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Out of all the necessities in the world, three come to the forefront: food, water, and reproduction. While the first two are necessary for the survival of the individual among the many, the latter is necessary for the survival of the many. It is valued as an art and sometimes even worshipped as a religious ideal. Most simply call it sex; others call it a way of life. This is where the Kama Sutra comes into the story.
What is the Kama Sutra Really About?
Known in the vernacular as a book of sexual positions, the Kama Sutra is much more than a checklist of intriguing, enjoyable, and somewhat complex challenges for the bedroom . In fact, the title Kama Sutra loosely translates as a concept in which desires tie (or suture) the world together.
Govardhan. Dalliance on a Terrace 1615-20 LACMA. ( Public Domain )
The sexual aspect of the text is in actuality only a portion of kama (the Hindu term equating to ‘desires’ or ‘pleasure of the senses’), while the other aspects of the text discuss how to attract partners , how to obtain a wife, how to keep a wife, how a wife should behave, and where concubines fit into the scheme of marriage.
Kama in the most general sense of the word can refer to affection, love, aesthetic stimulation, or wishes, none of which have to incorporate sexuality. The text ends with a discussion of the inner power of those partaking in sexual acts . That is, engaging in sexual activity can be seen as a spiritual act in which one's sexual power can be enhanced.
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The Purpose of the Kama Sutra
Written (likely) by the philosopher Vatsyayana possibly around the 2nd century AD, scholars believe his intention was to highlight one of the four virtues of life. Kama, as previously mentioned, indicates enjoying the senses; the other three goals are dharma (virtuous living), artha (material wealth), and moksha (liberation—usually indicating freedom from the cycle of reincarnation). Before moving to the pleasures of life, Vatsyayana first discusses the higher goals.
But that’s not to say that following the sacred path is necessarily the aim of the text either, since pleasure is at the forefront of the work. Some scholars also question the author’s morality due to his writings on seducing the wives of other men, for example. For researchers, the text also provides unique insight on what sexuality and relationships could look like during the Gupta empire, when the text is believed to have been written.
The Kama Sutra is made up of seven books, each discussing and describing a different form of pleasure through which one can achieve kama. A common misconception is that the length of the Kama Sutra 's seven books dictates sexual intercourse; in truth, only one chapter in one of these seven books talks about sexual positions. In simple terms, the focus of the text is not the physical act of lovemaking, but more on achieving love and pleasure in relationships and life.
Lovers Embracing, Folio from India, Madhya Pradesh, Malwa, circa 1660. ( Public Domain )
Common Misconceptions About the Text
A common misconception regarding the Kama Sutra is the assumption by non-eastern cultures that the text is itself a guidebook to rituals relating to tantric sex. Tantra, in the simplest terms, is a state referring to mastery of the self - which in western cultures has become associated with highly ritualized sexual prowess. In truth, while sexual positions are dictated pragmatically in the text, and the text exemplifies how desire can aid in unleashing the full extent of an individual's personal power, these dictations are intended more as guidelines for virtuous living.
The Kama Sutra does not relate to tantric rites or practices, nor is it a sacred doctrine of sexual rituals . In the grand scheme of things, the description of sexual desires and positions is very small, and is intended primarily to help individuals reach the full potential of one of the four virtuous goals of existence.
If one picks a copy of the Kama Sutra in a bookstore or searches for the text online, it is paramount to Hindu culture to ensure the text is complete and not merely an abridgement of the single chapter on sexual positions. To read this portion outside the context of the entire book is to misrepresent, and therefore misunderstand, a text which has had great significance in Indian society .
The Kama Sutra contains more than just sexual positions. ( Art of Legend India )
It is due to instances such as these that modern knowledge of the Kama Sutra is so misguided. With time, perhaps the Kama Sutra can once again be enjoyed as it was meant to be by Vatsyayana. As awareness of the genuine nature of the text is spread, so too will the true meaning behind this work be better understood.
The Kama Sutra is one of the most popular ancient Indian texts today, known widely for its erotic content and plethora of sexual positions. Contrary to western popular perception, the Kama Sutra is not exclusively a sex manual it presents itself as a guide to a virtuous and gracious living that discusses the nature of love, family, life, and other aspects pertaining to pleasure-oriented faculties of human life. The Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian text compiled by Vatsyayana, is a guide to all aspects of pleasure in the human life, and empowers women while showing the socio-political situation of India during the time. The historical setting the Kama Sutra was written in plays a large factor in the content and methods the text uses. The Kama&hellip
All eleven tracks were written by Prince, and all contain him playing most of the non-orchestral instruments, with Eric Leeds playing saxophone, horns by the NPG Hornz, and orchestra added by Clare Fischer's orchestra. The album is entirely instrumental, with repeated musical themes throughout, and was recorded between Spring 1994 and 1996 by Prince (as ) at Paisley Park Studios, Chanhassen, MN, USA, and by Clare Fischer’s orchestra at Ocean Way Recording, Hollywood, CA, USA.
The album’s title is taken from the Kama Sutra, considered to be the most important work in a long line of Indian erotic literature, written by the Hindu philosopher Vātsyāyana (the Kama Sutra was previously mentioned by Prince in We Can Fuck (later released as We Can Funk).
An early version of the artwork (done in 1996) shows the album (before being included as a bonus disc to Crystal Ball) was originally to be released as a stand-alone album credited to Prince (as />), which would have made that Prince’s 20th album and the the fourth to be credited to /> instead of Crystal Ball. The original artwork contained paintings by artist Chad Attie in the booklet, which were discarded when the album was released as part of the Crystal Ball set.
No singles were released, but The Plan had been released in edited form on Emancipation, with liner notes noting the forthcoming release of Kamasutra. In late 1997, the NPG Dance Company (led by Mayte) danced to the full Kamasutra album during the second act of their three-act Around The World In A Day Tour. As a direct-order release, the album was not eligible for entry in any charts.
- The Plan (2:03)
- Kamasutra (11:49)
- At Last… "The Lost Is Found" (3:37)
- The Ever Changing Light (2:59)
- Cutz (3:03)
- Serotonin (0:47)
- Promise/Broken (3:46)
- Barcelona (2:16)
- Kamasutra/Overture #8 (3:11)
- Coincidence Or Fate? (3:24)
- Kamasutra/Eternal Embrace (4:02)
the full album is repeated on each side
- The Plan (2:03)
- Kamasutra (11:49)
- At Last… "The Lost Is Found" (3:37)
- The Ever Changing Light (2:59)
- Cutz (3:03)
- Serotonin (0:47)
- Promise/Broken (3:46)
- Barcelona (2:16)
- Kamasutra/Overture #8 (3:11)
- Coincidence Or Fate? (3:24)
- Kamasutra/Eternal Embrace (4:02)
- The Plan (2:03)
- Kamasutra (11:49)
- At Last… "The Lost Is Found" (3:37)
- The Ever Changing Light (2:59)
- Cutz (3:03)
- Serotonin (0:47)
- Promise/Broken (3:46)
- Barcelona (2:16)
- Kamasutra/Overture #8 (3:11)
- Coincidence Or Fate? (3:24)
- Kamasutra/Eternal Embrace (4:02)
All tracks written by Prince (as )
- Prince (as ) – all instruments, except where noted – tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute on Kamasutra and Kamasutra/Overture #8, baritone saxophone on Promise/Broken - trombone on Kamasutra and Kamasutra/Overture #8 - baritone saxophone on Kamasutra and Kamasutra/Overture #8 - trumpet on Kamasutra and Kamasutra/Overture #8 - tenor saxophone on Kamasutra and Kamasutra/Overture #8 - trumpet on Kamasutra and Kamasutra/Overture #8 - orchestral arrangements on Kamasutra, At Last… "The Lost Is Found", The Ever Changing Light, Cutz, Serotonin, Promise/Broken, Barcelona, Kamasutra/Overture #8, Coincidence Or Fate? and Kamasutra/Eternal Embrace
- Unidentified vocalist(s) - background vocals on The Ever Changing Light
- Orchestral players on Kamasutra, At Last… "The Lost Is Found", The Ever Changing Light, Cutz, Serotonin, Promise/Broken, Barcelona, Kamasutra/Overture #8, Coincidence Or Fate? and Kamasutra/Eternal Embrace: Morris Repass, Assa Drori, Isabelle Daskoff, Edward P. Greene, Harry Scorzo, Francine Walsh, Robert Lezin, Norma Leonard, Anita A. Thompson, Pamela Gates, Russel Cantor, Betty Byers, Robert Sushel, Don Palmer, Ross Shub, Pamela Tomkins, Yvette Devereaux, Calabria McChesney, Marshall Daniel Thomason, Marilyn Baker, Harry Shirinian, Hershel Wise, Peter Hatch, Suzanna Giordano, Benjamin Simon, James V. Ross, Gladys Secunda, Frederick Seykora, Raymond Kelley, Marie Fera, Douglas Davis, Judith Johnson, Cecilia Tsan, David Randall Stone, Morton Klanfer, James D. Hughart, Don Shelton, Daniel L. Higgins, Lisa Edelstein, James R. Walker, C. Terry Harrington, Jack Mimitz, Charles Boito, Charles A Coker, Jenice Rosen, Robert D. Carr, Dave Duke, Joseph Meyer, Marilyn L. Johnson, Alexander P. Iles, Leslie K. Benedict, Brent Fischer, Gerald Vinci, Mari Tsumara, Israel Baker, Yoko Matsuda, Murry Adler, Jorge Moraga, Carole Mukogawa, Margot MacLaine, Nancy Roth, Anne Karam, Judith Johnson, Arni Egilson, Richard Mitchell, Jon C. Clark, John F. Reilly, John J. Mitchell, Robert Tricarico, Yvonne Moriarty, Andrew M. Martin, Richard Hamilton, Larry Bunker, Thomas John Ranier, Dennis Budimer, G. Levant (full breakdown of instruments to follow)
- Prince (as ) - producer, primary orchestrator, engineer
- Morris Repass - orchestral manager
- Brent Fischer - musical transcriptions - engineer - engineer - engineer
- Larry Mah - engineer
- Arne Frager (as Anne Frager) - engineer - mastering at Bernie Grundmann - mastering at Bernie Grundmans - cover photograph (credited for "photograph of Mayte") - art direction
- Michael Van Huffel - art direction
- In late 1997, the NPG Dance Company (led by Mayte) danced to the full Kamasutra album during the second act of their three-act Around The World In A Day Tour.
- Kamasutra website
- The Vault: The Definitive Guide to the Musical World of Prince (2004)
Mixologist Rob Floyd Talks Cocktail Secrets and Kama Sutra
What is it about enjoying a good cocktail that makes us feel so at ease? I suppose it has something to do with us being able to relax, no matter how bad we need that drink, and just get lost in the libation's calming taste. Cocktail craftsman Rob Floyd takes that sensation even further with his drinks, especially when it's part of his rousing Cocktail Theatre where good drinks and good tales combine to bring your cocktail to life.
For anyone not already familiar with Rob Floyd, he is considered by many to be one of the best mixologists in the country. He's helmed top cocktail programs at many leading bars, including The Bazaar by Jose Andres, where he ran America's best molecular bar, as well as Chateau Marmont and The Library Bar at The Roosevelt. Indeed, cocktails and especially his Cocktail Theatre are near and dear to Rob's heart.
"I've been doing this for 22 years," the affable Floyd says.
I always felt that stories of cocktails, or if you're at a cocktail bar and someone is looking down on you because they're a mixologist, take away the celebration of humanity for me. The whole point for me and the love it and the love of storytelling comes from sharing those moments, and all of a sudden I felt there was a way to do it where it could be really fun and cutting edge and make people have a great time, as opposed to people drinking to get drunk or people looking down on it.
And what is cocktail theater you might ask? It's appreciating the art and craft of cocktails via the charismatic Rob Floyd and his cast of zany characters, including luchadors and male fairies, as guests get Rob's take on cocktail history (why let a good tale get in the way of facts) while they enjoy world class cocktails in a pure fun/no-frown zone. Rob has taken this show on the road, selling out venues wherever he goes (there's even talk of Mexico and Japan in the near future). In Los Angeles, he's set up shop at members-only 41 Ocean Club in Santa Monica where he currently runs the cocktail program, although his cocktail theatre evenings are open to the public.
Due to popular demand, there will be two Cocktail Theatre performances this month as Rob mixes cocktails with his Kama Sutra -- Eyes Wide Shut Edition at 41 Ocean Club on Friday, August 22 and 29. These evenings should prove to be a boozy and daring adult-oriented good time where all kinds of secrets will be revealed. In fact, this one-of-a-kind education tasting series is part cocktail show with elements of History Channel meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In Rob's words, this edition of Cocktail Theatre will be "an exploration of the palate from sensual profiles derived from India, from 5,000 years ago to present day."
In fact, ask Rob about cocktail secrets and he's giddy to talk.
What's the secret to a great cocktail?
"Taste, technique and tale," Floyd says without hesitation.
Anybody can make you a cocktail that tastes good but for me, a great cocktail has to be the experience of making it with or for somebody. You have to have great taste first of all, somebody that doesn't like spice and you're making them a spicy cocktail, you're already at strike one. So you have to understand the palette that you're going for, then you add a great taste on there, and then you move to technique, whether it's shaken or stirred, then you go onto the tale. And whether you're working with a martini or if it's a Jose Andres' liquid nitrogen cocktail, you have to have the story behind it. For me, it's never a story, because everybody has a story, it has to be a secret because secrets are things that we love and can't wait to share or whisper, and that's that human part of the connection of the cocktail.
What's the secret to a great cocktail event?
"I like to keep it unexpected and fun," Floyd explains.
We're all on this train and we're all taking a ride together and we're getting off in an hour and a half and it's going to be a fun time not that you're going to get hammered because a lot of it deals with tasting but you're going to have a great time with that.
With such a vast knowledge about cocktails and its history, I was curious to know if Rob remembers his first ever cocktail, and of course he does.
"It was a Manhattan made by my dad. He made the best Manhattan, and just before he would hand it off, he'd always stir it with his finger to check the temperature."
One of nine children and the son of a doctor father, Rob's charisma (he's part drink guru and part used car salesman showman) was born from his father's dinner table. And ever since, he's been amped and ready to give his guests the best possible drink and story imaginable. So it makes me wonder, is Rob Floyd a bartender or mixologist? He's ready with his answer.
Mixology is to bartending what cliff diving is to the springboard at the local community pool. The springboard is a lot of fun and you can get a Jack and Coke anywhere, but when you can get an experience with that drink, and that's what mixology is to me, it's not only making a great drink but having that customer service nobody else can provide -- it's having that secret that nobody thought of. It's taking a look or a twist on something that is unique.
And just like Rob, his drinks at 41 Ocean Club may look casual but there's a complexity there that's second to none, especially with his Pina En Fuego, and Smoking Gun cocktails.
"I wanted to address farm to table," Floyd says of his 41 Ocean Club cocktails,
so instead of going molecular, and because Santa Monica has a real freshness to it, what I did was just design five cocktails on the menu that can be switched out or balanced with any spirit. So they're interchangeable and these five cocktails can really be 20 or 25 cocktails and it empowers the mixologist behind the bar to plug in different spirits and work with it that way. I wanted to get back to the base of having a great balanced drink and a great experience and being able to use beautiful fruits and vegetables across the bar.
