Mr Bongo interview: ‘Sound Of Burkina Faso’ and ‘Record Club Two’ compilation spotlight

World Treasures Music spoke to Graham Luckhurst and Gareth Stephens of Mr Bongo. It’s an encounter that WTM has been trying to arrange for months! Such is the workload of such esteemed and world renowned diggers, while also running a prolific label and expertly curated shop (based in Brighton, UK).

Graham and Gareth co-compiled the most recent Mr Bongo Record Club: Volume Two compilation. The label has lots of new stuff out right now and there’s always more in the pipeline with this legendary label. They’re a tight crew who have been in it from the beginning.
WTM – How have your nights/mix series been going? Anything coming up?

We’ve been spinning a LOT this year – all over Europe, which has been amazing. Just got back from an event at Rappcats in LA with Egon (Now Again) and a lot of the West Coast peeps, where we celebrated the India reissue and sold records for two days. We’re running co-promoted events with Jazz Cafe and Patterns in Brighton and intend to do a lot more of those next year. Our two-hour Solid Steel mix will drop very soon. The Mr Bongo Edits series is also nearing completion.


WTM – How does the Record Club compilation come about?

It came about from our radio show of the same name, where we play completely across the board – music we love from our own collections. We’ve had guests including Nick The Record, Leon Vynehall, DJ Okapi, Jameszoo and Django Django, among others.

‘Mr Bongo Record Club: Volume Two’ features music on heavy rotation at Mr Bongo HQ.

WTM – What have been the major finds of recent months?

The private press album by Arthur called Joy  – a find by Mark GV Taylor – has been causing a bit of a stir. The track So Close To You is incredible. Also, J. B. De Carvalho ‎E Seu Terriero has been getting spun a lot since Dave picked it up in Brazil.

WTM – What next for the label?

We have a Solid Steel mix dropping very soon which should turn some heads… Mr Bongo Record Club Volume Three of course! A new Ebo Taylor record in March next year. Burner & Cartier reissue, Ebo Taylor & The Pelikans reissue and Luis Perez mystical 80’s electronic psyche LP from Mexico. More 45’s.WTM – Who have been your artists of the year?

‘The Original Sound Of Burkina Faso’ is a double vinyl compilation and is out now.

Vels Trio, Gaby Hernandez, Maria Rita, Candeias, Tenderlonious/Ruby Ruston and the whole UK jazz scene has been on fire. Also Brighton band Squid are one to watch for sure. Dave was very inspired by the work in compiling The Original Sound Of Burkina Faso and The Original Sound Of Mali compilations, where he discovered tons of new music.

WTM – How is your time managed between the shop, label and discovering?

Ha! There are a few of us here and we make it work nicely. David, Gary and Gareth do the bulk of the digging and travelling and the rest of the dudes run things from Brighton HQ.

A Mr Bongo promo leaflet for the shop from 1990.

WTM – Which LPs have you been proudest about reissuing?

Arthur Verocai, Pedro Santos’ Krishnanda and Gal Costa’s India were very special.


Listen to Mr Bongo Record Club mixes and more at Mr Bongo’s Mixcloud stream.

 

Awesome Tapes From Africa reissue Umoja’s 707, South African music reigns and bubblegum is back!

The Awesome Tapes From Africa label returns after Brian Shimkovitz’s recent expedition to South Africa – resulting in this much sought after reissue of bubblegum music stars Umoja and their 1988 EP 707. The label boss and DJ also linked up with Johannesburg selector and Afro Synth record shop owner, DJ Okapi, to check out his rapidly renowned emporium.

The band’s ‘Om’ Alec Khaoli turned to the pure pop form during apartheid in the mid-‘80s and Umoja’s EP 707 was a chart-topping hit in 1988 that achieved double-platinum status. Bubblegum music was an extremely catchy township music with call-and-response vocals and synthesiser-led melodies.

Umoja translates as “oneness” or “unity” in Swahili. “Bubblegum music was about escape,” explains Khaoli. “If you had grown up in South Africa at the time, there was nothing more in your life than oppression. It was even in your dreams. Anything that was a way out was welcome…When this music was playing everyone just wanted to dance, just have a good time.”

