Bandcamp is at it again! Today, the music platform is again waiving its 15% fee on revenue shares, allowing all the sales proceedings to go to labels and artists. So, we thought we would spread the word in our little way too. Since the first time, it has been all about musicians and their albums, so on this occasion, we turned our attention to those who published those releases, the record labels. We have picked some of our favourite ones in the hope of shining a light on their hard and often overlooked work.
Habibi Funk is one of my all-time favourite labels, not only because the output is a passion project: “Arabic Funk, Jazz and other organic sounds we like from the 1970s and 1980s”
Their focus includes thorough notes and information – not just the music that I personally have rarely heard. So not only am I welcomed to educated and analysed music styles, I also enjoy the personal elements: the liner notes, the compilations, the DJing, the Instagram posts, the sharing of awareness of Arab art, culture, old pictures. All together, the label provides access to the cultural context behind the ‘absolute bangers’ that they release.
My favourite at the moment is one of their latest releases, a contemporary Libyan reggae artist: Ahmed Ben Ali. I pre-ordered this record, knowing and trusting the taste of the label. (Sophie Darling)
‘Local music from out there’ was the world music magazine fRoots’ tagline for a much-disputed genre that celebrates its 33rd birthday in June. When it comes to Guruguru Brain, that description is still bang on. An indie label curated and run by Go Kurosawa and Tomo Katsurada in Amsterdam’s Watergraafsmeer since 2014, their catalogue brings together an eclectic blend of the Asian left field as contrasting as psychedelia, garage, analogue drone, punk-blues, and krautrock, from Taipei and Chon Buri to Seoul and Jakarta.
This spirit of adventure is best embodied in Mythic Tales of Tomorrow II by Nawksh (think Kim Hiorthøy from Karachi), an album where field recordings and traditional instruments join forces with wobbly bass and glitch hop. Free your mind… and your brain will follow. (Eero Holi)
Kampala based Nyege Nyege Tapes produce and curate underground dance music from East Africa and beyond. Based in the Ugandan metropolis and hosting a yearly festival on the banks of the river Nile, Nyege Nyege’s typical fare is lo-fi Afro-Futurism with a fierce BPM.
Pitched up folkloric music with an 8-bit sensibility, overdriven and glitchy, albums such as Gulu City Anthems by Otim Alpha are full of irrepressible and urgent Electro-Acholi (Nyege Nyege translates as the uncontrollable desire to dance) music that demands you turn it up until it distorts (even more).
The dizzying sound of Electro-Acholi was cooked up by producers in Northern Uganda as a budget alternative to hiring a full band for wedding and introduction ceremonies. The label has also released Balani Show music, another soundsystem culture emerging in Mali’s capital Bamako to creatively substitute for hiring a balafon group.
With DJs such as Kampire taking the music around the world, and a great back catalogue on Bandcamp, Nyege Nyege Tapes do the digging for you, so get involved on Bandcamp day, June 5th. (Lucas Keen)
I stumbled across Mushroom Half Hour last year, when the editor at Rhythm Passport suggested I should review and may like a new release by South African Experimental collective Spaza on Mushroom Hour / Half Hour. The improvised cross over of jazz, afro funk and electronics had me hooked and rifling through the label’s back catalogue.
Mushroom Hour / Half Hour started out as a vinyl show on pirate radio in Johannesburg in 2010, releasing their first record in 2016. Highlighting the growing sound of South African experimental music, born out of community experimentation and resistance culture, they describe themselves as keeping their ‘ears on the streets, chasing the avant-garde.’
The label has released albums by Sibusile Xaba, Thabang Tabane, dumama + kechou and their own self-titled group. All excellent examples of cross genre experimentation, but Spaza is a defining album, creating new sounds and thoughts through spontaneous improvisation rooted in community culture. (Alex Fox)
We learnt that music labels are often the image and likeness of their founders, even more when they are small-scale, independent realities. Ostinato Records is an indisputable proof of that. Its founder, Vik Sohonie, might look like the nth music addict who decided to dedicate his life and career to (crate)dig up and spread sounds coming from the West and East African-past and their diaspora. All true, but there’s far more… Vik is also a storyteller. Since 2016, he does that in his very own way, which is through his label’s releases.