A fan of the drinks at The Library Bar and Melrose Umbrella Company, it's hard to ever see Rob Floyd not at breakneck pace -- personally I've only seen him in go-go-go mode. And maybe that's why his events are never dull.
So what kind of spirits can guests expect at the Kama Sutra Cocktail Theatre?
We'll have pisco because I feel it's on the rise again. It's a sexy drink but often misunderstood because people only think of it as a sour with the egg white. There are a lot of things you can do with pisco. We're going to make a German punch and light it on fire. The Kama Sutra is all about passion and love.
Between Rob's exuberance and his tongue and cheek showmanship, not to mention quality drinks, what can guests really expect at Cocktail Theatre?
That it is a real experience -- for me, drinking, whether we're at a wedding or bar miztvah or graduation, we always toast but it's never just about what's in that glass or getting drunk, it's the experience that transcends time for me.
Rob Floyd's Cocktail Theatre takes place August 22 and 29 at 41 Ocean Club, located at 41 Ocean Ave in Santa Monica.
The Kama Sutra: Setting the Record Straight - History
The Kama Sutra/Buddah Records Story
By Bob Hyde
Last update: April 11, 2000
This story is copyright © 1993 by Bob Hyde, and is used by permission of the author.
GOOD TIME MUSIC: The Early Days of Kama Sutra
Charting the history of any record label -- much less two or three -- is a precarious occupation at best. A hit record makes ordinary people heroes while a stiff causes the arrow of blame to spin madly, looking for a suitable target. Some success in the music business comes from sheer luck some is the result of hard, diligent work, and some comes from what can only be described as a "genius" for the medium.
If any one man in the 1950s embodied those three principles, it would have to be George Goldner, entrepreneur extraordinaire and owner of countless small (and medium-sized) record labels from 1948 to 1966. Goldner's 10th Avenue one-man operation carried his enterprise into the mid-1950s, when a plethora of hit artists like Frankie Lymon, The Chantels, The Flamingos and Little Anthony & The Imperials made it impossible to carry on alone. Songwriter/singer/producer Richard Barrett came on board in 1955 as his right-hand studio man and talent scout, and one Arthur "Artie" Ripp became his go-for.
Under Goldner, Ripp received a street education in the record business equal to none, and it's not surprising that by the time Goldner had sold out most of his enterprises to Roulette's Morris Levy, Ripp was on his own as an independent producer. And it was Ripp -- along with partners Hy Mizrahi and Phil Steinberg -- who set up Kama Sutra Productions in 1964. With a stable of songwriters and producers, Kama Sutra Productions hit immediately and often, producing hits for the Critters, Shangri-Las and numerous other acts in 1964-65.
At this point, the production company was not, in itself, a label that would follow sometime in the summer of 1965, when Ripp and company was joined by Art Kass, an accountant who had formerly worked for MGM Records. The four of them established the Kama Sutra label and immediately signed a distribution agreement with MGM, at the time a major label.
With Ripp as musical director, Kama Sutra hit the national pop charts with its first two releases: "You're My Baby," a neo-doo wop number by a vocal group called the Vacels that topped out at #63 that summer, and "Do You Believe in Magic," the extraordinary first single release by John Sebastian and the Lovin' Spoonful. The Spoonful were not signed directly to Kama Sutra instead, the group was handled by Koppelman-Rubin, a production company who in turn signed with Ripp in what would be the first of a number of such production deals for the label(s). However good the Vacels might have been - they recorded the first version, for instance, of Bob Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" before he did and their two singles on Kama Sutra were quite decent - it would be the Spoonful who single-handedly carried the Kama Sutra label for its first year of operation.
"Magic" was just that - a magically upbeat, bouncy and soulful number that spoke of the appeal of rock'n'roll as few other songs could. With their long (by 1965 standards) hair and non-corporate attire, not to mention the physical charisma of each of the group members (John Sebastian, Zalman Yanovsky, Steve Boone and Joe Butler), the Spoonful immediately became one of the darlings of the American rock scene that quickly developed in response to the British Invasion of 1964-65. Along with the Byrds, Turtles and Beau Brummels (not to mention, on occasion, Sonny & Cher), the Spoonful symbolized a form of music generally called 'folk rock," although Kama Sutra promoted them as makers of "good time music" and their typical outfits, wide-striped sweatshirts, further advertised their "fun" image. Their roots certainly lent credibility to the folk portion of the folk-rock moniker leader John Sebastian had already recorded background guitar, harmonica and vocals for a number of acts on the mostly folk-music Elektra label including a stint with the Even Dozen Jug Band, while Yanovsky was coming from stints with the Halifax Three and the Mugwumps.
The Spoonful, named after a phrase in bluesman Mississippi John Hurt's song "Coffee Blues," were just one of the musical offspring that came from a number of musicians that hung out with Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas and Papas in the Greenwich Village (New York) of the early '60s. Sebastian and Yanovsky met at one of her parties in 1964 and began formulating the idea for the Spoonful right from the start. The Mugwumps and Mamas And Papas would emerge from that eclectic group of musicians in the coming years as well, permanently chronicled in the Mamas and Papas' hit "Creeque Alley." In early 1965, Sebastian and Yanovsky met producer Erik Jacobsen at Elektra Records and recorded three sides for the label in exchange for equipment money the cuts would later appear on the What's Shaking' soundtrack LP. Jacobsen then went shopping and signed the group to the new Kama Sutra label.
Kama Sutra barely released anything other than Lovin' Spoonful singles from mid-'65 until the Fall of 1966. "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice" followed "Do You Believe In Magic" up the charts, and the group followed thereafter with a string of classic hits: "Daydream," which hit #2 on the national charts, "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind," another #2 smash, and "Summer In The City," the group's (and label's) first #1 single. The label also enjoyed nice sales from three Spoonful albums in that time, including the classic Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful. It's quite likely that most record buyers would never have heard of the Kama Sutra label had they not seen the Spoonful records prominently displayed in their record stores!
With some money in its coffers, the label was ready to expand its roster by the turn of 1966. Artie Ripp approached a pair of Rhode Island songwriters, Pete (Andreoli) Anders and Vincent (Vinnie) Poncia, who had previously scored a small hit (#73) of their own as the Videls ("Mr. Lonely," JDS 1960) and had done instrumental and vocal arranging and songwriting with Phil Spector on some of the Ronettes hits in 1963-64. The pair were working for Lieber & Stoller's Red Bird Records when Ripp approached them, and had just scored a big national hit under the name of the Trade Winds with the unlikely surf ditty "New York's A Lonely Town." Wooed by Ripp's offer of more money and more production work, the duo joined Kama Sutra and started producing a series of recordings that would be issued under a variety of group names. Ripp introduced them to Don Ciccone, the lead singer for the Critters ("Mr. Dieingly Sad") and a songwriter for Kama Sutra, and Ciccone gave the boys the song "Mind Excursion." Issued as by the Trade Winds, the song eventually hit #51 nationally. Ciccone then came up with another hit for the duo -- "There's Got To Be A Word" -- that eventually broke the national Top 40 in the fall of 1966 under another nom-de-disque, The Innocence. Although it was just Anders & Poncia again in the studio, they added Artie Ripp for personal appearances and LP covers.
Kama Sutra issued both an Innocence LP and a Trade Winds LP, and a number of singles by both "groups" followed, without success. "Mairzy Doats," the World War II chestnut, would be their last appearance on the charts, hitting #75 under the name the Innocence. Finally, after a superb solo single on Buddah by Pete Anders ("Sunrise Highway") flopped, the duo left to form their own label, Map City, in 1969.
That fall (1966), Kama Sutra found itself with another national hit - "Hello, Hello" by the San Francisco group Sopwith Camel. Named after a World War I fighter plane, the group was one of the first Bay Area bands to sign with a national label, and like the Spoonful had a folksy, throwback kind of sound. The Camel would follow up with "Postcard from Jamaica," which scraped the bottom of the charts, and an LP before dissipating. The Spoonful continued to contribute more than their share of hits at this time, with "Rain On The Roof" peaking at #10, and "Nashville Cats," a tribute to the rockabilly sound of legendary Sun Records, a #8 chart item. With three groups on the singles chart and a best-selling ( Hums . ) album as well, Kama Sutra entered 1967 in good shape.
THE LATE '60s: Buddah, Bogart And Bubblegum
The record charts may have given the illusion that all was fine at Kama Sutra in early 1967, but disenchantment with the MGM distribution pact was about to bring forth another Art Kass-led venture that summer . Buddah Records.
Contractually obligated to continue producing acts for Kama Sutra/MGM, Kass decided to form his new label as an outlet for new artists that wouldn't fall under the Kama Sutra agreement. Kama Sutra would continue to release Lovin' Spoonful records (their "Six O'Clock" single that Spring would be their last Top 20 hit), and a few oddball releases by Vince Edwards (TV's "Ben Casey"), Erik & The Smoke Ponies and soul singers Bobby Bloom and Billy Harner (who scored a small hit I with "Sally's Sayin' Somethin"' that July), but their attention would be paid primarily to the new Buddah venture. The very first Buddah single - "Yes, We Have No Bananas" by the Mulberry Fruit, was a studio collaboration/joke between Anders & Poncia and film producer Richard Perry.
Kass went one step further in establishing his new label - he brought in record executive Neil Bogart, whom he had met at MGM when Bogart spent a brief spell there in the early '60s as General Manager. If you had to describe Neil Bogart's career in two words, "bubblegum" and "Casablanca" would be your choice (although the two words hardly do the record magnate justice). Bogart's introduction to the industry had come as a recording artist when, billed as Neil Scott, he had a mild hit (#58) with a song called "Bobby" on the Portrait label in 1961. Bogart (originally Bogatz, and from where else but Brooklyn) left the performing side of music soon after and began working for Cashbox from there, he jumped to MGM as a promotion man and eventually ended up at Cameo-Parkway as VP and Sales Manager. After Allen Klein acquired Cameo-Parkway in early '67, Bogart became disenchanted and jumped at Kass' offer at Buddah. The hustling Mr. Bogart also brought with him one of his former label's best acts, a black family group called the Stairsteps.
Once at Buddah, Bogart hooked up with another 2-man production team: the so-called "Super K" guys, Jeff Katz and Jerry Kasenetz. Bogart had met the two when they did production work for Cameo-Parkway, bringing that label one of their last hits, "Beg, Borrow And Steal" - a note-for-note theft of "Louie Louie" - by a midwest garage band originally called the Rare Breed but renamed the Ohio Express on Cameo. After a few follow-ups failed, Kasenetz and Katz recruited some studio musicians to form a new Ohio Express, led by the nasal-voiced Joey Levine. With this crew, the K&K boys began crafting a series of incredibly simple yet dynamic pop recordings that would soon be dubbed "bubblegum music" in reference to its obvious appeal to pre- and early teens . as opposed to much of the more experimental rock that was flooding the FM airwaves by groups like the Doors and Jefferson Airplane. Bogart, who would garner the cover of Time Magazine the next year for launching the bubblegum program, said at the time: Bubblegum music is pure entertainment. It's about sunshine and going places and falling in love and dancing for the fun of it. It's not about war and poverty and disease and rioting, and frustration and making money and lying and all the things that 'really' matter. It's not about these things and that is why it is so popular. It's about the good things in life. that sometimes (you) lose sight of . but can find again.
Tommy James & The Shondells, among others, had already offered a lighter side of garage band rock with the child-like "Hanky Panky" in 1966, and Kasenetz and Katz would also score in mid-'67 with the Music Explosion's "Little Bit Of Soul" for Laurie Records before joining Bogart at Buddah. The first Buddah release to signal the oncoming "soft rock" explosion was the 1910 Fruitgum Company's "Simon Says," another nursery rhyme outfitted with garage band musical sensibilities. The Fruitgum Company (Chuck Travis, lead guitar and vocals, Mark Gutkowski, rhythm guitar, keyboards and vocals, Larry Ripley, bass, horn and vocals, Bruce Shay, percussion and vocals, and Rusty Oppenheimer, who replaced Floyd Marcus, on drums and vocals) were originally called Jekyll and the Hydes until K&K took over the group's direction. The producers had already recorded some other groups on "Simon Says" without success, and when Jekyll & The Hydes came into the studio, things didn't promise much better - the group was more in a mood to play like Procol Harum then a bubblegum outfit. Eventually, after some playing around in the studio, the group settled on a "Wooly Bully" rhythm and recorded the song successfully, well enough to reach #4 on the national charts.
Buddah's first #1 single also reached the public that fall - the Lemon Piper's "Green Tambourine." Unlike the Fruitgum Company or Ohio Express, the Lemon Pipers (Ivan Browne, lead vocalist, Bill Bartlett, lead guitar, Steve Walmsley, bass, R.G. Nave, keyboards and Bill Albaugh, drums), another mid-western (Ohio) band, were a real, self-contained recording and performing group who were more into psychedelic lyrics and arrangements than they were "bubblegum" . but because they appeared on Buddah, the group would be lumped into the bubblegum category anyway (and it probably didn't help that their follow-up singles were titled "Rice Is Nice" and "Jelly Jungle (Of Orange Marmalade)"). "Rice" . hit #46 and "Jelly " peaked at #51, but after that the group left the label and disbanded. Guitarist Bartlett would later record again for Buddah in 1973 as part of the group August, and even later re-teamed with Kasenetz and Katz as a member of the group Ram Jam, whose "BIack Betty" was a Top 40 funk hit in 1977.
As Buddah began enjoying their first hits, The Lovin' Spoonful, Kama Sutra's primary group, was in the midst of a personnel change that would eventually scuttle the group. Zal Yanovsky, perhaps the group's strongest visual focal point as well as their lead guitarist, became involved in a drug bust that would have repercussions beyond the norm, and soon Zally would be recording for Buddah as a solo act. Spoonful leader John Sebastian stayed for one more album ( Everything Playing ), with ex-Modern Folk Quartet member Jerry Yester replacing Yanovsky in the group, but that would be the last "real" Spoonful album recorded. Sebastian left the group himself to go solo, and the Spoonful, now led by drummer Joe Butler, would dissipate shortly thereafter.
It must have been quite busy in the Buddah offices that Fall of 1967 in addition to chart items by the Fruitgum Company, Lemon Pipers and Lovin' Spoonful, the label also enjoyed minor successes with Bogart's acquisition from Cameo, the Stairsteps, now billed as The 5 Stairsteps & Cubie. "Something's Missing," their first chart item, reached #17 on the R&B charts and scraped the bottom of the pop charts as well, giving Buddah their first "black" hit. Soul singer Timothy Wilson also had a minor R&B chart hit with "Baby Baby Please," and the label issued first efforts by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, the Rhodes Scholars, Le Cirque, the Baskerville Hounds and the Second Story. Beefheart, known on his birth certificate as Don Van Vliet, was an early crony of Frank Zappa and would go on to be a cult figure to some progressive rock aficionados. After a couple of "normal" singles on A&M, he saw one classic LP released on Buddah ( Safe As Milk , with future star guitarist Ry Cooder contributing) in 1967 and another ( Mirror Man ), recorded just after Safe . but rejected at the time, released in 1969 after his Trout Mask Replica album on Straight Records established him with the rock crowd.