Awesome Tapes From Africa will release Umoja’s 707 on LP/CD/Digital on May 5.

And while we’re at it, Brian posted this artifact recently:

World Treasures Music end of year review

Click here to listen to the World Treasures Music review mix.

A number of artists’ passing will make 2016 memorable. A champion of world treasures at the legendary New York venue, The Loft, was David Mancuso, who was mourned widely in the music world after his death aged 72. Sun Palace’s Rude Movements was remastered and released a month before the sad news and the UK duo feature in the 2016 review mix.

rip-david-mancuso-72There were numerous releases and reissues that could of made this review, some selections are based on themes that seemed to nuance the music of the year. Invisible City Editions released one of the standout reissues with V.O’s Mashisa – though the thirst for South African sounds was also generated by DJ Okapi’s compilation for Cultures Of Soul. DJ Okapi, the Mr. Bongo Soundsystem, Nick The Record and the Invisible City duo championed the sounds of South Africa worldwide in hugely appreciated sets. Benjamin Ball’s Flash A Flashlight was another top record.

Another vault of treasures were released under the ‘tropical’ tag. Sofrito, DJ Sotofett, Analog Africa, Don’t DJ and more labels and artists reissued and produced work that was defined in this guise. The compilation of the year was Digital Zandoli. Syn Ka’s LP was also a hugely well received reissue.

digital-zandoliThe biggest reissue in some respects was the Shadow LP, Sweet Sweet Dreams. The Pasteur Lappe and the Cape Verde compilations were some of the best offerings from Africa, along with Aleke’s grail.

shadow-beerAlso from Africa – PMG, Africa Seven and Soundway compiled huge collections of rare material. Kenya was a particular focus this year for its music. Afro7 released Kenyan gold too.

Electronic music is represented on the mix by Bedouin Records, DJ Nature and Mark Ernustus. The DJ Katerpillar story for Awesome Tapes From Africa is another highlight of the year. Mood Hut was a superbly produced label with esoteric sampling and a vibe.

Latin sounds are represented by Mr. Bongo and a beautiful Colombian reissue of rare gems.

Ambient tunes came via the latest collection on Light In The Attic and close this mix (tracklist below).

adele1) Adele Sebastian – Prayer For The People (PMG, 2016, Desert Fairy Princess LP reissue)

2) DJ Nature – Serengeti Run (Swat Records, 2016, 12”)

3) Pasteur Lappe – Mbale (Africa Seven, 2016, Pasteur Lappe compilation)

4) Yta Jourias – Adome Nyueto (Hot Casa, 2016, Togo Soul 70 compilation)

5) The Group NSI – Mande Moin On Lajan, Pa Mande Moin Za Fe An Moin (Hevenly Sweetness/Diggers Digest, 2016, Digital Zandoli compilation)

6) Sun Palace – Raw Movements (BBE, 2016, remastered and unreleased versions compilation)

7) Ahmed Fakroun – Soleil Soleil (PMG, 2016, Mots D’Amour LP reissue)

8) Odion Iruoje – Alhaja And Obiageri (Soundway, 2016, Down To Earth LP reissue)

9) Njoroge Benson – Nyniukia (Afro7 Records reissue 12”, 2016)

10) African Vibrations – Hinde (Soundway, 2016, Kenya Special Volume 2 compilation)

11) Francis Njoroge – Dai (Afro7 Records reissue 12”, 2016)

12) João Cirilo – Po D’Terra (Analog Africa, 2016, Space Echo – The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed!)

