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CULTURES OF SOUL

The CS Crew's 'Funky Pack' can be best described as Nigeria's own blend of Kool & The Gang, Mandrill and the Ohio Players - with a Moog synthesizer thrown in for good measure. Reissued for the first time this late 70s Nigerian raw funk masterpiece includes bonus tracks from the related group Youths Of The Universe and liner notes written by Comb and Razor label owner (and Nigerian record collector extraordinaire) Uchenna Ikonne. 'Funky Pack' features nine cuts of rare Nigerian funk including the sweaty and growling tracks 'Bread Power', 'Doin' The Good Thing' and 'Freaky Funkyfied Fix', along with the psychedelic funk dancer 'Love is Peace' and the end-of-the-night lo-fi party jam 'I've Found Love'. Also includes the psych / garage tracks 'Troubles Of The World', 'Dig In With Time', and 'Last Day' from the extremely rare Youths Of The Universe album 'Gettin’ Into YOU'.

Don Laka

I Wanna Be Myself

    A classically trained multi-instrumentalist, Don Laka began his career in the ‘70s and then joined the seminal jazz outfit Sakhile in the early ‘80s. Already an established musician by this time, Laka was at the forefront of exploring the latest synth sounds of the day. Being introduced to synthesizers by Harari's Alec Khaoli, Don soon began experimenting with different synths like the Oberheim, Juno, and Prophet 5 while using a Commodore 64 to sequence them. Constantly striving for the latest sounds, Laka’s early explorations culminated in his debut solo album, I Wanna Be Myself. “I went and did an album, recorded tracks at Downtown Studios [in downtown Johannesburg]. Most of the album, except for ‘Let’s Move the Night,’ was done straight with a Fairlight at a different studio, of the guy that owned the Fairlight, Adrian Strydom.

    He was the only guy in the country who had a Fairlight, I think on the continent. “This was the first commercial record made on a Fairlight in this country. I remember the other instrument I used was Jupiter 8, which was a very expensive Roland synth, and I used a Juno-60. I would layer them. The only thing I programmed was the drums. You can hear the snare sound, I think it was a mix of some cracked bottles and something that we just mixed. Holed up in the studio, Laka remembers getting special input on ‘I Wanna Be Myself’ from master bassist Bakithi Khumalo, who would also feature prominently on Graceland. ”I remember I played all the instruments on it. I played bass, I played all. Bakithi walked into the studio and I said, ‘You know, I’m not a bass player. Baks, do you wanna do it?’ And he nailed it, in one take!” Reissued for the first time is Don Laka's masterful album. 

    The Caribbean has long been an incubator for the sounds that will animate and shape the culture of the rest of the world for decades to come: From the rhythms of Cuba helping to shape American jazz, blues and rock n’ roll, to Trinidadian calypso introducing a bouncy lightness and gaiety to American party music, to Jamaica’s reggae showing a new way to rebel against convention. But what about the music of Belize, the Caribbean nation that holds the odd position of being a former British colony on the coat of Spanish-speaking Central America? Most people don’t know about the country at all, let alone about the rich sounds it has to offer.

    Bredda David Obi set out to change that in 1984 with the release of his debut LP "No Fear", and the introduction of a new Belizean groove he called kungo (or cungo). A mélange of traditional Belizean brukdown music and sprinklings of the rock, funk, calypso and reggae he had played in various bands during his years as a journeyman musician in the United States. He would further develop this modern tropical sound on subsequent albums, integrating more and more elements from Belizean niche genres like sambai and paranda. Cultures of Soul now documents Bredda David’s journey into the soul of Belize with an anthology of his early recordings including tracks from "No Fear", "Cungo Musik" (1987) and "We No Wa No Kimba Ya" (1990) albums.

    Bredda David’s kungo is hard to describe exactly—its various ingredients make it feel somewhat familiar, but the recipe with which he blends them is slightly strange, fresh and intriguing. But one thing is for certain, it is sure to electrify the dance floor and make everybody jump up and bruk down! Housed in a gatefold jacket with extensive liner notes by Uchenna Ikonne. 

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Patrick says: Cultures Of Soul put the spotlight on Bredda David and his Belizean Kungo sound with this seven track retrospective. Now, I'd never heard of Kungo going into this, but after a very enjoyable listen I can report that reggae, disco, sunkissed rock and proto house flavour this uplifting music.

