Les Disques Bongo Joe has been relentless in their release of quality, roots themed music from all over the world. Their releases compile the ‘authentic’ and the ‘exotic’ from raw Caribbean tapes, as well as archive material from contemporary global pioneers of African indiginous music, alongside deep and ethereal improvisations inspired by European history. For a label to compile such artists described (respectively) – such as Walter Gavitt Ferguson’s legendary calypso recordings of Costa Rica; the unique Madagascan guitarist, Damily; and the output of Swiss musical time travellers, La Tene – it gives some idea of the scope, workload and imaginative vision of label head Cyril Yeterian.
“We just listen to and enjoy all kinds of music,” he explains modestly. “Being a musician myself made me travel a lot to different places and meet musicians and music lovers that we now work with.”
Indeed, Cyril finds himself at the helm of the shop and label, but it is his creative work as a musician – with band, Mama Rosin – that may have given him and Les Disques Bongo Joe the edge internationally and helps forge their vision and ethos so uniquely. Few labels master the art of compilation curation, label A & R for new music coming through, as well as such competent reissue work, so effectively, all at the same time. Their links into live music, their global network from touring, as well as an infectious and unabating hunger for more and more have seen the releases pour from BJ HQ.
The label will celebrate five years at the end of this year. The releases continue to come thick and fast (also, with two digital only comps to get fans through lockdown – a comp’ of all time reissue favourites and also for “today’s bands”), but more is in store.
“I just realised the label would turn five in December,” Cyril says. “What a strange year to celebrate! Hopefully by then we’ll be able to organise a party. Meanwhile, the label still puts out one record per month, from obscure unknown music from the past to actual artists from here and there… [still to come] will be puxas and rumbas from Sao Tome and Principe islands, kraut-cumbia from Bogotá, guitar and drum machines from Azerbaijan, ambient music from Spain.”
One of the latest albums offered, from Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers, is Vodou Alé.
It’s an intense tour-de-force of Afro-Caribbean voodoo polyrhythms, woven with bassy dub electronics that ooze from this debut full-length collaboration, between Haitian seven-piece, Chouk Bwa and Belgian production duo, The Ångströmers. It’s had support DJ from all over (Gilles Peterson, Tom Robinson and Gideon Coe (BBC Radio 6 Music), Papaoul and Toshio Matsuura (Worldwide FM), John Warr (Totally Radio) and Trevor Jackson (NTS).
The forthcoming reissue of Pedro Lima sees the label return to a key artist from their Léve Léve release – a unique compilation devoted to music from São Tome and Principe.
Cyril’s tastes, interests and plans for the shop and label reflect his journey in music so far, as well as that added relentless focus on continued development and growth. He also enjoys “Oum Kalthoum, Fairuz, Asmahan, [the] greatest voices of the Middle East” and so far the label has championed new Turkish music (drenched in the 70s golden age) from Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek and the now world renowned Altin Gun. More from these parts of the world are no doubt planned.
“I used to listen to [such music] in my dad’s car when I was a kid. As a teenager, I was really into dub, reggae and sound systems,” Cyril adds, explaining someway the expanse of his tastes and knowledge. “Then blues, folk and creole music from United States, West Indies and Indian Ocean… Rock ’n’ roll and punk as well… French music.” His musical noteworthys go on and on.
The Meridian Brother’s long awaited comeback is also with the label, this August, with a new album.
Yin Yin are another new band to watch, sounding like nothing else on the label.
Releases by Amami show the electronic appreciation by the label when foregrounding new sounds and globally fused pop – Nigerian influences can be heard here.
“I listen to a lot of different music, as I’m a record store owner as well and need to bring new music to the shelves… All kind of artists… I got some all time favorites like Jonathan Richman, early Dr John, Neil Young, Serge Gainsbourg, Barbara, Nina Simone, Bob Marley, Toots & The Maytals, Burning Spear for the most known. Most of Mississippi Records releases are my all time fave too.”
Cyril also pays tribute to a range of other labels that have inspired him: Mississippi Records, Sublime Frequencies, Honest Jons, Crammed Discs, On-U Sounds, Finders Keepers, Born Bad, Soundway, Rush Hour are the ones that really inspired me. “[Today also] Seance Centre, Hivemind, Emotional Rescue, Nyege Nyege, Rebel Up, Radio Martiko, Sing a Song Fighter, Fortuna.”
More WTM favourites from the extensive Bongo Jobe back cat’, include:
The fantastic Intenta: Experimental and Electronic Music from Switzerland 1981-93is a supreme tour of the underground.
Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staiif 1985-1997 shares killer tracks from a unique migration.
For more, visit the label’s site.