Luaka Bop is an indie label and labor of love begun by Davd Byrne two decades and one year ago. Amped about the Brazilian records in his collection, he began to make mix tapes for his friends and eventually hired Yale Evelev from Icon to run the label with him. The two went forth and signed obscure artists from places like Brazil and Cuba, pressing pop no one had ever heard before.
Byrne comments on Luaka Bop’s website, “I became the mogul of the label you can’t pronounce. I was pictured in a cartoon at the time in a pith helmet stalking the jungle for new sounds and running into fellow ethno-musicologist Paul Simon.”
At the time, Byrne was signed with Warner Brothers which also served as Luaka Bop’s corporate master. The relationship, though convenient, was tenuous. Byrne and Evelev were interested in a kind of large scale distribution of obscure music they thought was cool, an evolution of Byrne’s mix tape offerings. But the big label wanted more than that. A gaping insatiable mouth, a Sarlacc pit, it digested them slowly (but in less than a thousand years).
A series of mergers and collapses in the record industry (Warner/AOL/Virgin/V2) ensued and now the label stands alone, independently run, still serving up a focus on badass “world music.” I’m not sure if there’s still a stigma attached to that or not, but if there is Luaka Bop is chipping away at it.
To celebrate, they’ve released an anniversary compilation, 21st Century, 21st Year
. It kicks off with what was also the first off their first album all those years ago, a little number by the incomparable Jorge Ben called “Umbabarauma.” Os Mutantes, Shuggie Otis, Tom Ze and David Byrne also included.
For the comp and a lot more from this awesome label, dig this… let me know how you fare.
Hit play on that Keleya track by Moussa Doumbia to light you up just in time for Friday night.
I talked about David Byrne’s film scoring here. I really like him.