13) Bitori – Cruz Di Pico (Analog Africa, 2016, Space Echo – Legend Of Funaná: The Forbidden Music of The Cape Verde Islands)

14) Claudio – Bonom Chinois (Strut, 2016, Soul Sok Sega compilation)

15) VO – Mashisa (dub mix) (Invisible City Editions, 2016, reissue Mashisa LP)

16) Formation Boyz – Jungle Anthem (Gqom Oh!, 2016, Gqom Oh! The Sound of Durban compilation)

17) DJ Katapila – Sakawa (Awesome Tapes From Africa, 2016, Tiroto LP reissue)

18) Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force – Jigeen (Ndagga, 2016, Yermande LP)

19) Steve Monite – Only You (dub mix) (Triassic Tusk Records, 2016 S/T compilation)

20) Blue Heron’s Tribute 2 PH – Hymn To A Whale Taker (Mood Hut, 2016, Disco Mantras Vol. 1)

21) Kinetic Electronix – Low Moves (Mood Hut, 2016, Music For Beings 2x 12”)

22) DJ Nature – LF (mix 1) (Swat Records, 2016, 12”)

23) Shadow – D’Hardest (Analog Africa, 2016, Sweet Sweet Dreams LP reissue)

24) John Heckle – Alexandria (Bedouin Records, 2016, Tributes To A Sun God12”)

25) Hieroglyphic Being – The Papyrus of Ani (Bedouin Records, 2016, The 42 Laws Of Maat 12”)

26) Banda Black Rio – Mr. Funky Samba (Mr Bongo Brazil7 series, 2016, 7”)

27) Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus – Yoyo (Lion’s Gate Records, 2016, Promised Land Sounds – Rockin’ Live Ruff N Tuff LP reissue)

28) Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus– Boom A Ya (Lion’s Gate Records, 2016, Promised Land Sounds – Rockin’ Live Ruff N Tuff LP reissue)

29) Nilamaye – El Nazareno (Bongo Joe, 2016, Las Flore Del Sol LP)

30) Suzanne Doucet & Christian Buehner – Shivas Dance (Light In The Attic, 2016, The Microcosm: Visionary Music of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 compilation)

31) Deuter – Spirales (Light In The Attic, 2016, The Microcosm: Visionary Music of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 compilation)

Interview: DJ Okapi (Afro-Synth)

SONY DSCDJ Okapi has been at the fore of rediscovering dance music from South Africa since his Afro-Synth blog started seven years ago. He has just compiled Boogie Breakdown: South African Synth-Disco 1980-1984 for Cultures of Soul and is about to commence a DJ tour of Europe. As well as blogging about under-publicised artists from his home country, DJ Okapi is helping others around the world to reissue key tracks and is planning his own label to celebrate its musical legacy. He spoke to World Treasures Music.

WTM – What’s your background, how did you get into collecting and DJing?

Growing up I spent a lot of time exploring new music in CD stores, taping and relistening to my favourite radio shows, also during high school playing guitar and experimenting with production. When I was studying I got into DJing, first on campus radio then through that in a few small bars in Cape Town. This was in the mid-2000s so I first played mainly on CDs but was able to build up a record collection with whatever money I earned from DJing. Although I had an interest in South African music (like jazz and rock) when I started DJing and collecting it was more about American soul and funk, also 80s pop. Digging around I picked up a handful of South African records and opened a door into a whole new world of music, a parallel universe right on my doorstep. I realised that 99% of the stuff had only ever been released on vinyl and nothing was being done to preserve it. I set up the Afro-Synth blog and started doing more research when I moved to Johannesburg in 2009. So over time this kind of music has become more of a focus both in digging and DJing.

WTM – The Boogie Breakdown: South African Synth-Disco 1980-1984 compilation for Cultures of Soul is a great collection…

COS-018_coverart-300x298The Cultures of Soul compilation was a collaborative effort between me and Jeff from the label. He took the initiative and the financial risk, so in terms of the choice of songs he rightfully had the final say. I would not have necessary made the same selection but I like that Jeff could make that choice. It’s a real thrill to see this thing materialise after years of work. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to help share this music.

WTM – You’ve helped track down some SA artists for other labels to reissue – any plans in store with the artists you compiled?

I am hoping to start re-issuing some artists on my own label in the near future. There is plenty of potential to expand on the artists featured on the CoS compilation, but there’s also a huge amount of other music, particularly from later in the 80s and the early 90s too. I am working with some of the old labels and producers to try get this music out there again.

V.O. was re-issued by Invisible City from Canada. I helped them by introducing them to the guy who owns the rights to the music in order to license it legally.