As a tumultuous 1968 began, Bogart's bubblegum campaign took a small breather at least as far as the public knew. That winter, the Stairsteps Our Family Portrait LP recorded decent sales, and their rendition of the Jimmy Charles oldie "A Million To One" scored another R&B hit for the label. Buddah's bubblegum releases, though numerous, failed to hit Bogart released studio concoctions by groups called the Frosted Flakes, Chicago Prohibition 1931 and the Carnaby Street Runners to no avail, and subsequent releases by Salt Water Taffy., Lt. Garcia's Magic Music Box, the Cowboys 'N' Indians and J.C.W. Ratfinks that spring also failed to make much of a chart impression. But one release that spring would really put Buddah on the map. It's doubtful that anyone listening to the radio in the early summer of 1968 could have avoided hearing these memorable words: "Yummy yummy yummy, I've got love in my tummy and I fee! like a-Iovin' you."
Coupled with a thumping guitar opening (that the Cars would lift note-for-note on their first big hit, "Just What I Needed," ten years later), a basic, uncomplicated garage band rhythm and Joey Levine's unmistakable vocals, "Yummy Yummy Yummy" would solidify what would become the bubblegum musical formula. Add nursery-rhyme-like lyrics filled with slightly naughty double-entendres, and an occasional (and unmistakable) Farfisa organ riff, and you've got one of the classic production formulas of all time. The group, K&K's second incarnation of the Ohio Express -- Levine (lead singer), Dale Powers (lead guitar), Doug Grassel (rhythm guitar), Dean Kastran (bass). Jim Pflayer (keyboards) and Tim Corwin (drums) -- would become, with the 1910 Fruitgum Company, the main representatives of bubblegum music in the public eye, scoring with equally lightweight follow-ups "Chewy Chewy," "Down at Lulu's," "Mercy" and "Sweeter Than Sugar." The group had begun as the Rare Breed and had recorded the first version of Every Mother's Son's hit "Come On Down To My Boat," and in later years (1969-70), after Levine stepped aside as lead vocalist, would feature both Graham Gouldman (later of 10 c.c.) and John Carter and Ken Lewis, members of the British group The Ivy League (another Cameo artist!). Levine would reappear in 1974 fronting the group Reunion, who had a hit that year with "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)."
Just weeks after "Yummy Yummy Yummy" hit, Anders & Poncia and some of the guys from the Trade Winds road group backed 1910 Fruitgum Company vocalist Mark Gutkowski on that group's biggest hit, the moronically simple "1,2,3 Red Light." 12-year-olds were in ecstasy everywhere, and the song rocketed to the #5 position on the national charts (with "Yummy . " at #4!). A month later (July 1968), the Ohio Express came back with yet another hit, "Down at Lulu's," and things were just fine at Buddah despite the relative dormancy of the Kama Sutra label, which would issue sporadic releases by the revamped Spoonful as well as efforts by obscure groups like the Road, Outrage and the Pendulum. At Buddah, white blues singer/harpist Barry Goldberg managed to sell a few copies of his "Hole In The Pockets" single, and another new group, Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, recorded their first effort as well.
Meanwhile, Kasenetz and Katz formed their own label, Team, and recruited one of their studio singers, Jim Sohns, for the lone hit on that label. Sohns had been the leader of the legendary Chicago punk group the Shadows of Knight, who had scored a major hit in 1966 with their version of Van Morrison's "Gloria" on the Dunwich label. After a follow-up hit ("Oh Yeah"), Sohns fired the original group, left Dunwich (which would close down shortly thereafter) and went to work with Kasentz and Katz, contributing background vocals on most of the Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Company singles.
In the fall of '68, using the name Shadows of Knight, Sohns recorded "Shake" and saw it just slip into the Top 50 nationally. Not ones to sit on their hands, Katz and Kasenetz also assembled a ridiculously large aggregation (46 members) consisting of the Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Company, the Music Explosion, the St. Louis Invisible Marching Band, the Teri Nelson Group, J.C.W. Ratfinks and more, and billed them as the Kasenetez-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus. A first release that summer, "Down In Tennessee," had failed to make the top 100 (#124) but their next creation, "Quick Joey Small (Run, Joey Run)," actually rose to #25 on the pop charts. Simultaneously, the Ohio Express were breaking the Top 20 with "Chewy Chewy" and the Fruitgum Company broke Top 40 with "Goody Goody Gumdrops." Kasenetz and Katz would found the Super K label the next year and resurrect their super studio group concept with an outfit called Captain Groovy and His Bubblegum Army.
By the fall of 1968, Buddah was booming and the number of single (and album) releases doubled from prior times. One single, perhaps an anthem for the entire bubblegum program, featured what must be the longest artist name in pop history "Bubble Gum Music" by the Rock And Roll Dubble Bubble Trading Card Company Of Philadelphia 19141 (the zip code was a nice touch). Somehow, in spite of the ridiculous name, it reached #74 on the pop charts. Of more importance, though, was the first - and biggest - hit by an 11-member vocal group/rock band called the Brooklyn Bridge. Lead singer Johnny Maestro had already tasted pop fame as lead singer of the venerable doo wop group The Crests, whose "16 Candles," "The Angels Listened In," "Trouble In Paradise" and more had all been large hits in the late '50s and early '60s. Maestro put together a credible rock band (The Rhythm Method) with another vocal group from former days, The Del Satins (who had backed Dion on most of his solo hits), and reached the pop charts again with a #3 smash, "The Worst That Could Happen." An incredibly popular group that still performs successfully today, the Bridge would follow up with a number of minor pop hits and the "in" joke at Buddah was that Neil Bogart was such a fine salesman that he could even sell the Brooklyn Bridge!
Another former solo hitmaker, Lou Christie, also cut his first sides for Buddah at this time. For some reason, Buddah became a repository for ex-teen idols in the early '70s, cutting records by Paul Anka, Johnny Tillotson, James Darren, Freddy Cannon, Len Barry, Teddy Randazzo, Trade Martin, Gene Vincent, Chubby Checker and Bill Haley. Most flopped, of course, but Checker did make the charts (barely) with a remake of the Beatles' "Back In The U.S.S.R," and Anka and Tillotson would also reach the outer limits of the Top 100 as well.
As '68 turned into '69, bubblegum music began losing steam. The 1910 Fruitgum Company scored the last big hit of the genre, "Indian Giver," with new personnel, but further releases by the Ohio Express and the ubiquitous Kasenetez-Katz team failed to generate new hits. Bogart capped the phenomenon with a multiple-artist anthology of the genre, the album Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, bearing, or baring as it were, a memorable front cover in which a cute photo of some little babies form the core of the design. The label would also enjoy an unusual two-sided hit by the Brooklyn Bridge ("Blessed Is The Rain" b/w "Welcome Me Love"), although neither side cracked the Top 40.
That spring, the Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Company enjoyed their last Top 40 hits ("Mercy" and "Special Delivery," respectively) but the big news at Buddah came from another distribution arrangement, this time with an out-of-left-field gospel hit from a previously unknown choral group. Talk about a home-grown hit . "Oh Happy Day" was originally recorded and released privately, the effort of a group of singers called the North California State Youth Choir. The recording was made to be sold at concerts by the group, but a bright disc jockey in California heard it and started programming it as a lark. Other stations picked up on it, and soon the group would see itself called the Edwin Hawkins Singers and the song marketed nationally by Buddah under their subsidiary label, Pavilion. The "private" recording climbed all the way to #4 nationally, earned a Grammy as best soul-gospel performance of the year and paved the way for the best-selling album Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord - quite a step from either bubblegum or psychedelia. It also signaled a change in musical direction at the company, as Buddah would make its name the following decade, to a great extent, with gospel-influenced music by Gladys Knight & The Pips, Melanie, and the Stairsteps.
When Lou (Lugee Sacco) Christie came to Buddah in 1969, he had just finished recording a parcel of songs for Columbia that, in retrospect, are often thought of as his finest material . although none of them sold particularly well. "The Master of Power Falsetto," Christie had already tasted chart success on a number of labels, beginning with Co&Ce ("The Gypsy Cried"), and continuing with hits for Roulette ("Two Faces Have I," "How Many Teardrops"), Colpix ("Big Time"), and MGM ("Lightning Strikes," "Rhapsody In The Rain"). At Buddah, where he often utilized backing vocals by former hitmaker Linda Scott, Christie gave the Tony Romeo-penned "I'm Gonna You Mine" a bubblegum flavor and hit the Top 10 with it nationally, his last hit of that magnitude.
And there was more Buddah's release volume jumped a quantum level at this point in time, aided to some extent by a new label formed by Kasenetz and Katz and distributed by Buddah, Super K. The label would never release a Top 100 single, but did make it's contribution (?) to the bubblegum parade with a K&K release, "Bubblegum Music," billed as Captain Groovy & His Bubblegum Army.
There must have been a sense of silliness at the company at this time, for besides all the bubblegum releases, the company scored as well with a novelty called "Moonflight" by a character named Vik Venus. Venus was actually WMCA (New York City) disc jockey Jack Spector, who narrated the cut-in record that featured excerpts from most of Buddah's bubblegum hits. The concept had worked in 1956 with Buchanan & Goodman ("The Flying Saucer") and in 1960 ("The Touchables") by Goodman alone in 1969, the novelty treatment by Spector and the gang garnered Buddah a Top 40 hit.
As rock and proto-heavy metal began to dominate AM and FM radio, the summer and fall of 1969 were relatively quiet for Buddah. Motherlode, a 4-man "bar band" from Canada, scored a Top 20 hit in September with "When I Die," originally recorded for and released on the local (Canadian) Revolution label and purchased (after one hearing, according to legend) by Bogart, but none of the other dozen or so single releases from that time made any noise. One area in which the company had some unexpected success was the LP market. The first album by the 1950s revival group Sha Na Na saw the light of day, the start of a long (by musical standards) and successful career and a "soundtrack" of the New York Mets sublimely ridiculous World Series win that year, released just weeks after the victory in early October, also made the national LP charts.
Sha Na Na's initial success was certainly due, in part, to Bogart's energetic promotion of the group long before their first record release. Perhaps the first 1950s "revival" group, formed at a time when the current music scene was producing enough excitement to nearly erase any memory of that prior decade, the 10-man group took their name from the vocal intro of the Silhouettes' 1956 hit "Get A Job."
Sha Na Na specialized in revitalizing classic '50s oldies with a little attitude and a lot of stage savvy thrown in, giving a theatrical performance costumed as an old teenage street gang. Bogart made sure that the Columbia University group had a number of well publicized live appearances before their records were heard, and they drew quite a bit of attention at both "The Scene" in New York City and the Fillmore West in California. They even appeared on the Merv Griffin TV Show, and made a short but lasting impression from their appearance at Woodstock. Bogart would later claim to have created the '50s revival in the '70s, an expansive view of reality to say the least, but his efforts netted the company a number of decent selling LPs by the group, who themselves would eventually garner their own TV show in the middle of the decade.
Kama Sutra was re-energized with a new numbering system (the 500 series) in January of 1970 their first release in that series yielded a big #2 hit with the fuzz guitar-drenched "The Rapper" for the Pittsburgh group The Jaggerz, a rock group featuring future solo hit-maker Donnie (Ierace) Iris. Discovered in a saloon by Joe Rock, the manager of the doo wop group The Skyliners, the group had already recorded an (unsuccessful) album produced by studio legends Gamble and Huff before coming on board with Kama Sutra.
Two more artists with prior chart experience for other labels scored minor hits for Buddah that winter. The Tokens, who had charted a number of times since 1961, most prominently with "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," and the Syndicate Of Sound, whose "Little Girl" had been a hit in 1966, hit the Top 100 with "Don't Worry Baby" and "Brown Paper Bag" respectively. And from the doo wop era came releases by the legendary Spaniels and one Arthur Lee Maye, a professional baseball player who had fronted a number of vocal groups (most notably, The Crowns) in the mid-'50s. Buddah would later release efforts by two other classic doo wop artists, the Paragons and the Five Satins with Fred Parris, lead singer and writer of "In The Still Of The Night," one of the two or three most popular oldies of all time.
The Spring of 1970 brought Top 10 hits from two artists who would enjoy nice runs with the label: Melanie, whose "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)," featuring the prominent background vocals of the Edwin Hawkins Singers, went as far as #6 and The Stairsteps, whose classic, soulfuI, "Ooh Child" crossed over and scored well on both pop and R&B charts.
Melanie Safka's story is, partly, one of an artist whose change in musical direction undercut her initial accomplishments - at least as far as the hip rock press was concerned. After a couple of forgotten releases on Columbia in the late '60s, Melanie joined Buddah and became another project of Neil Bogart. Possessing an unusual (and powerful) voice, Melanie had tried a number of styles by 1970 and had started to get some notice with her own composition, "Beautiful People." Inspired by her experience at Woodstock, where she had appeared as one of the new artists-on-the-horizon, she went for the brass ring, enlisting the Edwin Hawkins Singers who were coming off the success of "Oh Happy Day," and, in an 8-minute marathon that was eventually edited, recorded her breakthrough single "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)." Her album of the same name yielded a number of fine songs, of which "What Have They Done To My Song Ma" would be recorded successfully by the New Seekers. An intense rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and another "flower child" song (as Bogart would have had it), "Peace Will Come (According To Plan)" followed "Lay Down . " and Melanie was established as a rare-for-the-time female folk/rock artist.
Her last album for Buddah produced a minor hit single that deviated from her previous, spiritually-influenced efforts, "The Nickel Song." Thereafter, she and her husband formed their own label, Neighborhood, and their first effort - Melanie's biggest hit - was the child-like "Brand New Key." Kaboom! Any credibility the artist had gained with the music press of the time from her five fine albums on Buddah went down the drain with this release, and, ironically, she would find herself considered a "bubblegum act" seven years after the fact. Bogart, ever the promoter, released an LP collection of previously unissued Melanie songs complete with scratch-and-sniff sticker after she left the label!
The (Five) Stairsteps, the Chicago family of Clarence, James, Aloha, Kenneth and Dennis Burke, were produced by soul giant Curtis Mayfield, and had spent the previous year recording for his Curtom label with another family member, 5-year old Cubie Burke (Mama Burke sang with the group on occasion as well). The group, whom Neil Bogart had brought with him from his Cameo-Parkway days (they recorded then on the subsidiary Windy C label, owned by Mayfield), appeared on Buddah from 1967-68, jumped to Curtom (which would be distributed by Buddah) for a year and then returned to Buddah proper for "Ooh Child," sans Cubie. The recording would be one of the first for the self-contained group not produced by Mayfield veteran producer Stan Vincent, who wrote the song, had been brought in when Mayfield became involved with his many other projects.
Those two hits were just about it for Buddah for the rest of the year, as follow-ups by their established acts (Christie, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Jaggerz and even Melanie) failed to spark any excitement on the charts. More artists from the past attempted comebacks on Buddah, including the Chiffons, Bill Haley & The Comets, and one-shot wonder Fantastic Johnny C, all to little or no avail.
