence of its synths, drum machines and vocoders can be heard in the music of the Pet Shop Boys and New Order to name a few.

So as you soak in all fourteen minutes of Tantra’s Italo rollercoaster, ask yourself, could the most amazingly uncool genre ever created do this? Let fun be fun.