Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Maria Sandra—
Patropi


Released 1972 on Disques Vogue
The Seth Man, January 2005ce
The longevity of dance crazes have been generally short and sweet affairs in the recent decades gone by, while only salsa seeming to enjoy one of the more enduring successes in recent memory. Time was when they’d originate on a small scale in local dancehalls then spread across a circuit of dancehalls into larger ballrooms and eventually being brought to the most widespread attention possible only to culminate into instant termination and promptly fade away to make way for the next hot’n’heavy hyped sensation. And they did in a quick succession in the sixties with The Twist, The Swim, The Mashed Potato, The Hully-Gully and a whole host of others. And each and every one fell by the wayside once quickly subsumed by dance floor denizens worldwide until -- with scant exceptions -- there was little sign of any new organised series of movements emerging anytime soon in the early seventies. Which was a pity: for those that dance are closer to the spark of life, to life itself, and to re-connecting with their inner spirit and the forces that fuelled them into existence in the first place.

With that said, I don’t think “Le Patropi” caught on to any significant degree in on either side of the Atlantic, equator, Equatorial Guinea or even in Mademoiselle Sandra’s own native France. And despite the 12 photographs that grace the opposite side of the sleeve in an attempt to illustrate the proper moves for prospective inductees into the dark arts of Patropi, it still looks like a modified version of a Babylonian Bull devotional crossed with The Freddie.

But luck being what it is, my passport to the land of 1001 dances is currently stamped in bold red ink with the single legend: “PATROPI.”

I needed no entry visa, no vaccine, and I didn’t even need a ticket. All I needed was to locate the PATROPI inside me, and to feel its power glowering and spreading and I was off and running. Then several visions came to me:

PATROPI is not benign, but spreads like a vicious and malignant rhythmic virus.

PATROPI is not a drug.

Those who grasp PATROPI in its essence will behold spectacular results with the opposite sex, for

Women love PATROPI and men aspire to PATROPI.

PATROPI will allow you to touch your partner (despite what the illustrations depict on the verso side of the picture sleeve and besides; art without improvisation is a mean and dusty entombment of the spirit.)

PATROPI is willfully playful and un-intellectual as fuck.

PATROPI is like eating an ice cream cone, riding a horse and watching your favourite movie all at the same time (Well, sort of.)

With PATROPI, life is unlocked to its fullest.

PATROPI is a dance, but only in the same way ‘the dance from which all dances come’ (See R. Derminer: “My Life As A Honky: Black To Comm,” Ann Arbor University Press, 1966) is a dance. For along with every other dance under the sun (except St. Vitus’, natch) it’s a freeing of everything: you mind, your body, your senses. And it brings you closer to a sense of living in the moment with every step.

The sung word “Patropi” is dispensed with more times on this single than even “Blue Jean” on Bowie’s hit of the same name,1so after incessant spins, it started gaining in mystical power and I still don’t know what “Patropi” means. I don’t care, either for I am losing myself in a place where all is Patropi and Patropi is all. Especially when “Paaaaa-tro-pee, Paaaaa-tro-pee, Patropi! Patropi! Patropi!” gets sung as the chorus (or more to the point, as the incantation) for the umpteenth time and it’s an incantation that is currently hogging constant Top 10 AM radio rotation during the A-side of this veritable “Patropi” fest named “Patropi Merci” for this is where the Great Goddess Patropi is being invoked in order to render thanks for allowing another bountiful harvest and keen supply of Patropi, sending forth well-wishes and safe flight back to the land of Patropi, where she will spend half the year minting new Patropi by the bushel.

The back sleeve also states, “Avec le participation de la rythmique du CHICO magnetique Band” which can only mean one thing: that Chico Magnetic Band are the backing band here(!) This is getting weirder by the minute and although their contributions save the rigourous percussion are isolated to one channel of the mix on “Patropi Merci” (here operating as a furiously festive “Main Theme From Patropi”) where guitarist Bernard Monneri can be heard riffing hard on fuzz guitar and even inserts darkly forming Middle Eastern accenting during the chorus to shore up this chant-led piece to no end. Unfortunately, the vocals of Chico The Man get no dish whatsoever on the record for instead it is the voice of Maria Sandra that will continually return to lead the chorus into yet another rhythmic round of “Paaaaa-tro-pee, Paaaaa-tro-pee, Patropi! Patropi! Patropi!” over light flute trills, tambourine and congas galore.

The B-side, “M. & Mme. Patropi” continues with a more sprightly and upbeat a tempo and is far more Caribbean in feel; like theme music from early seventies TV commercials beckoning instant travel to the sunny tropical paradise of your choice. That is, until the middle section where everyone’s chanting “la-la-la” and the male vocal (ostensibly those of Germinal Tenas, the man responsible for the writing and arrangements) slides aberrantly into tones remarkably like those of Grover from ‘Sesame Street.’ But even such a howler can’t bring down the buoyancy of this infectious outbreak of chant’n’dance as people trill in the background over massed percussion and background wah-wah’ed guitar washes. For

PATROPI is more than a dance...it is a way of life.

Or more specifically, Patropi IS life.

Or maybe even more specifically: love of life.

And here’s to it.

PATROPI!



FOOTNOTES:
  1. Which is quite a number of times, as I discovered the hard way to my supreme annoyance some time ago while experimenting with a potentially harmless drinking game called ‘Blue Jean.’ The rules are simple. All players must consume one shot of the dark spirit of their choice every time Bowie sings the words “blue jean” during a single play of his eighties hit AND not throw up before the song ends. The winner is also eligible for 10 bonus points for correctly reciting the lyrics to “The Bewlay Brothers” afterwards without slurring. Repeat until you forget the rules or black out altogether.