THE EARLY '70s: The First Dry Spell
By 1971, progressive (album) rock had all but taken over the pop charts, both single and LP, and AM radio was becoming a bit of a "Twilight Zone" in terms of programming. With little to offer in the rock area, Buddah and Kama Sutra would weather a bit of a hit drought for the next two years. Early 1970 did yield a couple of one-shot hits for the label, both of a somewhat religious bent. Brewer & Shipley (Mike and Tom, respectively), a Los Angeles country-folk-rock duet, made the Top 10 with their semi-controversial "One Toke Over The Line (Sweet Jesus)," probably the first AM hit to directly reference the killer weed. The recording quietly boasted the steel guitar talents of Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia. At the same time, another Canadian group, Ocean (led by vocalist Janice Morgan), scored with the quasi-religious, quasi-hippy "Put Your Hand In The Hand." The song was written by Gene MacLellan, who also wrote Anne Murray's later smash "Snowbird."
One other single of note came from Buddah early in '71, a 2-sided gem ("Two By Two" b/w "Love Songs In The Night") by Steve Martin, the original lead singer of the Left Banke ("Walk Away Renee," "Pretty Ballerina"). Although billed as a solo effort, it featured three of the four other members of the Left Banke (including leader/songwriter Michael Brown, who would bring Kama Sutra some success a couple of years later with his group Stories), and has been referred to critically as the ultimate Left Banke single. It eventually wound up on one of Kama Sutra's stranger LP releases, the soundtrack to Andy Warhol's "Hot Parts" film.
The summer of 1971 produced the first release by future cult retro-group the Flamin' Groovies, while journeyman folk artist Steve Goodman would write and record his most well-known song, "The City Of New Orleans." '60s folkie Arlo Guthrie would have a Top 20 hit with it the next year, while Goodman's original only got as far as the infamous "Bubbling Under The Top 100" Chart. Sha Na Na cracked that Top 100 list with "Top 40 Of The Lord," continuing Buddah's quasi-religious campaign, and country rebel artist Charlie Daniels saw his first release on Kama Sutra. The only "hit" the labels would enjoy throughout the rest of the year again came from an oddball LP release . comedian/impressionist David Frye's satirical album Richard Nixon: Superstar . The album generated a ton of publicity and for awhile, Frye, whose caricaturist impression of the former president was devastating, seemed to be on every TV show broadcast after 6 PM! Two years later, he would again score (though not quite as well) with Richard Nixon: A Fantasy.
1972 saw the emergence of a number of interesting groups, though none would score big hits that year. Ex-Left Banke leader Michael Brown formed a new group, Stories, who contributed a minor hit with "I'm Comin' Home" and a respectable first LP. Another cult retro group, Al Anderson's NRBQ (the New Rhythm'N'Blues Quartet) began recording for Buddah after an acclaimed but unprofitable run with Columbia, and future disco king Van McCoy saw some 1971 recordings issued on singles and an obscure LP. The McCoy recordings would be repackaged on Buddah a few years later after he helped inaugurate the disco movement with "The Hustle" on another label, marketed as a disco album ("From Disco With Love") despite the fact that the recordings were not "disco" cuts per se.
Another artist who would be heard from prominently in the disco era, The Trammps, appeared on Buddah in '72 and hit the R&B Top 20 with a remake of the Coasters' remake of the pop evergreen "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart." Years later, engineer Tom Moulton would talk Art Kass into releasing the early Trammps recordings on an album entitled The Legendary Zing Album , implying that it reissued a rare former pressing, which of course it didn't. The Trammps would also earn a tiny hit with another remake later that year, the Dominoes' classic "Sixty Minute Man." The rest of '72 would only yield one Top 40 hit, veteran soul singer Barbara Mason's "Give Me Your Love."
If Buddah and Kama Sutra were experiencing a dry run with their own releases, at least they were able to connect with their distribution deals. Arrangements with Hot Wax (The Honey Cone, etc.), Sussex (Bill Withers) and Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label (Mayfield, the Staple Singers, the Stairsteps) supplied more than their share of pop and R&B hits in the early '70s for Buddah, culminating, perhaps, with Mayfield's own mega-hits "Freddie's Dead" and "Superfly."
Mayfield's name may best be known for these two big funk hits, but his star first rose as one of the leaders of the legendary vocal group The Impressions, who also recorded for Curtom, and who originally featured soul star Jerry Butler as lead singer in the late '50s. A renaissance man in the true sense - he was, simultaneously, a singer, guitar player, songwriter, talent scout, producer and label owner/executive - Mayfield was one of the participants in the birth of "soul music" in 1958 and enjoyed similar success in the '60s with hits like "People Get Ready," "Gypsy Woman" and "It's All Right." Mayfield also worked with Butler on a number of his hits (he sang harmony on "He Will Break Your Heart," for instance) and with Gene Chandler on Constellation, and wrote Major Lance's big hit "The Monkey Time" (with the Impressions singing background!).
While at ABC Records (with the Impressions), Mayfield established his own label, Curtom when the ABC deal expired, he took the label first to Cameo/Parkway and then, following Neil Bogart's move, to Buddah for distribution. Of Bogart, Mayfield has said:
"He was a man to be respected in the business. I can recall the first time with Neil, even before Buddah. He came to me, we sat down in a restaurant. He was totally broke. He was asking me questions, how to bring himself about, how to find himself. The next year or so he was a millionaire."
The early '70s saw a new form of film entertainment, popularly called "BIaxploitation Films," that first saw success with Richard Roundtree's performance as super cop/stud John Shaft. "Superfly," released in 1972, was one of the biggest of the genre and provided both Top 10 hits "Superfly" and "Freddie's Dead." The script had been brought to Mayfield by the writer in 1971 at Lincoln Center, where he was performing at the time. "I read the script that night. The next two or three days I was at home, writing Superfly ." "Freddie's Dead," the first single from the LP, was also one of the first anti-drug songs to score on AM radio, coming at a time when many white rock groups were extolling the virtues of the practice. Mayfield later arranged the soundtrack for other films, including A Piece Of The Action and Claudine, which featured the title hit by Gladys Knight & The Pips.
The Detroit-based Hot Wax/lnvictus operation had been formed in 1969 by former Motown songwriter/producers Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland, all of whom had played a major role in the success of the Four Tops and Supremes among other Motown acts. The first act they signed for their new Hot Wax label was The Honey Cone, a trio of young background singers like the Blossoms who came in with prior singing credentials. Carolyn Willis had been one of the Girlfriends, who cut an awesome Spector-like single for Colpix in 1964, "My One And Only Jimmy Boy." Edna Wright, Spector vocalist Darlene Love's sister, had been a Raelette backing Ray Charles and had sung with Darlene Love as a member of the Blossoms, the quintessential studio girl group. Shellie Clark had been an Ikette (who hadn't?), and had backed up everyone from Little Richard to Jim Nabors! Together with "General" Norman Johnson (who not only wrote and produced for the Honey Cone but scored his own hits as well as lead singer of the Chairmen Of The Board on Invictus), they got the Hot Wax label off to a rousing start, scoring a trio of R&B hits before breaking pop in 1971 with a another trio of Top 20 pop hits. "Want Ads" hit #1 in both markets "Stick-Up," their Summer '71 release, was another #1 R&B charter, and "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show," an old blues standard, also reached best-seller status. The Honey Cone were among the first female artists to adopt an aggressive, liberated stance on record, and their message played well with the record-buying public of the early '70s.
It's not a surprise, perhaps, that H-D-H would recruit Joe Stubbs, brother of the Four Tops' lead singer Levi Stubbs and lead vocalist on the 1959 Falcons hit "You're So Fine," to join another Detroit vocal group, the unusually-named 100 Proof Aged In Soul, for their Hot Wax enterprise. Stubbs, along with Clyde Wilson (who, as Steve Mancha had scored a couple of minor R&B hits in the mid-'60s) and Eddie Anderson would give the label a Top 10 Pop and R&B hit with their rocking, nursery-rhyme-based "Somebody's Been Sleeping (In My Bed)" in mid-1970. It was obvious that Dozier and the Holland Brothers had lost none of the touch they had shown so often at Motown a few years earlier.
Another Buddah-distributed outfit, Sussex Records, was the home of what might be termed the most successful black folksinger of the past 20 years, Bill Withers. At the time of his first hit, the stunning "Ain't No Sunshine" (produced and with Booker T. & most of The MG's), Withers gained a lot of publicity from the fact that he had been installing toilets in airplanes for a living. That would not, as it turns out, be his only skill the song would go on to win a Grammy. A gifted songwriter as well as an engaging - and uniquely unpretentious - singer and performer, Withers would go on to write and record a long string of hits for Sussex, including his across-the-board #1 smash "Lean On Me" in '72. In 1981, ten years after his first hit, Wither's had another double-market hit dueting with Grover Washington Jr. on "Just The Two Of Us."
THE MID '70s: Enter Gladys Knight
As far back as 1952, little Gladys Knight had performed professionally for the public that year, she won $2,000 (not bad for an 8-year-old!) by winning the popular Ted Mack Amateur Hour contest. In 1961, while still a teenager, she and a vocal group comprised of her brother and two cousins (The Pips) recorded an old R&B standard first introduced by the Royals in '52, Johnny Otis' "Every Beat Of My Heart." After its initial release on a small local label, Huntom, the song was picked up for national distribution by two larger labels, Fury and Vee Jay (the former using a re-recording made months after the original). The record became a big pop and R&B hit for the group, and introduced Knight to the teenage public. After a few more minor releases, the group wound up on a Motown tour and were invited to record for the label . with smashing results. 1967's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" established the group with the masses, and follow-up hits "The End Of Our Road." "Friendship Train," "If I Were Your Woman," and the classic "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)" put them in strong competition with the Supremes for the throne as Motown's #1 group of the late '60s and early '70s.
Just as Neil Bogart would leave Buddah to form his own label, Casablanca (and you can read the bizarre story of his adventures with that label, whose primary artists were Kiss and Donna Summer, in Frederick B. Dannen's fascinating book Hit Men ), Gladys & The Pips' contract with Motown was ending -- and the timing couldn't be better. Art Kass was now alone in charge of Buddah's destiny at some point in the early '70s, a corporation named Viewlex had acquired part ownership with Kass and his original partners, and by '73 both Mizrahi and Steinberg - and Viewlex - dropped out of the picture. Kass made the group an offer they couldn't refuse, and Buddah added what would be the most successful group of the '70s to their roster.
Kass promised the group a lot, and he put a strong effort into supporting his investment. He allowed the group to have a say in the production of their first album, which yielded a number of pop and R&B hits, and used his connections to provide top-rate producers and songwriters for the group as well. Knight's first release on the label was "Where Peaceful Waters Flow," which cracked the pop Top 30 and the R&B Top 10 and started an incredible run of hits on both charts for the remainder of the decade. The group's next release, in the summer of 1973, would be one of the biggest hits of the entire decade and certainly their biggest - "Midnight Train To Georgia," which accomplished the rare feat of reaching #1 on both white and black charts. Written by ex-Mississippi All American quarterback Jim Weatherly (who would also record a one-shot hit in 1974 with an unusual easy listening effort, "The Need To Be"), the song was originally titled "Midnight Train To Houston," and Cissy Houston, Whitney's mom, recorded a concurrent version that competed with, but lost quite handily to, the Pips' version. That Fall the group would follow with another monster two-market hit, "I've Got To Use My Imagination," and follow that the next year with two more smashes, "On And On" and Weatherly's "The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me." Thereafter, their impact would remain strong in the R&B field but would diminish slightly in the pop world. Knight and the group had a falling out in the late '70s, but made up and continued recording chart records into the late 1980s!
Things were going well for Kass on other fronts, too. Bronx-based Gunhill Road (Glen Leopolo, Gil Roman and Steve Goldrich) scored a one-shot hit with the pop novelty "Back When My Hair Was Short," and Stories, the four-man rock group put together by Michael Brown, recorded an exceptional pop LP ( Stories About Us ) earlier in the year. That April -- after Brown left for his own endeavors -- they covered an English hit by British group Hot Chocolate called "Brother Louie." With a refrain that capitalized on the enduring popularity of the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie," and subject matter (an inter-racial love affair) that was hot stuff even in 1973, the song rocketed to #1 on the pop charts and brought some recognition to lead singer lan Lloyd, who would share co-billing with the group from that point on. The group's next effort, "Mammy Blue," would only reach #50 and subsequent releases failed to chart even that high. Charlie Daniels also contributed his first hit, "Uneasy Rider," at this time, peaking at #9 nationally.
By 1974, things had cooled off for the label. Buddah was concentrating on black music releases, offering a plethora of recordings by a number of new groups (Exuma, the Modulations, Monda, Sasha, Funkhouse Express, the Futures, Midnight Movers Unltd., etc.) without much success. The Pips continued to hold their position with the R&B world with the hit soundtrack LP from the Mayfield-produced film Claudine, but other than Barbara Mason's "From His Woman To You," which went to #3 R&B and broke Top 30 on the pop charts that Fall, the label's releases stiffed even comeback efforts by Rod McKuen and the Ronettes (separately!) failed.
Barbara Mason had scored a Top 10 hit in 1965 with her self-penned, sexy/innocent "Yes, I'm Ready" (which she would re-record and enjoy moderate success with for Buddah in 1975), and had made a small comeback on the R&B charts starting on the National General label, a film related company label that Buddah distributed, in 1970. She wrote and recorded a number of fine, soulful ballads in her instantly identifiable voice for Buddah throughout the '70s, of which "From His Woman To You" was the most successful at the cash register.
The Winter of 1974/75 saw things pick up slightly on both black and white fronts. Charlie Daniels produced his biggest hit, The South's Donna Do It Again," for Kama Sutra, while Sha Na Na, primarily an album and live performance group, scored their biggest single hit with a remake of the Reflections' 1964 hit "Just Like Romeo and Juliet." The group's follow-up singles would be the last issued on Kama Sutra, and the label was shut down again in mid-'75, only to be resurrected once more in the early '80s as just plain Sutra. That spring, Gladys Knight & The Pips enjoyed their last big crossover hit, "The Way We Were," and the unusual group-within-a group New Birth topped the R&B charts with their single "Dream Merchant." One of two vocal groups in an enormous, 17-man aggregation that featured the instrumental band the Nite-liters and was collectively known as New Birth, Inc., New Birth the group (Londee Loren, Bobby Downs, Melvin Wilson, Leslie Wilson, Ann Began and Alan Frye) also scored well on the album charts with their subsequent Blind Baby LP. Their tenure at Buddah resembled a short stop-off they had spent the previous 3 years on RCA, scoring a number of R&B hits, and would go on to Warner Brothers for a few more after spending less than a year with Kass and company. TV star Jimmie Walker's comedy album Dyn-O-Mite, named after one of his pet phrases on the hit program Good Times, also sold well in the LP market at this time.
THE LATE 1970s: Hello, Norman.