    Various Artists

    Greg Belson’s Divine Disco Volume Two: Obscure Gospel Disco (1979-1987)

      Although gospel and disco music seem like polar opposites—one is secular while the other has embraced a hedonistic culture—the marriage of the two genres has birthed the uplifting spirituality and dance floor thump found in gospel disco. By the mid-'70s many established and independent gospel artists started creating records with a tight four-on-the-floor beat that touched both churchgoers as well as patrons of the drug-fueled establishments of the '70s. Cultures of Soul Records is proud to present the second installment of Greg Belson's Divine Disco. Belson is one of the world's leading authorities on the funky gospel sound; for this collection he dug deep into his crates to undercover the rarest independent and private press gospel disco records ever recorded. Greg Belson's Divine Disco sound is one that's been heard around the world from his DJ appearances at Glastonbury's NYC Donwlow stage to LA's Funky Sole to soul nights across Europe. Many tracks are under the radar or recently discovered such as Harrison Jones - On that Other Shore, Converters, I've Been Converted and the super limited self-released 45 by Mr Jesse R. McGuire – Jesus Is On the Mainline. Only 50 copies were ever pressed. This volume even includes gospel disco from the UK with Paradise's brilliant "Keep the Fire." This compilation also includes remixes and edits by Steve Cobby (who was a member of Fila Brazillia) and the Divine Situation production duo of Greg Belson and Paulo Fulci. 

      In the 1970s reggae music burst forth from its birthplace of Jamaica and took over the world. Who would have ever thought that one of the first outposts it captured on its way to global domination would be an unlikely city known mostly for its Brahmin heritage and blue-collar brawlers as well as for violent racial polarization? Boston, Massachusetts was the first region in the US to really 'get' reggae, adopting it as early as 1973 when the city’s huge student population turned the lowbudget Jamaican B-flick 'The Harder They Come' into a midnight cult classic.

      The city would gain a reputation as a key market for any international reggae act trying to gain a foothold in America. But besides being early enthusiasts and advocates for the music, Bostonians would also become bountiful producers of reggae as well, with a network of clubs, singers and musicians coalescing to form an organic Boston roots scene: A scene that would yield acts as varied as Zion Initation (a solid, spiritually-inclined Rasta band), to the I Tones (an ambitious, multiracial group that set a new standard for pop success), and even reaching across New England to embrace the Vermont-based Lambsbread (a latter-day reggae reincarnation of the legendary African-American proto-punk trio Death, later made famous by 2013’s revivalist documentary A Band Called Death').

      Boston-based music journalists / historians Noah Schaffer and Uchenna Ikonne have teamed up with Cultures of Soul to compile an overview of some of the most crucial cuts to emerge from Boston during the height of the reggae boom in the 1980s. Formatted on CD or 2LP set both configurations come with a 28¬page book documenting the rich history of this music scene with in-depth analyses and photos of the reggae artists involved. Almost all of this music is reissued for the very first time, including rare gems such as Danny Tucker’s “Our Father’s Land,” Zion Initation’s “Think About It,” I Tones’ “Love is a Pleasure” and Lambsbread’s “Two Minute Warning” are sure to delight both roots connoisseurs and newcomers to the genre, and open up a time tunnel to a little-known golden age of American reggae, and an even less-known scene that facilitated the expansion of the music into an international phenomenon. 


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Patrick says: If movies are to be believed (and I did do 13 secs of Demographic research) Boston is entirely made up of Irish Americans wearing flat caps and letterman jackets. Improbably, alongside the entire Dropkick Murphies discography, the people of Southie were also America's early adopters of reggae, birthing the wealth of local artists and labels covered here. Wicked smart...

      Following successful disco excavation from the Caribbean to South Africa, Boston-based label Cultures of Soul booked a first class ticket to Narita to bring you their latest release, "Tokyo Nights: Female J-Pop Boogie Funk: 1981 to 1988". This compilation presents 12 of the most memorable and sought-after songs of the era recorded by female artists. The music is a reflection of the unbridled optimism, technological achievement, excess and exuberance of Bubble-era Japan. More than catchy melodies and funky baselines, these are reflections of a time when Japan was the center, and future of the world. The Bubble can be characterized as an endless, extravagant party where personal and corporate wealth soared through the explosion of real estate and stock prices. Scores of young Japanese men and women moved to cities in search of affluence, transforming them into neon wonderlands.

      Changes in morals, values and gender roles followed suit. Prosperity leads to indulgence, and the taste for nightlife, from flashy restaurants to glitzy discotheques, was unquenchable. A soundtrack to this new, lavish lifestyle was necessary and the latest sound, City Pop (urban pop music for those with urban lifestyles), epitomized these attitudes. While influenced by American R&B and boogie, elements of fusion, YMO style Technopop, and adult-oriented rock (AOR) are front and center. Sung primarily in Japanese (with a word or two of English sprinkled in), City Pop is Japanese music for Japanese people. Producers like Tatsuro Yamashita, Toshiki Kadomatsu, and Haruomi Hosono were quick to embrace the latest studio equipment and technology. Synthesizers like the Yamaha DX7, Roland Juno-60, ARP Quadra, Moog Polymoog and Oberheim OB-8, as well as drum machines like the Linndrum, were prevalent. Digital reverb was applied liberally. Compiled by Eli Cohen (Alliance Upholstery) and Deano Sounds (Cultures of Soul), Tokyo Nights includes tracks by Hitomi Tohyama, Junko Ohashi, Mizuki Koyama, Kaoru Akimoto, Aru Takamura, Mariko Tone, Rie Murakami, RA MU, Kikuchi Momoko and Yumi Seino. Each selection celebrates the unique traits and meticulous production that define the sound. Think sandy beaches and metropolitan skylines; illumination and romance. Embrace the feeling of movement, from a coastal highway stretching towards the horizon or the city sprawling into the future. Turn on the hi-fi and slip into these Tokyo Nights. 

