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Rare African Digs by Teranga Beat
Label Spotlight
Rare African Digs
by Teranga Beat

‘Teranga’ is a Senegalese word describing a blend of hospitality, respect, and sharing. A phenomenon essential for record label Teranga Beat, founded in 2010 by Adamantios Kafetzis. He travels to Senegal and Gambia to unearth and digitize original reel-to-reel tapes, to release unheard African music and rare grooves. Always with 'teranga' by the original artists and owners.

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Living in Greece yourself, how did you become an avid collector of African music?

I grew up in Pangrati where we had the first African immigrants in Athens. So I was hanging out with them, visiting their houses, restaurants, and of course, listening to their music which sounded extraordinary to me. As I was a record collector from a very young age, I was looking for more and more genres of music. When I discovered African music, I had to dig deep into it.

I eventually had the opportunity to discover a big collection of African music in Athens, of a collector who died. That’s where I discovered a few Senegalese records. But just the music was not enough: I was more curious about the culture of the continent. I had enough of the Western world, so I started traveling in Africa. That’s how Teranga Beat started.

That must’ve been quite an adventure! What goes into finding and unearthing the right music? Can you share a memory to illustrate your ‘hunt’ for the best rare music?

One of the most difficult periods was when I was digitizing the reel-to-reel tapes in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The second time I was doing this, was during the summer of 2010, in a period of rain. The weather is hot and humid, mosquitos and malaria are very present and I had to work for hours every single day to finish all the reels. Sometimes I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning to start.

The biggest nightmare was the electricity power cuts which are very common during this period in Dakar. One day the weather was good, so I thought it wouldn’t be any problem. I started working and after a few hours, I had the first power cut. I waited for a bit, the power comes back - but after 5 minutes it was cut again. In 30 minutes I had about 5 power cuts! I was getting mad, I started cursing and I opened the door to leave the apartment.

Just outside of the door I found an electrician who was playing with a plug. I just wanted to kill him. I brought him to my apartment and explained to him what I was doing, he apologized and promised me that he would stop and wished me good luck to my project.

"I think sampling is a good way to promote your music and, most importantly, to introduce music to a younger audience."

— Adamantios Kafetzis
James & Secka of Royal Band de Thies
James & Secka of Royal Band de Thies

Earlier this year, you released ‘Greek Fusion Orchestra Vol. 2’ by Kyriakos Sfetsas. An interesting addition amidst mostly African music. What does this release mean to you personally?

All these years of involvement with African music, I was amazed at how they could mix their traditional music with western genres such as funk, jazz or pop music. And even more recently with electronic music. I was wondering why Greece—with such a rich variety of traditional music—hasn’t done it until now. Very few records were released with those fusion sounds. One of them was Kyriakos SfetsasWithout Boundaries in 1980.

So I contacted him about a visual art project I had on the island of Lefkada, where he lives. We met and he told me that he had earlier recordings with this group from 1977 and that he didn’t even have a chance to release them. So I grabbed the opportunity to listen to all of them and released these two volumes of music I’ve always dreamt about to exist!

What is your view on music sampling in general, from the perspective of Teranga Beat?

I think it’s a good way to promote your music and, most importantly, to introduce music to a younger audience. Even if it’s only 5% of your listeners as a label, it can be a new audience interested to dig deeper into your music. On that front, Tracklib is a very smart project. The music industry needed a platform like this.

And which Teranga Beat track is a personal favorite which either has been sampled before or makes for a great (hip-hop) sample?

Let’s say the easiest and—in my opinion—the ultimate track to become a hip-hop sample is “Gypsy Pattern” by Kyriakos Sfetsas.


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