The summer of 1975 was a relatively quiet one for Buddah the only non-Gladys Knight singles of note were "Everybody Stand Up And Clap Your Hands" by former doo wop legend Fred Parris and the Five Satins (of "In The Still Of The Nite" fame), renamed Black Satin, and the Trammps Top 40 hit "Hold Back The Night." The Trammps had scored an R&B hit with their first recording for Buddah three years earlier, and later of course would grab the national spotlight with their hit from the Saturday Night Fever film soundtrack, "Disco Inferno (Burn, Baby, Burn)."
Of greater import was the rise, after a change in musical direction, of one Norman Connors, who would become the in-house musical director for the label for much of the rest of the decade. A drummer by trade -- he had played with John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Phraoh Saunders, among other jazz all stars -- his biggest contribution to Buddah was his ear for talent, and it is because of him that the label was able to launch careers for Phyllis Hyman, Michael Henderson, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Aquarian Dream, among others. Connors had recorded for Buddah since 1972, primarily on their jazz subsidiary Cobblestone label. His first single in an R&B mode, "Valentine Love," featured Henderson (who wrote the song) and Jean Carn on vocals and would crack the R&B Top 10 that fall by mid-'76 he would become the label's prime hit maker, both as recording artist and producer.
That fall also produced an out-of-left-field hit from Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label -- the Staple Singer's "Let's Do It Again." Probably the most popular gospel group of the '50s and '60s, the family group Roebuck "Pops" Staples and his daughters Mavis, Cleotha and Yvonne, who replaced her brother Pervis, had been recording religious music since 1953, most successfully for Vee Jay in the late '50s. Their most popular secular recordings had been made for Stax in the early '70s, notably the dual market #l hit "I'II Take You There" in 1972 and the #1 R&B hit "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" in 1973. When Stax folded in '75, the group stopped off at Curtom to render the title cut from the Sidney Poitier/Bill Cosby film Let's Do It Again . and had another double-chart #1 hit. Another recording for the soundtrack, "New Orleans," would hit the Top 10 R&B charts as well, and lead singer Mavis Staples would have a small R&B hit on her own for Curtom two years later with "A Piece Of The Action".
By June, the new line-up at Buddah was nearly complete. Primary releases came from Connors, whose album You Are My Starship (again written and sung by Henderson) not only produced a smash hit of the same name, but scored on the album charts as well. Melba Moore contributed her biggest hit, a version of Bill Withers' "Lean On Me," and Michael Henderson had a minor hit with his first LP, Solid. Henderson, who also played bass and had toured with the instrument since the mid-'60s, lent his vocals to most of Norman Connors' efforts. That fall both Melba Moore and a new group produced by Connors, Aquarian Dream, would see successful albums released.
By 1977, the Buddah artist roster had constricted to a small core of performers, headed by Connors, Henderson, Moore and thrush Phyllis Hyman until its demise in 1983, the label would offer few new acts to supplement Connors and crew. Buddah did enjoy a one-shot disco hit from veteran songwriter/performers the Addrisi Brothers, whose "Slow Dancin' Don't Turn Me On" hit #20 on the pop charts that Spring. Their first brush with the industry had come in 1959, when they scored a mild pop hit with "Cherrystone" on Del-Fi, and subsequently had written hit songs for groups like the Association ("Never My Love") in the 1960s. Phyllis Hyman, who had debuted on Connors' Starship album, scored her first R&B hit with "Loving You/Losing You" that April, and Connors followed with the Top 20 R&B entry "Once I've Been There."
For the rest of '77 and most of '78, Buddah concentrated on releases by Moore, Gladys Knight (who was still charting well in the R&B world) and Henderson, who scored the label's last Top 40 hit in mid-'78 with "In The Night-Time." By 1979, Buddah seemed to be Michael Henderson and precious little else, although singer Rena Scott had a minor R&B hit with "Super Lover" that summer. The label was actually dormant for the first six months of 1980, only to come back in the summer with Michael Henderson's smash R&B hit (and album) ''Wide Receiver," in which the multi-talented musician jettisoned his Teddy Pendergast style and got funky. That fall, the last new artist to be showcased on Buddah, Robert Winters & Fall (a two-man backup group), scored an R&B hit (and subsequent hit LP) with "Magic Man," but 1981 saw only releases (and moderate R&B hits) from Michael Henderson. In early 1982, the Sutra label was formed and saw some dozen releases in its first year, but Buddah offered nothing until the spring of '83, when Michael Henderson's "Fickle" became an R&B hit. It would, in effect, be the end of Buddah as a label.
Sutra carried on thanks to the signing of one of the first and most important rap groups, The Fat Boys, three guys (Darren "The Human Beat Box" Robinson, Mark "Prince Markie Dee" Morales and Damon "Kool Rock-ski" Wimbley) from Brooklyn who weighed nearly 800 pounds together. In the Spring of 1984, Sutra released the single "Fat Boys" by the group under the name of The Disco 3 they would assume the name of their hit immediately thereafter. Subsequent singles "Jailhouse Rap," "Can You Feel It," "The Fat Boys Are Back," "Don't Be Stupid" and "Sex Machine" all experienced varying degrees of success on the R&B charts until 1986, when the group finally jumped labels. At that point, Kass faced major financial problems and the Buddah label and back catalog was sold to the Essex Entertainment group.
Together, the Kama Sutra and Buddah labels produced nearly a hundred Top 40 pop hits and at least half that many additional R&B chart hits -- quite an impressive track record given the size of the companies and the number of records they released. While major labels would often throw out 20 or 30 releases with the hope of gaining a single chart placement, Kama Sutra and Buddah realized a ratio of one chart hit for every 5 or so releases! Considering the fact that the label's repertoire was guided by four uniquely different individuals (Ripp, Bogart, Kass and Connors) who produced best-selling recordings in a number of equally different musical forms, the Buddah operation stands out as one of the most successful -- and most unusual -- independent record companies of the past 40 years.
Note: Sources used by Bob Hyde for some of the information in the above story include: "The Anders & Poncia Story" by Brian Gari, The Billboard Book Of One Hit Wonders by Wayne Jancik, "Wayne Jones Talks To Sha Na Na" by Wayne Jones ( Goldmine Magazine ), "Curtis Mayfield - The August 12th Interview," by Steve Propes ( Goldmine Magazine ), Joel Whitburn's Top R&B Singles 1942-1988 , Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 , and "Pittsburgh's Most Favored Falsetto - Lou Christie" by Harry Young ( Goldmine Magazine. ). The above story first appeared as the liner notes to the excellent ESX Entertainment/Buddah Records 3-CD Box Set The Buddah Box [ESX ESD-7060], released in 1993.
By Mike Callahan and Patrice Eyries
In the years since Bob Hyde wrote the above story for the liner notes to The Buddah Box, Essex Entertainment has sold Buddah Records to BMG Special Products. BMG began reissuing Buddah/Kama Sutra material on several CDs in April, 1996. Somewhere along the way, the idea that "Buddah" was a misspelling of "Buddha" apparently stuck in someone's craw, as by 1999, BMG had relaunched the label with the new (correct) spelling, "Buddha."
Of course, the misspelling of Buddah -- whether it was intentional or not by the original founders of the label -- wasn't the only strange thing about the original Buddah name and logo. The first label and logo use a Shiva Indian statue, not a Buddha statue, as the logo! This was finally corrected about the time the label went to the brown label popular in the disco era.
Going back to the early days of the Buddah label, the early successes were largely what was to become termed "bubblegum music." Some could say the official birth of "bubblegum music" came from the meeting of Neil Bogart, then an executive of Cameo Records, with Jeffrey Katz & Jerry Kasenetz, a production team under the Super K Productions banner. Katz and Kasenetz had met at the University of Arizona (where they attended on football scholarships) and soon after, began their music careers as managers in Greenwich Village. Witnessing the success of the first Monkees' singles and Tommy James & the Shondells singles at the hands of other producers, they decided to do something by themselves and went on to produce records for Cameo Records. The first examples of the bubblegum genre are usually cited as the Rare Breed's "Beg, Borrow And Steal" (Attack 1401 and, as the Ohio Express, Cameo 483) and "Come And Take A Ride In My Boat" (Attack 1403, covered successfully by Every Mother's Son in 1967), and the Music Explosion's "Little Bit O' Soul" (Laurie 3380). When Neil Bogart left Cameo to join Buddah Records in 1967, he brought the Kasenetz & Katz team with him. There, the three would hone the bubblegum sound to a fine edge.
Interestingly, although the artists and record company made a lot of money selling these tunes, the artists themselves rarely liked the music, and especially didn't like being known as "bubblegum artists." The 1910 Fruitgum Company, for example, was known to have (at least once) started their performance by having the singer come out with sheet music to one of their hits, which he put in front of him on a music stand. As he began singing, he soon grabbed the sheet music with obvious frustration, blew his nose on it, and threw it away. The band then launched into much heavier music that the band preferred.
The Ohio Express, as one fan wrote to us, "were originally a killer local Ohio teen band called Sir Timothy and the Royals, with stage dance steps and comedy. A real kick-ass live act, not bubblegum at all! Jim Phlayer was a great showman and was hilarious when I saw them in Columbus in 66 and 67. They were very popular in central Ohio then."
Dean Kastran of the Ohio Express wrote us the following note with a common story. "Hi, my name is Dean Kastran, and I am the original bassist and one of three original lead singers in the band. I enjoyed reading the article, but found a few things regarding the Ohio Express segment of the story (I can't speak for the rest), to be misconstrued. For instance, K&K and Joey Levine had absolutely nothing to do with the formation of or recruiting of the musicians that were in the original Ohio Express. The band was originally very popular and well known throughout much of Ohio as Sir Timothy & the Royals. The change of name only, not personnel, was done by K&K as an avenue to achieve total control of the band's interests, and ultimately take advantage of five young boys from the Midwest. There was no change of personnel after the follow-up songs to Beg, Borrow & Steal.' What actually did follow was additional lies, broken promises, and withholding of money."
The Lemon Pipers, an Oxford, Ohio, group, for some years had the first and only Buddah #1 hit record, "Green Tambourine." The Lemon Pipers reportedly didn't like the song, but it proved to be the only major hit by the group. The Lemon Pipers are rewarded nowadays for not wanting to be associated with bubblegum music, with their two albums often cited in "psychedelic" discographies rather than "bubblegum" discographies.
The words to "Green Tambourine" had been written by Shelley Pinz, a novice songwriter who linked with Paul Leka to set the words to music (and eventually to produce the song). The finished work was heard by a Buddah employee (the story goes that this person was later to become successful under the name of Gary Katz -- no relation to Jeffrey -- famous Steely Dan producer), who in turn brought the tape to Neil Bogart. Leka and Pinz later worked with the Decca band Peppermint Rainbow, and used the Lemon Pipers' backing track to "Green Tambourine" for a remake by the Peppermint Rainbow on their debut album in mid-1969.
Apparently, after bubblegum "died," it lived on in subtle ways (Bobby Sherman, and the Partridge Family are artists who obviously appealed to similar pre-teen audiences in the 1970s). Joey Levine's "Life Is a Rock" (as Reunion) in 1974 certainly kept the genre alive, even if it was an acknowledged retro record. The story came to a full circle when the bubblegum recipe of simple words, catchy titles and pounding beat was updated years later by Beserkley Records with its Spitballs album, produced by Kenny Laguna, who had already written songs for the Lemon Pipers and the Ohio Express. By the late 1980s, astonished oldies disc jockeys often found the bubblegum records to be the most requested numbers for crowds in their 30s and 40s!
We would appreciate any additions or corrections to this discography. Just send them to us via e-mail. Both Sides Now Publications is an information web page. We are not a catalog, nor can we provide the records listed below. We have no association with Kama Sutra or Buddah Records, which are currently owned by BMG Special Products. Should you be interested in acquiring albums listed in this discography (which are all out of print), we suggest you see our Frequently Asked Questions page and follow the instructions found there. This Kama Sutra/Buddah Records Story is copyright 1993 by Bob Hyde and used by permission. The remainder of the material on this page and the other label stories and discographies connected to this page are copyright 2000, 2005 by Mike Callahan.
5. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
The only child of the famous feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and the philosopher and novelist William Godwin, both influential voices in Romantic-Era England, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin fell in love with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was only 16 he was 21 and unhappily married. In the summer of 1816, the couple was living with Shelley’s friend and fellow poet, the dashing and scandalous Lord Byron, in Byron’s villa in Switzerland when Mary came up with the idea for what would become her masterpiece — and one of the most famous novels in history — Frankenstein (1818). After Shelley’s wife committed suicide, he and Mary were married, but public hostility to the match forced them to move to Italy. When Mary was only 24, Percy Shelley was caught in a storm while at sea and drowned, leaving her alone with a two-year-old son (three previous children had died young). Alongside her husband, Byron, and John Keats, Mary was one of the principal members of the second generation of Romanticism unlike the three poets, who all died during the 1820s, she lived long enough to see the dawn of a new era, the Victorian Age. Still somewhat of a social outcast for her liaison with Shelley, she worked as a writer to support her father and son, and maintained connections to the artistic, literary and political circles of London until her death in 1851.
The Kama Sutra: Setting the Record Straight - History
'Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder' is an old cliche: That beauty is a subjective matter which depends on individual prejudices. If beauty were truly subjective, if it depended entirely on our perception it could not be studied. For academic analysis some objective reality needs to at least be assumed. Without that sense of an external reality beyond individual caprice (which modern, trendy philosophers often call a referant) there is no basis for preferring on opinion or interpretation over another.
Such an objective reality can be found in the ideals of beauty. Those complex set of rules each individual carries in their head, which allows them to distinguish what is attractive to them from what is not ("I don't know much about art but I know what I like" as it is often expressed), the personal aesthetic, is not formed in a vacuum. Society, culture, past experience, all have a role to play in determining what an individual considers beautiful. And this personal aesthetic does have some coherence, an objective reality, as it is not (though it appears to be) an entirely personal choice. Instead it is conditioned by those around you, your education, the art to which you are exposed, and most importantly the opinion of others. The exchange of opinion on art allows people to both influence and be influenced so that a personal aesthetic is inevitably a result of a negotiation within someone's community. And so many personal aesthetics invariably tend towards a communal aesthetic, a fashion or a trend, a common ideal of what beauty is, or should be.
This is the topic under consideration here. In Kushan India what was considered to make a woman beautiful, had that changed from earlier times, did it change after the Kushan period? What were the conceptions of beauty? What alternative ideals or concepts of beauty existed? And how did this affect the lives of women and their perceptions of themselves?
The Object of Study
Obviously it is impossible at this distance in time to get into people's heads: to ask them what they found attractive or conduct psychological experiments. We cannot, for example, ask women to describe their bodies and contrast their perception of themselves with the reality. This sort of study has revealed a huge amount about the relationship between public images and individual perceptions of beauty in modern Europe. In ancient India only the public image survives - statues, paintings, and carvings. And thought there is some relevant literature a lot of the types of literature that might be interesting, such as diaries or personal letters, do not survive (if given fairly low levels of literacy they ever existed at all). So it is the artistic images which must be the principal object of study.