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Patrick says: As we prepare to wave our beloved Ryan off to the land of the rising sun, Cultures Of Soul serve up a superb selection of City Pop winners. Uplifting, exciting and coated in a neon shimmer, these glossy boogie blinders will fill the Horsebeach shaped hole in our lives...

      True to form, Boston-based label Cultures of Soul is set to release a compilation of obscure disco from a far-flung corner of the world. After forays into India and Brazil, they now turn their attention to South Africa. South Africa is home to a dizzying variety of musical genres and traditions, including some that look directly to American sounds for inspiration. In the late 70s and early 80s, many of the country’s best young musicians were guided by funk. All over the world, disco was growing harder and more electronic, with new synthesizers entering the market every month. The southern tip of Africa was no exception. Global music industry geo-politics, however, aided by the country’s pariah status and a UN-sanctioned cultural boycott, prevented the vast majority of this music from ever being heard outside the country, nor ever being released on CD or digitally. Until now. Compiled by Cultures Of Soul head honcho Deano Sounds in collaboration with Johannesburg-based DJ Okapi from the Afro-Synth blog and record store, Boogie Breakdown serves up two tracks apiece from six seminal acts from the era - Harari, The Cannibals, Neville Nash, Benjamin Ball, Don Laka and Al Etto – to offer a glimpse into this long-forgotten era in African music history. A period of true innovation and new possibilities – as well as isolation and political instability – the early 80s in South Africa saw the emergence of numerous talented, innovative artists, whose efforts soon gave rise to the big-selling ‘bubblegum’ sound of the mid-80s. As the decade wore on, this sound shed its American roots and took on more local influences, becoming ever more electronic and less funky, to become the kwaito of the 90s and ultimately the house music of today. It all started with the arrival of synthesizers and the creativity of producers and artists featured on this compilation - pioneers
      of a new sound before it became established and marketable – global in its appeal, yet rooted in Africa

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Matt says: So, you have Harari's "Good Vibes" (recently edited by none other than Neil Diablo) and Don Laka's "I Wanna Be Myself" (currently none available of discogs at all) on one comp. I'm already sold! The rest of the tracks are dope too. And we all know Cultures Of Soul do this shit proper. Immense.

      Greg Caz and Deano Sounds have teamed up once again to bring you another fine package of vintage Brazilian music. This one stretches across the scope of funk, soul, and psychedelic music from Brazil. Some highlights include: the extremely rare and funky “Labirinto” by 2001 & Beto, the blistering psychedelic funk of Antônio Carlos & Jocafi’s “Quem Vem Lá,” the essential rare groove track “Bananeira” by Emilio Santiago, Osmar Milito E Quarteto Forma’s rare “América Latina” sampled by Madlib, Tom Zé’s unstoppable riff on “Jimmy, Renda-Se,” and many others. Here are some words on the project from co-compiler and Brazilian music aficionado, Greg Caz: “Without necessarily having a central theme other than funky nuggets from the first half of the 70s, we believe this compilation displays its own particular sense of logic, and that these songs ultimately all sound fantastic together. Regardless of one’s familiarity, or lack thereof, with artists like Antonio Carlos & Jocafi, Os Incríveis, Toni Tornado or Celia, the material on these 45s speaks its own truth and justifies their inclusion here. Many of these were originally available as singles, while others were taken from albums, but all are guaranteed to find their way into many DJ boxes and playlists.”

      Stanton Davis And The Ghetto Mysticism Band

      Isis Voyage: Unreleased Music & Alternative Mixes From The Brighter Days Sessions

      The original spacey jazz-funk sound of the Brighter Days album by Stanton Davis' Ghetto Mysticism Band has been championed by everyone from Gilles Peterson to Andrew Mason of Wax Poetics to hip hop producer and rapper Madlib. Isis Voyage is a collection of unreleased music and alternative mixes from the Brighter Days sessions. Many of the tracks on Brighter Days were shortened to be more accessible to the listening public. Isis Voyage contains the original, longer versions of many of these songs including "High Jazz" and "High Jazz Reprise." Back in October 2012 Stanton Davis and Cultures of Soul Records' label head, Deano Sounds, went into the studio to mix down tracks from the original multitrack reel to reel tapes. Two unreleased tracks, "Odwalla" and the title track "Isis Voyage," were among the material discovered while mixing down the music. Also included are extended instrumental versions of "Things Cannot Stop Forever" and "Funky Fried Tofu." Bonus tracks include remixes of "Things Cannot Stop Forever" and "High Jazz" by UK disco remix expert Al Kent.


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