Each album on the Ostinato’s catalogue, produced and released with insight and taking care of the finest details, indeed narrates a story. Through the music collected, the record’s cover and sleeve notes, Vik unfolds a particular topic or happening in the history of a country. So much so, that each Ostinato release can be seen as a chapter in an imaginary African music history book.
There are not many certainties in life… One of them is that listening to a new Wonderwheel release you will end up dancing to it. The New York-based label launched by Nickodemus in 2004 has always been seeking the next beat.
It might be through a Latin, East African, Tropical or Mediterranean-scented album, but in any case, there’s not much you can do, you will inevitably feel some tingling in your feet and followed by the instinct to stand up and move to the rhythm.
As a matter of fact, Wonderwheel is one of the best examples of global dance labels. Its mission is to disrupt your daily routine with fresh grooves and far-reaching sounds, and since its first release it has been very capable of that.
Every now and then we are keen on doing some excursions into the jazz world. That often happens when we listen to a new International Anthem release.
The Chicago-based label is one of the most forward-looking music projects we had the pleasure to “meet” in these years. Since its first release, published back in 2014, International Anthem’s catalogue has opened, confounded, and at times even re-defined the already evanescent borders of jazz.
At the same time, the label’s soul has constantly been radical and innovative, and not only musically-speaking. Still, it has always preserved a positive and constructive attitude building up, little-by-little, a thigh music community in the Chicago South Side.
From what was supposed to be a label exploring the music of the 26 Swiss cantons to becoming one of the global beats sensations, it’s been a big leap… One that has taken five years and almost 80 releases. That’s the journey of Les Disques Bongo Joe, the Geneva-based label (and record shop) run by Cyril Yeterian who is contributing to place Switzerland on the “world music” map.
Not that you hear too often of world music projects originating in the Confederation, but luckily Cyril has been able to challenge this notion, firstly with his band Mama Rosin and since 2015, with Bongo Joe. The latter is a wide-ranging music label dealing with sounds from all over the globe.
Contrary to many independent labels, Bongo Joe does not specialize in a particular style or region, its catalogue stretches out from nurturing basically unknown musicians, to accommodating more established ones. From experimental cumbia to traditional Malagasy song-writing, it’s a world in the world.
For some reason, it’s always complicated to suggest well-established and successful projects. It’s just like reinventing the wheel. But it’s not our “fault” if, since we run with Rhythm Passport, Glitterbeat Records has hardly (or never) taken any false step.
Since its launch in 2013, the quality of its catalogue is invariably excellent, but that doesn’t mean that the German label is taking fewer risks or exploring the music world to a smaller extent. The label’s latest two releases are a clear demonstration of this. If on one side, you have a re-issue of a 1981 influential afro-funk and highlife album (Edikanfo‘s The Pace Setters) on the other you have the new sonic waves coming from the Middle East, courtesy of TootArd.
Here’s another institution of the global music scene. Launched in Paris in 2007, Heavenly Sweetness is a synonym of groove. It might be Caribbean creole music or Afro-funk, vintage Mandigo ballads or Cuban hip-hop, there’s always so much style and sound elegance in Heavenly Sweetness’ releases.
So much so that, Love Is Everywhere, one of the latest label’s productions by the French saxophonist Laurent Bardainne and his Tigre d’Eau Douce, is already one of the most tasteful albums we listened to this year.
We started growing fonder and fonder of Mello Music Group thanks to Oddisee’s People Hear What They See. Objectively, one of the finest hip-hop albums released in the last decade, more relevant than ever these days.
As a matter of fact, the label based in Tucson, Arizona is an example when it comes to conscious hip-hop. Its releases are far more than quality beats and rhymes, they indeed narrate with no filters American society’s state of affairs, drawing diverse, all-embracing and inclusive music portraits.
Ready for some unusual and extraordinary sounds? Akuphone’s catalogue is entirely dedicated to them. The Parisian label had devoted itself and its production to far-out repertoires from obscure re-issues from the 1940s, to contemporary collaborations between musicians from the four corners of the world.
Akuphone is able to destabilize your musical dogmas, bringing you far away from your comfort-zone, but also to enthral and amaze you with its curators’ in-depth research work, passion and innovative cultural perspective.