With a few exceptions there are no marked differences in the image presented between different sorts of art, as long as we remain in the same cultural zone. The Kushan Empire is a political unit, and thus very useful to historians because most evidence for chronology (coins, inscriptions, chronicles) is political in nature. However the Kushan Empire was not a single cultural unit, but straddled at least three different cultural zones. In the north of the Empire, Bactria, those parts of modern Afghanistan, the inscriptions are usually found in Greek script and in the Bactrian language and the art shows strong influences from Parthia and the Steppe. It is this artistic idiom that primarily informs the royal art of the Kushan dynasty. In the middle section of the Empire, the north of the Indus, Pakistan, and Kashmir, the dominant cultural element is Gandharan (though there is much local vairation - this area is heteregenous) with inscriptions being written in Kharoshti and its famous Greek and Roman influences on its art. The third zone is politically peripheral to the Empire and includeds its territories, from Sanghol to Mathura, in the vicinity of the Ganges river and its tributaries. It is fair to call this region Indian because it shares a script, Brahmi, and an artistic style with the regions to the east and south that form the modern state of India. It is this last region that will be considered (and so the term 'Indian' will be used to describe this cultural area)
There is a plentiful supply of evidence as many depictions of women survive from the Kushan period. However, those images that survive are not a representative sample of what was actually produced. There are no paintings on perishable materials, mobile images in wood, or illustrations for manuscripts - all of which existed. And of the images that do survive larger images in stone tend to predominate because as they are more durable.
The sources available can be divided into three broad categories, based upon the media used. The first sort is painting, of which almost none survive despite what literary sources indicate must have been a lively production. This is because fragile media require dry, secluded shelters for their preservation. The two places that paintings do survive are Kalchayan, a possibly Yu-chi palace in Central Asia, and in a series of rock shelters in the passes that connect Kashmir to the Tarim Basin. Both are peripheral to Indian artistic tradition, in terms of geography and style. For painted images in the same artistic idiom as Mathura and Sanghol it is necessary to look outside the Kushan Empire to the remarkable rock cut caves of Ajanta. The earliest of these, caves 9 and 10, were painted in about the first century BC, shortly before the rise of Kushan power in North India.
The second sort of image are portable images, produced in ivory, metal, stone, but especially terracotta. As such items were light weight and easily moved it is likely that they were intended mostly as private images and it also seems they were mass-produced. Terracotta images survive in quite substantial numbers from many sites, despite its lack of durability simply because the production was on such a large scale.
The third sort of image are those, mostly carved in sandstone, of more substantial size, intended primarily for public display. Many images of this sort have been recovered from stupas, temples, and monasteries. Originally they must have been supplemented by a substantial number of wooden images but only those in stone have survived. These are the most interesting because they are public images and therefore represent public ideas of what was, or was not, an appropriate way to represent women (ideas of both male and female patrons).
". it is quite evident that the Mathura School of Sculpture contains virtually nothing but fully developed image conventions. In spite of some examples of crude carving, there is a sureness of form and stable iconographic vocabulary that demonstrates with great certainty that the experimentation with various conventions had been carried out before any stone was ever carved in the name of Buddhism. Thus we are examining 'the first surviving examples' rather than the 'the first images.' (Huntingdon, 1989: 86)
It is a mistaken belief that historians are concerned with what the past was like, when in most cases they are actually concerned with why, or how, the past became what it was the periods of volatility and change. Unfortunately art tends to be preserved from periods of stability, the point in the tradition when it became established, and experimentation had ceased. So our analysis moves from a well established tradition at Bharhut, to another at Sanchi, to another at Mathura, and on again to Nagarjunikonda, each one a snap shot in which the intervening course of change must be guessed at.
Historical Antecedents of Kushan Images of Women
The earliest images of women in India (excluding those of the Indus valley civilization) are a set of Mauryan period figurines (Dhavalikar, 1999: 178-9). These figures are not the first art objects to represent the feminine. Leaving aside the figures of the Harappan civilization which appear to be stylistically and culturally unconnected with anything in the historic period, there are terracotta images, believed to represent fertility or mother goddess figures. These are not images, they are symbols. They do not pretend to represent the physical impression of the female form.
The Mauryan figures are directly linked to these early fertility figures. The idea of producing an image of women in plastic arts clearly arose during the fourth and third centuries. Our only evidence for it comes from the region of Patna at the heart of the Mauryan Empire so it is assumed that the impetus probably came from the court artists of that period and locality, but we lack evidence to say for certain. The artists had several options in these early figures (fateful choices, as they would set the pattern for Indian female images for a millenia) they could copy the image of some other society, such as China, Greece or Iran they could produce a naturalistic image from life of they could modify a local tradition. They choose the third. The Mauryan terracotta girls are the ancient fertility figures transformed from symbol to image. Large breasts, wide hips, tapering legs, are all retained but now the artists no longer symbolize the feminine, they now attempt to represent it.
"Sunga-Kanva art, formally and spiritually, is opposed to all that Mauryan art stands for, and is different in motive and direction, technique and significance" (Saraswati, 1951: 510)
The stylistic break between the Mauryan and Sunga art is an illusion created by a lack of material. For the Mauryan period there are a few figures of dancing girls and more recently some sculpted panels from Bihar, all belonging to the third century BC. The next images belong to the late first century BC, a gap of a hundred years or more. If the images at Bharhut were compared with those of the Guptas without the benefit of Sanchi, Mathura and Ajanta a similar break in style would be apparent. In fact it is a story of gradual evolution and it is reasonable to assume that the transition from Mauryan to Sunga art was similar.
Three important sites help to show the development of female images between the Sunga and Kushan period Bharhut, Sanchi, and Ajanta. Each of these sites lies outside the borders of the Kushan Empire but they form a part of the same artistic tradition as Mathura.
Bharhut is situated in the Mahiyar valley in central India. it had been an important Buddhist religious site since the time of Asoka when a large brick stupa had been built. This stupa was not decorated with sculpture but may have had a wooden railing around it. In the second century BC work began on a stone railing to surround the stupa which was covered extensively in carving, both scenes from Buddhist legend and stand along figures. Many of these sculptures are accompanied by very short inscriptions some of which identify the scene and some of which identify the donor. From this it is clear that the railing was funded by donations from across the Buddhist community, both worshippers and monastic orders, and both men and women. No pattern has ever been established to the presentation of women on the basis of either the donors gender or occupation (Dehejia, 1997b:107-9).
Bharhut provides a base point from which to characterize femaile images in the Sunga period. The women are posed frontally facing the viewer, in a fairly 'stiff' manner (this is true for both male and female figures). Their jewelery includes ankle rings, bracelets, necklaces, and large hanging earings. The hair is elaborately platted, and a drape of material is hung over the girdle and between the legs. The women wear nothing but jewelery above the waist and their physical form, large round breasts, thin waist, wide hips has not changed much from the Mauryan period. There is no attempt to differentiate individual women on the basis of their physical appearance (for example, Queen Maya is recognizable only in scenes of the conception of the Buddha by the presence of a white elephant).
Sanchi is located some 200 miles southwest of Bharhut. It was like Bharhut on the border of the Kushan Empire, in fact so close that in the third century AD a donative inscription at the site names a Kushan king in its dating formula (inscription 227). Sanchi had been the site of a Buddhist Stupa for a considerable period and in the first century AD it received a large number of popular donations which enabled the construction of a railing with four gateways around the Stupa. To give a sense of just how popular the work at Sanchi was consider that the inscriptions at the site are more numerous than all the inscriptions recovered from the entire Kushan Empire over about four centuries. Dating for Bharhut and Sanchi is not precise but it is generally assumed that work at Sanchi follows that at Bharhut by about half a century.
"An outstanding feature of the narratives of the Great Stupa is its expression of joyful participation in all of life's activities. Sculptors did not present viewers with sermons in stone but with the vibrant everyday world of the first century BC to which they could relate with ease, and which would give a sense of immediacy to their viewing of otherwise distant events" (Dehejia, 1997a: 58)
The images at Sanchi are important because they take us a step closer to the images of Mathura and Sanghol, and also because they are repeated in ivory images found at both Begram and Pompey. With the addition of just one more element from the South the Kushan Empire is about to recieve the fully fledged female form that will endure throughout the period.
Two things change with the Sanchi figures. First the contortion of the body into an 'S' shaped curve, sometimes referred to as the tribangha or 'pose of the three bends' (by art historians, there is no evidence what, or even if, it was called by contemporary artists). Secondly the drape of material intended to preserve modesty in the Sunga period is now parted so that it hands down the outside of the legs and gives an image of full frontal nudity. The images now need only a simplicity in the couture to develop into the Kushan form, the impetus for which comes from somewhere else entirely.
In 1819 a group of Army officers hunting for tigers chanced upon a crescent shaped valley in the Deccan. Along its rocky side were the entrances to a series of artificial caves, each one a miniature Buddhist temple literally carved out of the hill. Within, aside from sculpture and inscriptions, were incredibly well preserved paintings of incidences from the life of the Buddha. The majority of these (and there are some 30 caves at the site) belong to the fifth and sixth centuries AD, but a few are considerably older. Caves 9 and 10 are probably the oldest and were excavated in the first century BC about the same time as the sculptures at Bharhut were being undertaken. In these caves there are a number of images which depict women, and one long section showing a raja with his retinue which is particularly informative. The women while conforming to the general rules of Indian art have a relaxed pose and are devoid of the exuberant ornamentation favored in the north. Madanjeet Singh (1965:59-60) has this to say regarding a group of women depicted in the earliest paintings at Ajanta.
"Although created at about the same time, the flow of line portraying feminine grace, tenderness and animation of the group of women on their way to worship the bodhi tree in The Raja with his Retinue is years in advance of the earliest Yakshas and Yakshis carved on the stupa of Bharhut. Even the famous wood nymphs of the archaic sculpture on the railing of the stupa, which belong to first century BC and are known for their charm as they entwine themselves around the trunks of trees do not attain the elegance of the dancers. The Ajanta figures were already moving away from certain features of archaic art, such as complete frontality and symmetrical immobility, at a time when sculpture in relief was still struggling to get out of the static mould. They were perhaps in the vanguard of the aesthetic movement and therefore in advance of their time."
It has been common assumption of art historians that Mathura was a centre of innovation. This is a difficult thesis to hold to. Those intent on it have had to engage in all sorts of perverse chronologies and have been amongst the strongest advocates of 78AD for the date of Kanishka. Given our present evidence it seems that the heretical view should be taken that while Mathura was a major centre of production it was part of a network of centres in which Mathura enjoyed no special place in innovation, instead drawing heavily on developments from Ajanta, Nagarjunikonda, Sanchi and other sites.
There are a lot of unanswered questions and our interpretations depend upon many assumptions. For example, the idea of a transition from Bharhut to Sanchi to Mathura driven by the simplicity and elegance of the Southern Ajanta style assumes that Bharhut represents the norm in the north and is not itself an abberation caused by a move to sculpting in stone which is gradually corrected to better represent painted representations. The explanation is unlikely as terracotta images reflect the sculpted images of Bharhut, but we just don't know because paintings don't survive to make the comparison and because the images that do survive tend to represent brief snapshots rather than a continuous image tradition.
Proportions are central to a formally trained artists view of the body. They serve to standardize, break-up and simplify an image, ultimately reuniting it in the artists representation what is almost an infinite variety of 'real' body forms. In other words, they are a conceptual tool, that prevents an artist from being overwhelmed by the variety of choices but does so at the expense of stifling innovation. Later Indian texts on art make it explicit that formal schools of art (such as are presumed to have existed at Sanghol, Mathura, Sanchi, Ajanta, Nagarjunikonda, etc) included rules of proportion amongst there training (the Kama Sutra lists it amongst the six limbs of painting). Not only can rules of proportion help us to identify different schools and styles but they help give us some appreciation of the ideals the artist followed.
In the Kushan period the majority of evidence comes from Mathura, both from the Jain site of Kankali Tila, and from Buddhist sites in the city. There are also images from Ahichhhatra to the north-east and the northern-most example of the Indian style Sanghol. All of these sites shared a common set of proportions. The face was round (rather than oval) in shape. Not as round as the faces at Nagurjunikonda, but noticeably more so than in contemporary Gandharan images. The eyes were placed two-thirds of the way up the face (an interesting position, because it is unnatural and shows that the artists were not working from life models, but from an ideal). Using the head as a measure, the bottom of the breasts were placed one heads height below the chin. The top of the girdle was placed one heads length beneath that, and the whole figure stood seven heads high. The crotch was placed midway between the top and bottom of the figure. These basic proportions are obeyed throughout the formal sculptures of Mathure, regardless of whether they are Jain or Buddhist. In addition the female figures assume a particular posture called the tribangha or 'pose of the three bends'., bent at the hips, waist, and breasts (sometimes with the head cocked), to provide an S like shape.
These proportions are interesting, because of their clear repetition at different sites in the second and third century, and also because they are formalised and unrealistic. Not only that, they are unrealistic in a very particular way. They are similar in several respects to the proportions used by American artists for comic book heroines in the seventies and eighties. They are in short an idealisation of the female form. A form that is instantly recognisable to its viewer as being an image (rather merely a symbol) of femininity while at the same time being utterly unattainable by any real woman.
Proportions are also important because they indicated formal artistic training. They indicate this in two ways. Firstly, the proportions are very consistend from site to site, both at Mathura and in other Indian parts of the Empire, and secondly because they are not drawn from life. For the images to maintain the same set of unrealistic proportions it is necessary that artists would have to be formally trained it is not enough to simply be told, actually producing an image to a set of proportions requires practice, and anyone who has played the children's game 'chinese whispers' will understand why it could not be achieved by simply copying other images.
John F Mosteller (1987) has gone further than this and shown that for male figures at least these proportions can be explained in the terms used by later sources implying that those sources contain a genuine record of an older artistic practice. It is worth noting that this is not the case for terracotta figures, even a small sample of which is enough to show that they did not obey any rules regarding proportions (see for examples Srinivasan, 1996). If this is because proportions were not considered important or because production was less controlled and centralised is unclear.
Of course proportions are not sufficient to describe Kushan images of women. There are many other aspects, such as the ornaments they wear (necklaces, earings, bangles about the legs and wrists), the tied back hair, the girdles and the nudity, which combine to give these figures their sensual quality. We shall now turn to one of those qualities, the one which is most striking to a modern audience.
Nudity and Holiness: Reconciling the Erotic
Opinions on Erotic Elements
Long before the modern viewer thinks about proportions or couture one feature of Kushan images of women leaps out: nudity. Not just the occasional glimpse of female flesh, but a complete full frontal nudity which leaves nothing to the imagination. Scholarly responses and explanations have varied, partly because the images are so curious. Partly because full frontal nudity is comparatively rare in the ancient period (contrary to the usual perception of Indian art), with figures of the Sunga and Gupta period generally being covered beneath the waist. Even within the Kushan period the artists of Gandhara and central Asia did not produce this sort of abundant female nudity.
