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27/11/2017
27/11/2017

FREDRIK LAVIK : AN ONGOING STORY OF EAST AFRICAN GROOVES EXCAVATION

fredrik1

 
 

Fredrik Lavik is the soul behind the Afro 7 label responsible behind some serious East African music archiving and some cracking releases on 45 and 12 inch, from deep Swahili Funk to Kenyan Boogie. Here’s the story behind one of the best labels around.

 
 
 

When did you start digging records?
My mother and father had a big record collection, so I grew up listening to this format but favored the CD when that came, I remember buying lots of electronic music IDM (intelligent dance music) in the mid-90s Orbital, the Orb, Aphex Twin, Atom Heart etc. But my crave for the «rare groove» started out in the late 90-ties in Stavanger, the oil capitol, west-coast of Norway. A friend of mine had parties in his basement and he started to bring in records he had found in second hand shops. At that time we listened to a lot of disco, common popular stuff like the Jacksons, Gloria Gaynor and The Trammps, mostly pulled from compilation cd’s. One day my mate came in with George Benson ‘Give Me the Night’ lp produced by Quincy Jones, that raised some eyebrows discovering that there is loads of «undiscovered songs» on this format. A few years after this while living in Bergen I started to regularly mail with Edward Griffiths (the man behind the blaxploitation.com blog) and he started sending ebay links to lp soundtracks. That was the start of spending a lot of money on the format. But back then you could get some of todays classics really cheap, like Manu Dibango countdown at kusini for 10 dollars etc.

What Lps did you buy at first? Do you still listen to them?
I started out buying a lot of soundtracks, at one time I had complete Blaxploitation catalogue. I’ve sold a lot of it. But kept the best ; Bullitt, Inner Space, Coffy etc. I am still a fan of soundtracks, in fact last year me and my mate Tobias (who runs preservation records) thought of the idea to start issuing Norwegian soundtracks that had not been released. Next year there will be 4 soundtracks on our little project label called Moving Music.

Do you have a particular style or favourite period?
No I am very eclectic in music taste, so I can savvy anything from early blues to nineties electronic music.

Are you still digging, buying vinyl, visiting record shops?
Whenever I can, I do still dig, it’s a passion, I just came back from Hungary it was a family trip but managed to scoop a little under 10 albums.

What was your first release on Afro7?
A Somali compilation entitled “Light and Sound of Mogadishu”. It was a project that Andreas Vingaard of Frederiksberg record suggested, he had found the guy behind the label, and the music was great, all the top acts recorded with this label. Great variety and proper sound quality too not that cassette sound. Matthew Lavoie had written a great post about the label on the VOA blog so that could run for liners, we came up with a package concept and got it out.

themmushrooms

Them Mushrooms, in picture from left Teddy Kalanda Harrison, John Katana Harrison and  Billy Sarro Harrison.
‘Bi Uru Wamiel’


 

What could be your editorial/esthetic line ?
Often the my plan for reissuing or releasing a record starts somewhat in my head, where I can go days thinking around an idea for a release, or layouts and combinations. And then it starts taking shape, from all perspectives, tracking down the rights holder, make sure everyone gets paid and so forth.

A leight-motiv to sum upo the identity of Afro7 ?
The basic three: a good story behind the release, good sound quality and of course the most important aspect… great music.

Did you have any references labels for reissues?
Soundway keeps breaking boundaries with issuing a lot of good contemporary music, Strut too, and Numero One Group is great, Jazzman Gerald, Frotee in Estonia, We Jazz label in Finland, recently I bough some of the Music from Memory releases coming out of Amsterdam, there is bunch of great labels.

How do you work in Africa? With a network?
I have some friends that help me out, also the Internet is great searching up people… As global as it has become nothing is impossible.

Is it easier to find old LP’s in the countryside, where everything has not yet been explored?
Digging in Finland (where I live now) you can find stuff, but most of the interesting music happened in cities, so it’s much harder to scoop the good bits in the outer perimitors.

blackbelt 2

Black Belt Symphony, in picture Somayah ‘Peaches’ Moore Khaliq.
‘Brotherman’


 

Afro 7 focuses on Somalia and Kenya for the moment. Is there any particular reasons?
Yes many moons ago I bought a large collection of african seven inches from Kenya, and from that lot came a lot of work, listening, countless of hours, and sorting also posting selling etc. through the afro7.net blog This also put me on the map and resulted in the Kenya Special volume 1 release by Soundway.

You release mostly 7’’ and 12’’, can we expect an album reissue soon on Afro7?
Yes I have some albums in process and even more compilations, but these things take time and it’s mostly me running things. I also run the Jazzaggression label and have a few albums lined up there, the second album from The Bird Curtis Quintet from 1969 and a reissue of a rare norwegian jazz record.

