Cover to Cover – Witchi Tia To

jim-pepper-malinyea-europa

Many years ago I was introduced to a song called Witcha Tai To by a mate of mine Simon Dine. The version he played me was by  soft rock harmony group Harpers Bizarre. I feel under the spell of this incredible record instantly, & it soon became a big favorite on my late night radio show, often inspiring listeners to contact the show asking more details.  I didn’t have that many (this was pre Google), Simon had burnt the track onto c.d. but I didn’t even know who wrote it. Then I found a 7 inch version by a band called Everything Is Everything from 1969, composer listed as J. Pepper.  Jim Pepper was of Native American descent. He came from a family of “road men”, the peyote priests of the Native American Church. Peyote being the small cactus plant  known for its psychoactive properties when ingested (i think you know where this is going).  He was also a jazz saxophonist, playing primarily tenor sax. In the mid ’60s Pepper began experimenting with mixing Native American music and jazz. “Witchi Tai To” is a prime example of that blending, taking a peyote song he’d learned from his grandfather and putting it in a jazz setting.   The  song is very simple in all it’s elements. It’s that simplicity and the spiritual intent behind the words that gives the song it’s power. The  words are untranslatable now – Pepper said his grandfather never did tell him what they meant in English – but he sings them anyway, and adds English lyrics which emphasize the roots in the peyote ritual, especially speaking of the Water Spirit, who carries the visions brought by the peyote.

Witchi tai to, gimee rah
Hoe rah neeko, hoe rah neeko
Hey ney, hey ney, no way

Witchi tai to, gimee rah
Hoe rah neeko, hoe rah neeko
Hey ney, hey ney, no way

Water Spirit feelin’ springin’ round my head
Makes me feel glad that I’m not dead

Witchi tai to, gimee rah
Hoe rah neeko, hoe rah neeko
Hey ney, hey ney, no way

Witchi tai to, gimee rah
Hoe rah neeko, hoe rah neeko
Hey ney, hey ney, no way

I soon discovered many other versions that had been recorded over the years. Straddling musical genres from jazz to prog to folk, even the Supremes where rumored to have had a crack at it (if you have this please …..).  Tim Gane from Sterolab, was another Withci Tai To fan & kindly burnt me a c.d. of his band doing it live (which i then lost !!!!!).
One of the listeners who rung me whilst I was on air after playing it was  dj Andrew Weatherhall, who tracked down a copy & shared it the other dj legend, Ashley Beadle…who was then in the chart topping dance trio X-Press 2, who then went & housed it up & brought in Tim DeLaughter from the Polyphonic Spree to provide the vocal.

So here’s a small selection of the tune which makes me want dive into it’s spiritual waters & float downstream.

Witchi Tai To (Original) – Everything Is Everything

2-15 Witchi Tai To (Original)

Witchi Tai To (Invocation) – Paul Winter Consort

06 Witchi Tai To (Invocation)

Witchi Tai To (Sunshine Pop) – Harpers Bizarre

14 Witchi-Tai-To (Sunshine Pop)

Witchi Tai To (Raga) – Brewer & Shipley

07 Witchi-Tai-To (Raga)

Witchi Tai To (Jazz) – Maurizio Camardi

11 Witchi Tai To (Jazz)

Witchi Tai To (Easy) – The John Schroeder Orchestra

43 Witchi Tai To (Easy)

Witchi Tai To (Piano Ballad) – A.J. Webber

05 Witchi-Tai-To (Folk)

Witchi Tai To (Indie) – BMX Bandits

2-02 Witchi Tai To (Indie)

Witchi Tai To (Chant) – Jim Pepper

Witchi Tai To (Chant)

Witchi Tai To (Pipes) – Pete Wyoming Bender

01 Witchi Tai To (Pipes)

Witchi Tai To (Alt.) – Future Pilot A.K.A

03 Witchi Tai To (Alt.)

Witchi Tai To (Sitar) – Oregon

09 Witchi-Tai-To (Sitar)

Witchi Tai To (House) – X-Press 2

01 Witchi Tai to (House)

 

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