To some degree historians seem to have shown a blindspot to nudity in the period. This for example is a quote from Richard Salamon:
"The basic garment of the Indian women of Mathura in the Kusana era was a sort of Sari which usually hung from the waist down. Many women also wore a long shawl of scarf over both shoulders. Around the hips was a broad and elaborate girdle with beadwork and decorative clasp in front. The breasts were usually uncovered (there is some controversy as to whether this was the actual practice, or merely an artistic convention)" (Salamon, 1989:40)
Some controversy! The idea is absurd, to even make it sound vaguely plausible Salomon has had to grossly mis-represent the nature of the images, they are not simply showing uncovered breasts but are completely naked. Importantly where the context strongly indicates the depiction of a donor, she is shown fully clothed, much as women are in Gandharan art (for some examples see Rosenfield, plates 28, 32, 35, 36, 37 and as a possible exception 33). The girdle is almost always absent fro the obvious reason that it is underwear and so obscured by the clothing, and the clothing seems to have hung from the shoulders not the waist.
Historians concerned with costume usually ignore this because the abundant large scale sculptures are the majority of the evidence, and to admit they bear as much resemblance to everyday fashion as the photographs in Hustler or Playboy would largely invalidate the exercise.
It is important to emphasise two things about these images. Firstly, they were publicly displayed at religious sites. They were seen by all members of the community and cannot have possessed the same sexual overtones that nudity has in our society (in fact nudity was completely out of the question in contemporary Indian society). Secondly, these were not real women, In almost every case it is reasonably certain that the figure in question represents a spirit or goddess (a divine figure of some sort). The only depictions that represent mortal women (the Harem images amongst the Begram ivories) were private images, not public displays. What Buddhist or Jain worshippers (male or female) perceived in these images was not the sexual, sensual, or erotic which our modern aesthetic picks out. Rather they perceived symbols of fertility or abstract notions of paradise.
Sometimes the nude goddess is seen as an image of fertility, often it is assumed that nudity bestows some sense of power on the goddess or Yakshi by showing her unfettered by the constraints on female sexuality that were the reality of most women. In that second sense the goddess shares a lot in common with the rich courtesan of Buddhist literature, both a powerful female figure and at the same time distant from ordinary women. Another notion often assumed in academic literature is that the Yakshis are promises of paradise - the reward that the devoted Buddhist or Jain might expect during their rebirth in heaven. Another possibility is that the audience might actually have been discomforted or repulsed by the images. Odd though it seems a stories to this effect survive in Buddhist literature. For example, in the Mula-Sarvastivada Vinayavastu the Buddha's visit to Mathura is recounted and various people try to block his entry. One, the goddess of the city, succeeds in doing so by appearing naked to which the Buddha responds 'A woman looks bad enough when poorly dressed, what to speak of without clothing!' (Jaini, ,218).
Probably all of these elements play a part in people's reactions, and the importance of each will have varied depending upon the viewer. For example the 'reward' imagery will strike a chord only with men, but equally the tradition of meditating on the ephemeral nature of beauty requires the viewer to have been primed by exposure to certain doctrines - and there is no reason to suppose that all viewers were so conversant in Buddhist scripture (Brown 2001: 357)
Gandhara: A Western Challenge to the Eastern Aesthetic
There is an example in the Ashmolean Museum of a female figurine in primitive style from the Peshawar region of Pakistan (the site of a lot of Gandharan work). The production of this figure is dated between 200 BC and 200 AD by archaeological excavation. The figure is clearly the same sort of fertility symbol that is found in India both before and after the images appear it has lost both the wide hips and large breasts (the breasts are reduced to small stylised bumps (Harle, 1987: 6). It is still the same sort of symbolic representation but is is informed by a different ideal of what is bueatiful the willowy girl, an ideal which remains curiously restricted to Gandhara.
Some artistic elements do flow from Gandhara to India but it is not always direct or obvious. For example, in the Kushan period images of Sun Gods often appear in dress that appears central Asian, which some authors believe shows the influence of a central Asian cult - a direct cultural connection. However, Frenger (2003) has shown that the images are in fact subordinate parts of other works, not cult images at all. Their apparent copying of central Asian dress is in fact indirect and comes from an association between the Sun God and royal power. As the Kushans based their rule in the Northwest of the Empire (Bactria and Greater Gandhara) Kushan royal images were produced in a Central Asian style, so when artists used contemporary royal images as models they copied the Central Asian clothing.
Can this example of the Sun God help us to explain why for hundreds of years Gandhara artists were able to produce Greco-Roman ideals of the female body without Indian artists ever adopting, or even experimenting with this challenge to their established iconography. Does Gandharan art fail to influence India because the two are trying to represent radically different things? Gandhara artists represent far more often actual women (lay donors, nuns, female figures from Jataka stories, Maya) while Indian artists are usually representing not a particular woman but an image intended to represent women in general, and often fertility or divine femininity in particular. (Ajanta could be seen as an exception to that but even there particular women are rarely differentiated). The 'Indian' ideal is certainly found in Gandhara (Cribb & Errington, 1992:110-11) though this may be an example of divergent local trends rather than Gandharan adoption of external ideas. And plenty of Gandharan influence is found in Indian sculpture. Yet India remains (even in the border regions of the Kushan empire) remarkably resistant to alternative ideals of beauty and the form which evolved from early fertility in the Mauryan period remains a homogenous single ideal.
Literary Images of Beauty
Literature supplements the sculptural images of women. Though it is comparatively rare to find detailed descriptions of beauty, short epithets provide consistent images over a long period of Indian history. Large hips, thin waists, breasts of large size and globular in shape, and lotus petal eyes. Many of these are simply stock phrases (especially in the epic literature which derives from an oral tradition) but the rarer lengthy descriptions confirm that they do form part of a constant literary ideal.
The literary sources also provide colour to the artistic remains that survive. Ancient statues would would have been painted (Kumar, 1984) and ancient viewers would have been used to a formal set of colours in their artistic appreciation. In fact the ancient aesthetic would have found our monochrome view of the past rather odd. To the people who lived it the past was a vibrant, colorful, even gaudy, place. It is only the passage of time that robs it of hue and gives the austere look we associate with antiquity. The Sangam poets of South India (who are roughly contemporary with the Kushan period) help us to restore some of the details, 'skin like gold', and 'the darkness of black full tresses', as well as the make up that produced 'black-rimmed eyes' and a 'mouth red as coral' (Varma, 2004: 96-99). The same colours appear in later sources and, muted by time, in the cave paintings of sites like Ajanta.
The similarity between the literary descriptions and the images, found in sculpture and terracotta, is remarkable. It is possible that both were drawing on a common ideal of female beauty which was current in Indian society, but it is also possible that the literary texts are drawing their imagery from earlier artist's conceptions. Even the earliest texts are far later in date than the artistic images (even the epics only received their final form in the Kushan and Gupta periods). Importantly, the image presented in literature is absurdly unrealistic, in much the same way as artists conceptions which are themselves drawn from fertility symbolism of the historic period. If the writers and poets did not draw their inspiration from artists it is hard to imagine where else they could have looked.
Literary images of women make no mention of the willowy figure that is found in Roman and Greek images. The authors of many of the texts must have been familiar with this sort of image, either through Gandharan images which circulated as far south as Mathura, or through direct Roman trade with Southern India, but like the sculpture of Mathura it seems to go un-noticed, a challenge which clearly never concerned then.
What difference does it make?
"It is naive to think that the mere presence of a symbol of the feminine in a tradition is derived from a conception of gender that is affirming to the status of women or that the presence of such a symbol is sufficient to guarantee that a positive attitude toward the feminine is going to be conveyed to women, or more generally to society, through that symbol" (Cabezon, 1985, 188)
Having traced the evolution of the ideal, outlined its characteristics, and established its monotonous resistant nature the question becomes what difference did it make. It is perhaps a good idea to turn to a modern theorist. Naomi Wolf believes that beauty is used as a tool to sustain a male dominated society, she believes that the modern singular, and unattainable standard of beauty (which she calls the 'Iron Maiden') is employed as a method of diminishing women's self esteem, physical and mental energy, and sense of worth. Thus rendering women more pliable and exploit their economic potential. Wolf sees this as a response to women's greater independence following second wave feminism. Following increasing demands amongst western women for equality, especially in the work place, during the 1970s and 80s , Wolf traces an ever increasing beauty industry which promotes an unattainably thin body and ties this to a sense of inadequacy amongst young women. Her analysis of the problem has some resonance in the study of Indian art, if for example, you compare the monotonous depiction of globe shaped breasts in Indian art with Wolf's thoughts:
"Culture screens breasts with impeccable thoroughness, almost never representing those that are soft, or asymmetrical, or mature, or that have gone through the changes of pregnancy. Looking at breasts in culture, one would have little idea that real breasts come in as many shapes and variations as there are women. Since most women rarely if ever see or touch other women's breasts, they have no idea what they feel like, or of the way they move and shift with the body, or of how they really look during lovemaking. Women of all ages have a fixation - sad, in the light of how varied women's breasts really are in texture - on 'pertness' and 'firmness'" (Wolf, 1995:246-7)
The sort of detailed social study of women's responses to beauty that Wolf does with modern society cannot be undertaken in ancient India. An educated guess could be taken that it was not a good thing for women. Even in literature where women are given alternative definitions of their worth (fidelity, learnedness, devout faith), the fact remains painfully simple, that all the heroines are beautiful.
I am indebted to an article by Nitin Kumar (2007) which encapsulates the key point here. In discussing a passage in the Ramayana in which the beauty of the heroine Sita is said to exhibit remarkable beauty despite her desperate condition he remarks 'This description however, puts focus only on the physical, and rightly so, for the physical sphere is the locus of the manifestation of internal qualities'. This is a central point in understanding not just the aesthetic but how it must have impacted upon women in ancient India. Piety, fidelity, learning, spiritual achievement were valued, but unlike the modern world which sees their attainment as quite independent from physical beauty people (or at least poets) in India expected inner achievements to be expressed in physical forms, and likewise physical form was taken to be a sign of inner achievement.
Some caution should be taken in trying to apply a model from the modern world to the ancient. That sort of determinism, that one set of circumstances will produce one outcome, does not apply in history. In the Kushan period, the exact point in time when Indian art adopted the fully nude image as its representation of the female form, which modern examples tell us is degrading to women is also the moment at which women achieve their greatest authority (at Mathura) in religious activity, judged by the inscriptions from Mathura women form nearly a third of Buddhist donors, and probably nearly half of Jain donors. By contrast in Gandhara, to the north, and in the same period, when the images are more modest, apparently less dangerous to women, they are absent from public religious activity.
What is beyond doubt is that in the Indian domains of the Kushan Empire in the second and third century AD women were playing a vital part in the public religious lives (no-one has any doubt they have always played a vital part in private) of their communities. And there is no doubt that in texts whose origins lie in the period (whether debates on Jain salvation, or Buddhist concerns over the priority of Monks and Nuns, or the Dharmasutras insistence on women's subordination) their is a strong tone of ambiguity, of concern, of contest over gender roles. Art, and ideals of beauty are a part of that time, and if it still isn't clear what it is telling, it is certain it is telling us something.
It is hard to say if frank expressions of female sexuality were driven by an assertive group of monastic and lay women keen to assert the importance of 'feminine' attributes in religious practice, or if they show a cultural attitude that fertility and other characteristics made religion a 'separate sphere' more receptive to women's participation, or if they are a means of controlling women's image by a patriarchal society deeply worried by the idea of women. Probably the images result from all of these factors, and some others.
There is a danger that attempts to interpret an 'Indian' experience from these sources will over-simplify and universalize the experience of women. Women did not have a singular, universal experience of life. The experience of prostitutes (with their greater financial independence) was not the same as that of house wives (who exchanged independence for social respectability) or of nuns. It varied with their wealth, their education, between rural and urban environments. And so their experience of art, and the ways in which they were affected by artistic stereotypes of women must have varied. For example, Sanchi and Bharhut may have helped shape the minds of the richer urban patroness for whom it was a regular part of their life, but may rural, Hindu women of low income probably went their entire lives without visiting a site like that. Their experience through smaller, locally produced terracottas will have been very different. Whatever the experience, it will have mattered very much because for all these women art shaped the ideas of beauty, ideas which constituted an important part of what it was to be female in ancient India.
Fascinating Khajuraho Travel Guide – Kamasutra in Stone
Designated as one of the seven wonders of India and one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the country, the Khajuraho temples are a collection of about 20 structures that were once part of a larger complex of about 85 buildings. These splendid monuments, spread over a nine square mile region, deliver antiquity, intrigue and solitude in a rugged, rural environment. And sculptures of theirs? Well, there is an explanation why and how they have been called “Kamasutra temples” . Read this Khajuraho Travel guide to know more.
Khajuraho Travel Guide – Kamasutra Temples – Things to Do in Khajuraho
While Khajuraho is a little out of the way on the popular tourist trail, on this basis, do not offer it a miss. You’ll find such special temples with meticulously crafted carvings nowhere else. For erotic sculptures, the Khajuraho temples are well known. More than that, though, they reflect a festival of passion, life, and worship. They also deliver an uninhibited glimpse into ancient Hindu religion and Tantra rituals.
If you look closely, the amount of detail and expertise you can see is incredible, particularly given the age and weathering these sandstone sculptures have experienced. This are probably some of India’s most magnificent temples. In reality, while the temples are most notable for their erotic sculptures, these account for only 10% of the various sculptures. Most of the Khajuraho sculptures portray every day medieval life with scenes depicting gods and goddesses, war, peasants, agriculture, travels, elephants and other actual or mythical creatures.
How to Get There
Khajuraho Airport is linked to Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Bhopal, and Mumbai, as well as many major Indian cities. From Mumbai and Delhi, foreign travelers can get direct flights.
You can also take the Uttar Pradesh Sampark-Kranti (12448) from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station, Delhi (departure 20:10 arrival 06:35) or the Mahamana Superfast Express (22163) from Bhopal to enter Khajuraho by train (departure at 06:50 arrival 13:30).
Khajuraho is well linked to all of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh’s major towns by road. From Lucknow (310km) and Bhopal, it is around an 8-hour drive (376km).
The road has been improved from Jhansi to Khajuraho. The trip now takes around 5 hours. Mostly tourists reach Jhansi by train (Shatabdi Superfast Express) from Delhi/Agra and then take a taxi to reach Khajuraho.
Brief History of Khajuraho Temples
The temples of Khajuraho are a collection of Hindu and Jain temples decorated with complex descriptions, symbols and ancient Indian architecture, but they are better recognized for the explicit erotic sculptures that adorn the ancient stone buildings and are considered to be some of the world’s most fabulous temple art.
The Khajuraho temples were founded by the kings of the Chandela family, who controlled most of central India’s Bundelkhand region between the 9th and 13th centuries. The dynasty is renowned, particularly the Khajuraho temples, for its art and architecture.
Up until the end of the 12th century, when the Delhi Sultanate seized possession of central India, the temples were actively used for worship. Until the 18th century, Muslim rule remained in the region, during which period many of the temples were demolished or fell into ruin.
Only 20 of the initial 85 temples exist today. In the 19th century, they were rediscovered by the British surveyor T.S. Burt.
How to Visit Temples
From sunrise until sunset, the temples are open everyday. It is ideal to go from November to March during the colder months.
Tickets are needed only for the Western community of temples to join. Free for children younger than 15 years of age. You can also have access to the archaeological museum.