Are Afro7 limited releases or you plan to reprint any sold out releases?

No we focus on limited 1000 runs and then rather move on with new releases instead of re-runs. Most of the music is also available digitally, so the music is still obtainable.

What are the differences, in terms of sound, production, between East and West Africa?
In terms of production value inn the golden era seventies and eighties. Some of the bigger labels like Philips, EMI and Polygram had Nairobi offices, with top equipment. All the regional countries from south and west came to Nairobi in Kenya to record as it was the musical hub. Therefore there was also a huge flora of smaller independent labels running. So you have literally hundreds and hundreds of different labels operating releasing singles only, sub labels for different tribes and styles etc. Musically East has always been rooted in more congolese guitar traditional styles, soukouss, lingala and out of this benga etc.

the scorpios

Scorpios, from left Regia Ishag, Osman Mohammed, Adam Bulewski and Ronnie Maxwell.
‘Safar’


 

And the place of North Africa in all this?
When you cross the border from Kenya to Ethiopia it all changes musically, it’s more arabic / indian influenced, tempo, scales and chord changes are somewhat more atuned to our western world musical tradition, although you can find some of that in in the Taarab music that was played along the Swahili spoken coastline from The Somali border to North of Tanzania.

How can we find, discover, new references, when so many people dig the same path?
There is always something new to discover, also trends die and then they are reborn again. I’m not that worried. Go back 5 years ago on the current DJ scene, synth music and drum-machines wasn’t that hot, look now, everyone is jumping on the next untapped Zouk record.

You have just published The Scorpios. Tell us their story? How did you discover them?
It was Montreal’s finest Philippe Noël of Canicule Tropicale who posted a YouTube clip with «Yaelhajarok» in the Congolese & East African records group on Facebook, the sound of that track caught me, it had that raw edge, sounded authentic enough and with these blistering female vocals. So I contacted the guy who had uploaded it, Adam Bulewski and we took it from there, somewhat three years later, after a single the full album was out. It’s been an interesting experience, it’s a record that people keep going back to, that gets better and better the more you listen…

Is it a matter of getting out of new artists or publishing rare reissues? What complementarities? And what are the specific difficulties of each activity?
Reissues or «older» music tend to sell better, so if it’s a contemporary band starting out it’s going to take a lot of promoting, regardless of how good the music is. In todays jungle that is a full time job.

Have you received many negative answers on some of the LPs, artists, unreleased tapes, you were trying to reissue?
No not really. Well I tried to get a live recording from Stavanger released once on my Jazzaggression label. Thought this will be an easy job but one of the main soloist was very abrupt «This ain’t happening». To some degree I could relate to his conflict on the matter, if you are musician it’s not really that interesting to hear yourself playing 40 years ago (just ask any sax player) to a listener it’s different, and when it comes to jazz… It’s less technical and younger players have a certain spontaneous energy that isn’t always present later… and compositions built up around «less is more» this is a subjective matter though, based on the listener typical rare groove atuned ears will agree :)

guttormguttormsenquartet

Guttorm Guttormsen Quartet, from left, Brynjulf Blix, Guttorm Guttormsen, Espen Rud and Carl Morten Iversen.
‘Soturnudi’


 

Nowadays, there are many LP labels who follow this model, I mean more quality even if it’s more expensive… but in same time, there are also another «new» LP market, with major companies come-back and other labels, who prefer to sell cheaper. Is it the (re)creation of two camps for the LP?
There are two types of buyers too, those who’s been buying records for years. And newcomers have to go the school.

There are more and more reissues of old LPs, and more and more record labels (major or indie) now release their new artists on LP, or EP. Do you think that the reissue market could ever reach saturation point?
It’s expensive to make records so at one point when sales drop, there will be fewer of those Lionel Richie box-sets happening. Not a bad word about him or his label but his past releases are fairly easy to find on the second hand market. Also more older diggers/collectors are fed up with going to a second hand store and having to dig through reissue after reissue, so I guess there will be more diverted sections in the future. I think it’s a bit tip of the iceberg right now, with the new resurgence in vinyl, factories has also increased production tool capabilities, so prices will go down and the mill will still run… so I’m not just certain when that overkill will hit us J

What are your other next releases?
Next year we have another twelve (a lot like the previous Them Mushroom one) and a full album, Scorpios is working on a second album too. On the jazzaggression tip there is the second Bird Curtis album coming and also a Norwegian jazz record from 1971. And two more soundtracks on Moving Music.

What is the 45 you dream of reissuing?
No specifics here, but yes three more afro 7 singles are lined-up for release next year. They are all great !


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