In early, 2017, Los Angeles-based independent music label, Sweatlodge Records will release the seventh album by the Californian songwriter, Ithaka, entitled, So Get Up & The Lost Acapellas. The record will include thirteen of Ithaka’s vocalized poems (without music), many of which were written during 1992 and 1993, two of the six years that the artist lived in Lisbon. Also, as a bonus track, the original 1993 demo-version of So Get Up will appear.
There in Portugal, Ithaka was regularly recited his texts and rhymes for the daily radio program, Quatro Bairro on the national station, Rádio Comerical. Ten of the poems offered on the Lost Acapellas release were written and recorded specifically for the radio program and later (in mid-1993) were rerecorded as voice-over and musical demos on a visit to England. These recordings, were missing for 23 years until recently being discovered in a Los Angeles storage unit on a antiquated cassette tape.
Among these early acapella poems is So Get Up, most recently re-popularized by Armin Van Buuren and Cosmic Gate, which today (twenty-four years and more than a thousand releases and adaptions later) is considered The Most Remixed Vocal Acapella In Musical History (by Guinness World Records – 2016, 2017).
Ithaka first wrote So Get Up in a small cafe in Amoeira near Rádio Comerical about an hour before going on air with it for his slot on Quatro Bairro, unfortunately this very first recording has never been recovered. He did however, as mentioned, record it a second time in the U.K – to present to radio producers and possibly record companies.
There working at Rádio Comerical, Ithaka met DJ Vibe (Portugal’s most prominent DJ), who played an hour of progressive house music immediately following Ithaka’s segments. There Vibe usually heard the end of Ithaka’s vocal sequences and was intrigued by the poems. Some months later, he invited him to participate as a guest vocalist on the first release by Underground Sound Of Lisbon (a progressive house duo consisting of Vibe and Rui Da Silva) for Kaos Records.
They recorded Ithaka’s vocal in the early hours of a rainy winter night at the garage studio, 1 Só Céu, owned by the Portuguese rock band called, Os Delfins.
Ithaka was told by Kaos (a micro label at the time) that they would make 200 white-labels vinyls for distribution within Portugal only. They paid him $70 dollars for his participation, with a verbal promise to discuss any future distributions and manufacturing that would possibly follow. And weeks later, from just that single white-label distribution, the song exploded into an almost instantaneous national dance floor classic.
Although open-minded musically, Ithaka was more associated with hip hop, surfing and contemporary art more than dance music and only infrequently appeared at the clubs his apocalyptic poem had literally become an anthem for an entire generation of club goers, inspiring even people who never liked dance music to get involved.
Ironically, Kaos Records and Underground Sound Of Lisbon themselves never made a point of explaining who the mystery prophet was and nobody seemed to ask, the press included – even though Ithaka was indeed the actual performer and owned 50% of the publishing.
“I remember specifically on a couple of occasions trying to get into Lisbon-area night clubs, which was always a chore because of the wait to get in, and there in line, two different times during height of the song’s first wave of popularity, I could hear So Get Up playing on the dance floor…The first was at Frágil in Bairro Alto – and I said to the snob at the door, hey man, that’s me, my voice…let me in. And the doorman said, if that was you…I would know who you are AND I DON’T! – And the other time, a few months later, was at ALCÂNTARA, when I again declared that that was my voice with hundreds of people shouting the lyrics on top of it muffled behind the thick curtains out the dance floor..and that doorman said, Yes, my friend, and Elvis is still alive too!
In late 1994, Ithaka left Portugal for four months back to Los Angeles for an art exhibit – and during that short amount of time, Kaos Records had licensed So Get Up, without consulting him, to several international parties most notably Tribal Records -USA, a sub-subsidiary of Miles Copeland’s I.R.S. Records (EMI).
Although Rob Di Stefano, the managing director of Tribal Records had met Ithaka on a previous trip to Portugal, and obviously understood he was from California and only temporarily residing in Portugal, he realized the marketing potential of an exotic 100% Portuguese house music product arriving in the U.S. for the first time and made no attempt to publicize the vocalist’s true origins. No featuring Ithaka credit was ever included on any of the releases, even though he is both the author and the vocalist. Yes, this is dance music, but no matter how good or bad the production is, no one can deny that the vocal-poem and adjoining hooks are the primal guts of the entire So Get Up experience. How else could it possibly appeal to such a large musical spectrum of DJs and producers?
The first 1994 release of So Get Up on Tribal was a double-vinyl set with ten-mixes, including several versions by New York superstars Junior Vasquez and Danny Tenaglia. The early international popularity of So Get Up was undoubtfully manifested by these interpretations by Vasquez and Tenaglia. Two New York all-stars creating music around the words of a California hip hop wordsmith. To call So Get Up, even at that point, a 100% Portuguese release, was inaccurate at best. The first release by Tribal, which sold upwards of 50,000 copies, also included an uncredited acapella of Ithaka’s raw poem – which paved the way for a vast multitude of remixes and samplings over a huge cross-section of electronic musical genres.
With the exception of Stretch & Verne’s legally licensed rerecord “Get Up, Go Insane!” in 1997 (and subsequently Fatboy Slim’s remix of that), every other international release of So Get Up has essentially been unauthorized. It is fair to say that every (of the more than a thousand mixes released) house, trance, techno, electro, drum & bass, big beat, dub step, and art rock versions – under their varying titles of “So Get Up”, “Get Up”, “Forget The Past”, “the End Of The Earth”, “Have A Blast”, “Headcharge”, “Hardaventure”, etc. have been issued illegally. No record royalties or performance royalties have ever been paid to the vocalist/lyricist although all have been made using Ithaka’s 1994 recording – made that late night way back when in Cascais, Portugal. By the most recent estimates of Ithaka’s publisher attempting to recoup his writing shares, So Get Up in it’s many incarnations has been either sold or downloaded more than 30,000,000 times and approximately 250,000,000 have at least heard the poem. Whether payment ever falls into the right hands, time will only tell.
Ithaka himself has had an unusual career (and life) to say the least. He came to recording not thru music itself, but via music photography, visual arts….and reading books. For nearly three years, among his many other sporadic occupations, Ithaka was the principal photographer for Priority Records gangster rap icons, NWA and Eazy E , but that’s a story for another day.
In 1992, attempting to expand his boundaries outside of the Southern California area, the half-Greek, Ithaka Darin Pappas, set off soul-searching. He first relocated to Athens for six months and then spent a year in Tokyo, finally landing in Lisbon where he spent more than six years.
During this six-year period in Portugal, Ithaka was hyper-productive. He recorded So Get Up (and many other poems), made two award-winning hip hop albums, published translated poems and short stories in Portuguese magazines – and had several large scale sculpture exhibits of his work. He also photographically documented much of the early and mid-nineties Portuguese music scene, shooting record covers for rock, hip hop and EDM projects.