Invisible City resissue

Invisible City reissue

V.O. was a studio project, so the producer Eddie Magwaza was the main guy behind it, not the performers. But he died a few years after the album’s release in 1990, with no next of kin. In cases like this (and most others) it’s easier to license via what remains of the labels and publishers.

Original LP

Original LP

WTM – Where do you go digging? Where have you found the best records?

Digging has taken me all over the place. In South Africa there aren’t a lot of record stores so one needs to look elsewhere, and develop relationships with people from the industry back then.

It depends what you mean by best – the best quality records are the sealed deadstock that I get from the old labels and one or two other suppliers. Some of the rarer stuff like my kwaito records have come from private collections, although the quality is not always great.

studio-k-1Some of my favourite albums I’ve actually picked up in Europe and not in South Africa, like Hugh Masekela or Sakhile. Since I’ve started selling records, first online and then from my store in Joburg, it’s been about trying to find multiple copies, not just digging for one elusive record. There are so many great labels doing amazing reissues too, showcasing all kinds of obscure African music, which I’m trying to make available to people in South Africa.

WTM – What have you got coming up?

Preparing a compilation of bubblegum sounds from the late 80s on Rush Hour.

WTM – Where are your gigs on your forthcoming tour?

Thurs 10 Nov – Boiler Room
Fri 11 Nov – NTS Radio, the DoYou Breakfast Show with Charlie Bones, 10am-12pm
Sat 12 Nov – Good Block 4th Birthday at The Brewhouse, London (More info here:  https://www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?883185)okapi-joziburg

Tues 15 Nov – Patterns, Brighton
Fri 18 Nov – Bottom Shelf, Outlaws Yacht Club, Leeds

Thurs 24 Nov – Bar, Rotterdam
Fri 25 Nov – Banana Hill at The Harley, Sheffield
Sat 26 Nov – Loosen Up at Rum Shack,  Glasgow
Sun 27 Nov – Paradise Palms, Edinburgh

I’m still available for bookings, especially outside London (Manchester) so if any promoters are interested they can just email me at djokapi@gmail.com

Check out the Afro-Synth blog here

Jo’burg’s Okapi shares synth classics

Boston-based label Cultures of Soul is releasing a South African compilation selected by DJ Okapi – Boogie Breakdown: South African Synth-Disco 1980-1984. Famous for his Afrosynth blog – which has highlighted numerous treasures from the country – this selection of his homeland’s music is out in September.

Forthcoming on Cultures of Soul

Forthcoming on Cultures of Soul

Many of  the country’s best young musicians were guided by funk and the new synthesizers arriving there. A UN-sanctioned cultural boycott related to Apartheid meant much of the music remained domestic at the time. Together with Cultures Of Soul head honcho Deano Sounds this release will shine a light on six seminal acts from the era – Harari, The Cannibals, Neville Nash, Benjamin Ball, Don Laka
and Al Etto.

The music shows a period of innovation, exploration, as well as the context of isolation and political instability. Genres such as bubblegum and kwaito are the result, as well as reggae, disco and boogie fusions.

For more visit the Afro-Synth blog and the Cultures of Soul label website.

Boogie Breakdown tracklist:

A1. Cannibals – Hey Tonight
A2. Cannibals – We Keep On Keeping On
A3. Harari – Party
B1. Harari – Good Vibes
B2. Don Laka – I Wanna Be Myself
B3. Don Laka – Let’s Move the Night
C1. Neville Nash – Breakdown
C2. Neville Nash – Perfect Love
C3. Benjamin Ball – Flash A Flashlight
D1. Benjamin Ball – I Just Keep Dancing
D2. Al Etto – You’ve Got the Love
D3. Al Etto – Hold On to Love

DJ Okapi of Johannesburg

DJ Okapi of Johannesburg

“Jeff Swallom from CoS first approached me in November 2014 about putting together, and we’ve been working on it since then. The first year was about listening and choosing tracks, the second about getting the paperwork together.” There will be more in the future on WTM from DJ Okapi.

For now check out this WTM mix of kwaito, disco, boogie and more: