Neftali Santiago aka  Funkadrill

Neftali Felix Santiago was named after his father. The name Neftali means, "child set free." Born in Spanish Harlem in New York City,  his father was Puerto Rican and his Mother is Afro American, Black Foot Indian, and Scottish mix better known as, “Mulatto”. Neftali senior was a sargent in the army, so the family traveled a great deal.  The Santiago's lived in Germany for five years as well as Kentucky, Georgia, New Jersey, and New York in the states. Junior grew up beating on pots and pans until the age of fifteen when his brother bought him his first drum set.  Brother Chris came home one day with the drums and told Nefty Jr., “learn how to play these because my drummer quit the band and I need you to replace him for a party next week.” Neftali’s been hooked on drums ever since.                             

In the early 70's young Neftali backed soul acts such as: The Manhattans, Emotions, Intruders, Barbara Mason, The Delfonics, etc. The acts toured what was called the “Chitin circuit”. Neftali would back the acts when they came to Philly, one band played for all the acts. Around the same time he joined a band called "The Soul Review.” He went to school in the daytime and performed in clubs at night.

In 1973 Neftali was blessed to be apart of the 70s “Funk Revolution.” He recorded his first lp with Mandrill early that year. The lp "Composite Truth” combined the magic between the Wilson brothers on horns, percussion, and vocals, Claud Coffee Cave on keys and vocals, Omar Mesa on lead guitar and vocals, Fudgie Kae Solomon on bass and vocals, and Neftali on drums and vocals, they became a powerful force that packed stadiums across the world. The band's Polydor years with this Composite Truth lineup of talent became the best of the best sellers to date of Mandrill lps sold. The beat on "Fencewalk" would become Neftali's signature piece. Harvey Mason jokes about stealing the Fencewalk beat and using it on Herbie’s “Chameleon”. Mandrill performed with everyone. From Duke Ellington, to Deep Purple, Savoy Brown, Funkadelic, Jim Croce, and Earth Wind and Fire. Mandrill’s variety and ability to perform all styles of music within their set, put them in a class by themselves.

Neftali  has scored films numerous cable releases as well as theatrical releases.

In addition to film Neftali composed music for commercials, Pac Bell, Burger King, 7-11 Big Bite, and Sunkist soda television spots.

In 1990 Neftali produced and composed an original musical called, “The Greatest Gift Of All” the life and death of Jesus Christ. He raised $30,000 for a Youth Incentive Program in Watts and South Central LA. In

“Neftali’s Street” released a collectors sample cd of drum beats and tracks from the 70's with Cordell Boogie Musson. Street is used a lot in 2000 by top Rap Artists such as Snoop Dogg.

Funkadrill is currently working on the last Jimi Hendrix project that he was involved in. The Ghetto Fighters who sang back-ground vocals on Freedom, Dolly Dagger, and Isabella have resumed production to finish this very special album.. He was producing their debut lp called, Jimi Hendrix  Presents: “ Ghetto Fighter Time Travelers”. It will feature Jimi Hendrix, Billy Cox, Buddy Miles, Juma Sultan, Funkadrill, and a host of others. There will also be film footage of the famous Harlem concert and Press conference.

Funkadrill will launch his,  “Save The Drill” Project in 2001. The CD will feature funk legends of the 70s. Drills are the #1 endangered primate in Africa and funds are much needed.  Money will got to Pandrillus and the Bioko Project both in Africa.

Funkadrill  Looks Back  On The Funk Revolution:

While putting his web page together I had to interview Funkadrill on numerous accessions and he shared an interesting story  that only he could tell so I quoted him word for word.

What has it like being a part of  the seventies "Funk Revolution" and how do you feel about the art form today. Also can you tell us about some of the other groups?

The "Funk Revolution in the seventies was a pioneering experience for allot of bands. The movement wasn't just funk groups but black groups period that played their own instruments and were self contained. The list is long but the list does come to an end as far as the ones pathing the way in my opinion:

James Brown, Sly and the Family, Buddy Miles Band, Mandrill, Funkadelic, Earth Wind and Fire, Barkays, Ohio Players, Kool and the Gang, War, Rare Earth, Average White Band, and Rufus. It takes my breath away even getting all the names out but you can see the pioneers stop at this point. These are the bands that performed the "Funk Festivals" circuit. For 5-7 dollars you could see up to four top groups on bill. Each band would be in direct competition with one another pulling for top bill. Each band had their regions they were more popular in than the other bands so the headliner changed all the time.

One night "Mandrill" would headline the next night it would be "War" and so on and so on.


Black promoters were just catching on to funk groups drawing  big at the box office. They watched agencies like ATI put Mandrill with Deep Purple, and Earth Wind and Fire with Uriha Heep.  A result of the combination was salt and pepper audiences filling stadiums across the Country.

There were promoters like Bill Washington who was successful promoting R & B shows and did his best to make sure everything went right. Then there were promoters like Teddy Powel who didn't know how to handle big crows and was focused on the box office and not putting on a quality event. Many black promoters were like that in the day.

I've seen people stabbed right in front of me at the Spectrum and a women being thrown off the balcony. I've been beat-up myself at a show in Atlanta.
There was a riot at Randels Island when the bill was Mandrill headlining with Buddy Miles, Rufus, Rare Earth, and Funkadelic. The stadium is on an island and only one way in and out. The stadium was packed with forty thousand angry people waiting for the show to start. The reason it was delayed was the sound system was a sure vocal master p.a. with like eight speakers on each side. The system could not fill the front rows let alone the stadium.  

Funkadelic took the stage and did pretty much their hole set. The crowed began to riot beating-up venders and stealing their money and goods. Rufus said no, were not going out there. Buddy said no. Rare Earth went on for twenty minutes before the crowed started moving on the stage. They stopped and boarded a van that drove them to their dressing room with people trying to turn it over.  The police brought in riot officers with shields and full riot gear. They came into our dressing room and approached Mandrill and basically told us we had to play. The crowd was screaming, Mandrill, Mandrill! and the police were trying to minamalize the danger.  

We went out and performed for thirty minutes before the crowed started making there way to the stage. The riot police had joined hands around the stage but when the crowd rushed the stage they left. People were all over the stage grabbing what ever they could and basically jammed with the band. We knew it was time to move out, a bottle had broken on my drums and up to my face hitting the boom. I performed barefooted and when the call was made to leave the stage my platform shoes were gone. I looked up and the band was in a limo driving to the dressing room. I was mauled by two girls that wanted my scarf the only problem with that was it was still attached to my neck. They choked me not realizing it was in a knot around my neck. I felt like Qunte' Keenta.

Earth Wind & Fire:

We all learned allot back then. Most groups stayed within their own circle because of the competitive edge we all had to maintain.

I knew all the bands from lestning to their records and wanted to make a connection so I did.

I remember sitting up with Andrew and Al from Earth Wind and Fire when they still had a raw funk vibe to them. They too where new members. We exchanged mutual respect for each others work as well as the tour goings on. E.W.F. had that love thing going on real strong and audiences ate it up.

I don't really consider them as a funk group though. Their more R&B. Back in the day they had a raw-funk element that was their own that's for sure. Their theme song "Power" was the bomb!!. Larry Dune on keyboards, with Philip Bailey on vocals,  Andrew on sax, and Al on guitar was a great combo with the White brothers. No big horn section just Andrew playing in the pocket.

Kool and the Gang:

Kool In The Gang. They were Muslim back in the day and they came on stage wearing suits, playing their butts off show very little expression. "Summer Madness" was to die for. No lead singer which was great, mostly instrumental songs with a group vocal. The trumpet player Larry Guitins and I were in the "Soul Sets" together.


I grew to love Funkadelic. They would all stay in one suite to save money. Mandrill flew to most dates and Funkadelic drove sometimes missing dates because there just wasn't enough time to get there. The Funk's were as raw as raw could get. Funkadelic had a hard time with audiences in the begining. Gary, Boogie, Eddie, Tiki, Bernie, Calvin, Grady, Fuzzy, and Ray, now that's Funkadelic.

They overcame all the odds and wound up building an Army of fans. I'm not sure what to make of the "All Star" concept. What I do know is the band "Funkadelic" from the seventies are true legends. Booty took the band to another level of record sales and landed on the Mother Ship. The chemistry between the writting calaberations landed the band into the Hall Of Fame.

I got to spend some time with Tiki Fulwood before he past away. We talked about doing an lp with the two of us battling our drumming styles in an animated W.W.F. kind of way.

He had bone cancer and it became too painful for him to play. The lp would have been something to hear.


working with War was always interesting. The rivalry between them and Mandrill locked on quite a few accations. Mandrill's power is strong and were really in a class by ourselves. That power made it hard for other groups to follow us. I love War dont get me wrong.

Their groove was slow and funky and the harmonies were great. Again I say the band "War" was ausome.

I tuned on the TV one day and War was announced to be on BET, and I ran to the TV. When I got there all I say was Mr. Jordan. I remember saying, I thought it was War.   

I could talk for hours on the movement but all stop here. Maybe I should write a book or something.


Any way the eighties came about and funk music had a hard time battling disco. Allot of funk acts gave-in and the revolution turned into rebellion between band members. Most bands had at least one person who thought their contribution to the band was more significant than the others. This caused a big problem and a lot of members wound up leaving their groups, members that had been around for years building up the names. All the OG members made the sound of their bands regardless of who wrote the song.

This really wounded the funk movement  with almost all bands going through major changes. If that wasn't enough we still had to survive the disco eighties. The original sound was gone from most groups. There were no black bands in the nineties I think because there were no groups in the eighties. The art form was dyeing out. There were no bands to carry the art form to a new generation.  A side from the original recorded music of the groups.


The legends were scattered. Some fried from drugs, some like myself and Bernie Worrell trying to stay alive playing clean music. Real music played by the legends Vs sequencers had become a loosing battle. There simply was no market major for funk groups mainly because of age, and a drug stereotype connected with funk legends.

Music in the 90s was coming out of a producers can and the people got accustom to that sound. Most of us are trying to keep funk alive going into 20001. I think funk has to make a strong comeback to survive. Mandrill, Woo Warriors, and Original-P are some groups playing it straight .


Europe has spawned a new generation that's totally into funk.  Every one seems to be coming back for sparatic dates in and out of the country. Some groups like P-Funk,  and Bootsy just refused to give up with basically white audiences supporting regular visits by the groups.

What's going to be interesting is to see is how many original members are in the lineups of old school groups when a Funk Fest. Reunion Tour hits?

Final Thoughts:

I believe legends owe young musicians the knowledge to pass-on the funk art form.  The music is real and viable in today's and any days music and must be preserved.  

We funk legends need to standup and be counted and plugged into some kind of music seminar program that puts us in a classroom situation with young musicians and singers. I was young in the 70s but most legends are in their 50s-60s. Time is running out we Funkatiers must pass on the knowledge!

Man that has an intense question, I guess I think about the revolution more than I realized. Ask me something easy now. End of quote.