Dig Into the Vaults of Luaka Bop—from Gospel Soul to Funk Loops

Inspiration

Dig Into the Vaults of Luaka Bop—from Gospel Soul to Funk Loops

Spawned from the mind of David Byrne (Talking Heads) in 1988, New York-based label Luaka Bop is a treasure trove of records. A carefully selected batch of music is now available for sampling on Tracklib. From Preacherman’s “outsider lo-fi funk” to the newly reissued gospel soul by The Staples Jr. Singers.

By

Danny Veekens

·

May 25, 2022

Luaka Bop was founded in 1988 by David Byrne, lead singer/guitarist of Talking Heads. At first to release Beleza Tropical, his first compilation of Brazilian music. Later, the outlet became close to an art project rather than a traditional record label—”the concept is no concept.”

“An umbrella was needed to make things run smoothly,” David Byrne recalls in a joint interview with the label’s co-owner, Yale Evelev. “I picked the name because I loved the sound of it –strange, but musical… Yes, it’s a really confusing name, and difficult to pronounce, but we’re stuck with it now.”

David Byrne is known to be an advocate for the art of sampling. From 1981's sampling masterpiece and landmark album My Life In The Bush of Ghosts with producer Brian Eno, to calling Talking Heads “human samplers” when they recorded “Once In A Lifetime.” Five years ago, David Byrne even praised Selena Gomez for sampling Tina Weymouth’s bassline off Talking Heads' 1977 classic “Psycho Killer” on her single “Bad Liar.”

brian eno david byrne

To this day, that mindset still trickles down into the catalog of Luaka Bop. “We don’t conform to genre; we don’t constrict ourselves to a given sound,” explains Eliza Grace Martin of Luaka Bop. “We simply like to work with music—and artists—that excites us. One thing that we’ve learned we’re pretty good at over the years is making music that’s outside the mainstream accessible to all listeners. Sampling and accessibility go hand-in-hand. Access is part of what dictates taste.

“What makes a good sample?,” she continues. “That incredible moment of a recording when all of the frequencies vibrate just so. We live for that moment. We build albums around that, and are always in search of it.”

Below you find four artists from Luaka Bop’s roster, whose music is now available on Tracklib. Luaka Bop's Eliza Grace Martin illustrates each artist:

The Staples Jr. Singers

edward brown eliza grace martin

“The Staples Jr. Singers are a family group from Aberdeen, Mississippi, who wrote their first and only album of preternaturally evocative soul gospel when they were just teenagers. This was in 1975, when America was still reeling from the tumult of the 1960s. On the national stage, there was revolution, desegregation, Civil Rights, but on a local level, things hadn’t actually changed much for Black Americans. And The Staples Jr. Singers lived through it and made music about it, however obliquely.

The title track ‘When Do We Get Paid’ is just like that—it was their anthem at a time in their career when they weren’t sure they were being recognized for their talent, and certainly not compensated, but faith kept them going.”

Doug Hream Blunt

“Doug Hream Blunt learnt to play music at the age of 35, by taking an adult class in the late 1980s. The class was organized by a high school music teacher and his wife, and held in their small garage in the Golden Gate Park neighborhood of San Francisco. The other students of the class became Doug’s band members, while his teacher joined on vibes, and his wife on bass.

To promote his music, Doug would play acoustic, solo shows for patients and elderly people at a hospital where he worked as a nurse’s aid. On a few occasions, he also brought the other students together to play on the City Visions Public Access television show. It looked like this…”

Preacherman

Preacherman and his puppet TJ Hustler

Preacherman and his puppet TJ Hustler were arbiters of an unusual lo-fi funk that naturally looped, achieving higher states of enlightenment with each go-round. Preacherman was about more than just the funk—he had a message. We’ll leave it to you to figure out what exactly that was….”

Javelin

javelin

"To have unlimited access to choppable material is nothing new. But to be able to CLEAR that material so easily is absolutely going to change how much sample-based music you hear going forward."

—George Langford (one-half of Javelin)

George Langford, one-half of Javelin: “Dep is a good example of our blending of samples with our own instrumentation, as is The Stars. Sampling is a magical way to engage with the energies and moments in time that are captured on a recorded medium. When you chop up and arrange these moments you create collages that move. Blending your own instrumentation with these collages blurs space and time.”

"Tracklib is something I’ve been dreaming of ever since I learned about how you could get sued for making this kind of art. I mean, to have unlimited access to choppable material is nothing new. But to be able to clear that material so easily is absolutely going to change how much sample-based music you hear going forward. Producing these collages and releasing them to the world with no surprise legal consequences to come and haunt you in the night? We’re down! Let the people make the records out of the records.”

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