Joe Bataan: Anything but Ordinary
Next week we will be airing a new Hip Deep program titled Africa in East Asia: From Shanghai Jazz to Tokyo Rastafari. As the title explicitly explains, the show explores the different ways that black music has influenced culture and society in places like China, Japan and Korea.
In preparing for the show, we couldn’t help but think of NYC boogaloo legend Joe Bataan. Bataan is a Filipino African-American who grew up in the Latin-American neighborhood of East Harlem. In a way, Bataan is a perfect representation of a musician with a uniquely mixed cultural background that coalesced with the culture of the East Harlem neighborhood he grew up in.
The result of this mix shines through in Bataan’s music that was highly influenced by African-American doo-wop and Latin boogaloo that was all the rage when Bataan started writing music. He even recorded one of the first early, hip hop singles “Rap O, Clap O” to hit the charts in 1979.
Over his career Bataan recorded a handful of celebrated albums and a series of singles for the infamous Fania label, many of which can be found on the recently released Strut Records retrospective of the NYC label. Bataan songs often make reference to his unique background, most specifically his 1975 LP Afro-Filipino. In a 1969 track called “Ordinary Guy,” Bataan proclaimed that he was just a normal New Yorker who took the subway to work. While the track showcases Bataan’s love for the working-class, Bataan is anything but ordinary.