Although the Western group of temples (the main & famous) are located near several hotels, the Eastern group is a mile or two away in another village and the Southern group is near the airport. Hiring a bicycle or auto rickshaw are common ways to move between them. Best to go at sunset time to the Eastern and Southern group of temples.
What to See
There are three temple classifications: Western, Eastern, and Southern. The western group features the majestic and main temples Kandariya Mahadev and Vishwanath temple. These temples in the Nagara style are where most of the famous erotic sculptures you’ll find. A handful of exquisitely crafted Jain temples are located in the Eastern Group. The Southern party has just two temples. They’re not that impressive, but they’re worth seeing. The temple of Dulhadeo is devoted to the form of the bridegroom of Shiva, while the temple of Chaturbhuj has an uncommon form of Vishnu as the presiding deity.
Every evening after sunset at the Western community of temples, a sound and light show in Hindi and English, narrated by the Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, is performed. Tickets may be bought from the counter there in advance.
Why all this Erotica?
It’s normal to ask, of course, why hundreds of pornographic sculptures have been created. They are very explicit, and also show animal-sex and group sex positions. What is noteworthy is that there are other temples in India (such as the Konark Sun Temple in Odisha) that have identical erotic sculptures dating back to the 9th-12th centuries, even though the Khajuraho temples have the maximum number of these sculptures.
There is no widely accepted explanation, however, as to why they remain! Some consider it to be auspicious, since on the temple walls there are even carvings of supernatural beings. Others view it as sex education, targeted at rekindling desire in the minds of individuals that at the time might have been affected by Buddhism. Another reason is taken from Hinduism, and the need before entering the temple to leave lust and desires outside. Some claim the sculptures are intended to illustrate how humans leave their animal and basic instincts behind, as they rise to more blissful and serene states of mind.
There is also , most definitely, a connection with the Tantra cult. The 64 Yogini Temple, the oldest temple in Khajuraho, is a Tantric temple devoted to 64 goddesses consuming demons’ blood. In India, there are only four temples of this type.
I personally believe that erotic art displayed on these temples have a very subtle hidden message for personal development – “From Sex to Salvation”. One can attain the higher state of consciousness to be one with the God through the physical satisfaction.
The Best of Khajuraho Temples
Some of the best maintained, most fascinating and most breathtaking sculptures in the Western Category of Temples are situated in peaceful, green gardens and are the only ones you have to pay an admission fee for. There is an audio guide available (sometimes) that helps you to walk the temples at your own speed while listening to the guide and learning about the background and purpose behind the temples
Highlights include the temple of Lakshmana- roam around the base to see some of the most explicit artwork of Khajuraho, including orgies and even a man being really close with a horse! Kandariya Mahadev is the biggest temple in Khajuraho where you can find the infamous handstand position. There are other temples beyond the Western Enclosure, including Matangesvara, the only one still in service, and the Chausath Yogini ruins that make a good place for sunset.
With naturalistic details of ornaments, jewellery, hairstyles and even manicured nails, the extraordinary talent of the artisans is noticeable throughout. The temples subtly shift colour as the day passes, passing from a warm pink at sunrise to white at midday and back to pink at sunset, to contribute to the charm of the whole outfit. They are highlighted throughout the nighttime by dramatic floodlights, and they shine bright while the moon is out.
For the exceptionally energetic and suggestive erotica that ornaments its three layers, covering almost every facet of the exterior, Kandariya Mahadeva is particularly popular with tourists. It is still likely to see admiring crowds in front of an especially fine picture of a couple locked in sexual intercourse with a maiden on either side assisting. It appears to contradict nature, with the male figure suspended upside down on his shoulders, one of Khajuraho’s most common motifs only when seen from above the entangled limbs tend to make some sense.
The Erotic Temple Art
Ever after its’ rediscovery’ in February 1838, the conservative minds have been hypnotized by the unabashed erotica of Khajuraho. T.S. Burt, a young British Bengal Engineering Officer, had deviated from his official itinerary when he stumbled across the ancient temples, nearly covered by the forest all around.
Frank’s depictions of oral sex, masturbation and copulation with animals may have fitted into the thoughts of the Chandellas of the tenth century, however, as Burt relates, the approval of Queen Victoria’s upstanding officers was hardly calculated:
“I found… seven Hindu temples, very beautifully and exquisitely crafted in terms of workmanship, but at times the sculptor had enabled his topic to develop a little warmer than some utter need for his doing yes, some of the sculptures here were extremely indecent and offensive… Nevertheless, the palki (palanquin) bearers seemed to take great pleasure in those, to point out.”
On the steps of the Vishvanatha temple, Burt found the inscription that helped historians to assign the site to the Chandellas and to compile their genealogy, but it was many years before Major-General Sir Alexander Cunningham created Khajuraho’s comprehensive plans, drawing the distinction between the ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ groups. All the sculptures Cunningham felt were “highly indecent, and most of them disgustingly obscene.”
Tantric cult of Divine Entertainment
Erotic photographs appear to be the topic of a disproportionate amount of speculation and discussion amongst researchers and interested visitors alike. The role of clarity is rendered more complicated by the fact that in their literature, even the Chandellas themselves scarcely listed the temples, and the very name “Khajuraho” could be inaccurate, taken literally from that of the nearby village.
Proposals of associations with tantric cults, which utilize sex as a central aspect of religion, have been among attempts to account for the erotic content of the carvings. Some assert that they were influenced by the Kama Sutra and were equally meant to act as a love manual, whereas others contend that the sculptures were intended to entertain the gods, divert their wrath and thereby shield the temples from natural calamities. Alternatively, as proof that each reflects a yantra, a pictorial version of a mantra, for use in meditation, the geometric qualities of such images have been placed forth.
Kandariya Mahadeva, Lakshmana and Vishvanatha, the sixteen wide panels portraying sexual union that appear along the northern and southern sides of the three major temples, are often concerned with the junction of the temples’ male and female elements, the mandapa and the garbha griha (the ‘womb’). Therefore, they may have been meant as a visual joke, drawn up through artistic liberty.
The Jain Group of Temples
Parsvanath’s temple, which occupies the Jain group’s walled enclosure, is possibly older than Khajuraho’s major temples, judging by its comparatively straightforward ground plan. Its sources remain a mystery although formally listed as a Jain monument, it might have been a Hindu temple that was donated at a later date to the Jains who settled here. Certainly, on the two horizontal bands across the walls, the animated carving of Khajuraho’s other Hindu temples is well depicted, and the upper one is packed with Hindu gods in intimate positions.
Best Things to Do in Khajuraho
A place that fills the heart and soul is Khajuraho. It is not only the artistic magic it presents, but the in-depth insight it gives on the rich cultural history of the lives of the citizens of the past. To feel and appreciate life in its real essence, visit Khajuraho.
Light & Sound Show
The Light and Sound show played by the Western Group of Temples is a sight to behold and cherish for a long time, among all the things to do in Khajuraho at night.
Panna National Park
A must-do day trip from Khajuraho is Panna National Park. The park includes Pench Tiger Reserve, the setting of The Jungle Book, the popular work of Rudyard Kipling. After taking a hit from poachers, the tiger population has recently rebounded to 40. Some of the rarest types of wildlife are housed in a common tiger reserve. In the Chattarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, this park is located about 57 kilometers away from Khajuraho. It can best be explored by jeep safari, boat trip or elephant safari.
Khajuraho Dance Festival
Each year, in late February, a week-long classical dance festival takes place in Khajuraho. The festival, which has drawn crowds since 1975, exhibits the theme of classical dance from around India. It provides a captivating way of seeing Indian dance’s diverse classical forms, including Kathak, Bharat Natyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, and Kathakali. In the western community of temples, dances are held. At the event, a major arts and crafts fair also takes place.
Among the region’s main attractions is Ajaigarh Fort. It stands alone in the district of Panna on a hilltop and is quickly reached from Khajuraho. This fort offers truly breathtaking views of Ken River. Not many people are aware of this fort, and it’s relatively abandoned. Remember that you’re going to need to do quite a bit of climbing and a guide is worth taking here
In Khajuraho, there are two archaeological museums the old one is located in front of the Western Temple Community and is very small. Approximately 500 meters from the Western Group, the new museum is home to a strong selection of sculptures that help tell Khajuraho’s tale. It is possible to easily view the museums and give a good mid-day escape from the sun. With drawings, sculptures and other objects, there is also a Tribal and Folk Art Museum that offers a lively glimpse into the region’s tribal cultures.
Mentioned among the eight forts of the Chandela kings, on a flat-topped rocky hill of the Vindhyanchal Mountain Range, the Kalinjar Fort rests above the plains. In fine artwork, sculptures and stone images, tourists can find the mark of each king who governed the fort.
These falls with breathtaking rock formations are situated some 20 km from Khajuraho, providing an abode for nature lovers in a picturesque environment surrounded by lush woods. During the rainy season, the place can be visited to appreciate the view it has to give of waterfalls gushing through the rocks in different sizes. Sunset here is better observed.
Pandav waterfalls are concealed behind the drapes of Panna National Park, falling from a height of 30 meters. There is a pond below the waterfall, created by a steep gorge that stores all the water from the waterfall.
Mastani Mahal Ruins
In Madhya Pradesh, Mastani Mahal is located in the Dhubela district situated 60 km away from Khajuraho. The Mastani mahal was established in 1969 by Maharaja Chhatrasal for a dancer whose name was Mastani.
Beni Sagar Dam
Spread over an area of roughly 7.7 sq. Km., Beni Sagar Dam gives tourists what only a few places can give – the peace and serenity.
Where to Stay in Khajuraho
Khajuraho has many options suiting every budget – from hostels to homestays and luxury hotels, you have it all.
Where to Eat in Khajuraho
Outside of the hotels, Khajuraho has minimal dining choices. The most reliable of these are the Raja Café and the Maharaja Restaurant.
Raja café is popular for its continental and European offerings such as pizzas, pastas, brownies, and sandwiches, with its leafy courtyard, al-fresco seating, and ideal venue. On the other side, Maharaja Restaurant is better adapted to simple North Indian cuisine. Both are found within a few steps of each other in the main square.
Where to Shop in Khajuraho
Khajuraho is a remote town with no high streets, shopping malls or labels. However, what it does have are many tiny art shops that offer locally produced trinkets, souvenirs, figurines, and replicas of the erotic statues for which the temple city is renowned.
The MP State Emporium, Mrignayani, where you can be assured of service and costs, is the best spot to shop here.
Be prepared to negotiate if you enjoy shopping at the nearby stalls in the market square near the Western group of temples.
The charm of the statuary remains undiminished by the passage of time, whatever the true message behind the temples of Khajuraho.
What Can You Learn From The Kama Sutra?
Preparing a modern translation of this ancient text first needs attention to some obvious questions. How is the Kama Sutra generally seen today? Is it of any interest apart from the scholarly or the prurient? Can it have a wider appeal? And, could that have some contemporary relevance? The answers may naturally vary, but the objective background for considering these queries is the same.
The Kama Sutra was composed in India about 2000 years ago. History shows that it remained a living text in that land, influencing its art and literature. In the modern world it became known only about a century ago with its first translation from the original Sanskrit into English by the explorer and linguist Sir Richard Burton in the Victorian age. Since then it has been retranslated into many languages and achieved both celebrity and notoriety as the first work of its kind in world literature.
Just over hundred years of its repeated presentations have tended to stereotype the Kama Sutra's image. This happened in the West and then, because of the growing western influence on mass communication of ideas, also in the wider world. India was no exception as it too began to view itself increasingly through prisms it had inherited from its colonial past.
The stereotyped image of the Kama Sutra is presently a byword for sex. On the one side it is of techniques and positions for human coition. On the other it is of some esoteric spiritual dimension of the physical act. Yet another aspect is that in most presentations pictures now overshadow the word. The Kama Sutra today is more looked at than read. In a further evolution, its title has also become a brand name for a variety of products and services.
How this stereotyping came about could be the subject of a college thesis some day. The gradual change in western values, power and commerce, and their increasing spread and world-wide influence during the 20th century no doubt played their role. The end result for the Kama Sutra was that its scholarly renditions were soon overtaken by many more editions meant mainly for pictorial titillation.
In the 21st century, the time has perhaps come for the work to be seen beyond this stereotype. The Kama Sutra is certainly about sex and positions for intercourse, but that is only one of its seven books. A full reading, without additions or subtractions, shows its totality as a work on various other aspects of human relations also. It is addressed to both men and women. Its other aspects include courtship and marriage, family and social life, extra-marital and same-sex relations, prescriptions for beauty, passion and power, and an interesting conceptual framework for what human relations actually are.
The Kama Sutra was also a guide for pleasure and refined living. It describes in vivid detail the life styles of cultured men and fashionable women, as also numerous social and artistic skills considered a part of elegant living. These ranged from music and gastronomy to books and sports, wit and repartee, and add to the work's value as a record of its times.
What about matters of more lasting relevance like ethics, morality and spirituality? The text of the Kama Sutra largely keeps away from such questions. Its approach is amoral and down to earth, not other-worldly or judging between good and bad. But it does envisage human relations as caring for others and not causing them hurt.
It also conceptualizes three basic ends of worldly human action: Dharma or virtue and righteousness, Artha or wealth and power, and Kama or pleasure. The pursuit of each is legitimate, it says, but all need to be pursued in balance. At this level there is an over-arching ethic to the work as a whole.
Seen in this background, while the Kama Sutra is largely about sex, it also has a wider sweep giving it a place in the mainstream of more general reading. It gives fascinating glimpses of life and thought in ancient India, some facets of which exist to this day. In their course it also dwells on aspects of human relations which re timeless. And it does all this in a style enlivened by some wry descriptions and tongue in cheek observations. To move beyond the stereotype and present the whole accurately in contemporary readable language which also gives some flavor of the original is the prime challenge of a modern translator.
Aditya Haksar translated a new edition of the Kama Sutra [Penguin Classics, $15.00]
What Comes Before Snake Sex? A Kama Sutra of Courtship Moves
Drawing his chin along her skin. Coiling his body about hers. Jerking his head seductively, biting her, and vibrating his tail.
In the Kama Sutra of snake sex, these are prime mating moves among colubroids, the world's largest family grouping of snakes with some 2,500 species.
To see how snake courtship evolved, Fayetteville (North Carolina) State University herpetologist and paleontologist Phil Senter studied data on 76 snakes of the Colubroidea and Boidae groups.
From research that included studies of fossil records dating to the Cretaceous period, he found that some colubroid come-ons are ancient—chin-rubbing, jerking—while the "coital bite" and "tail quiver" began later. In all, he says, it's "quite the set of dance moves."
The snake-atop-snake courtship position called mounting is "nearly universal" in the species studied, Senter wrote in September 2014 in the journal PLOS ONE.
However, he noted with clinical delicacy, mounting is not required for "intromission," aka copulation. (Also see "Bug Kama Sutra: Flexible Moth Evolved Many Ways to Mate.")
To mate, snakes need only to align the base of their tails at the cloaca, an opening serving both reproductive and excretory systems. The male extends his hemipenes, the two-pronged sex organ stored in his tail, and with each half deposits sperm into the female's cloaca.
The sex act can last for hours, Senter says—commonly, longer than the courtship.