«The first image that comes to mind when I think of all these dust sleeves is the Motown version of Guadeloupe island. The colours, the designs, the graphics on the covers and their looks; group names like Protesta, Contesta, Exile One, Les Aiglons, The Vikings, The Grammacks… The music was essential and strong, played by musicians who had a real connection with the people. The cover designs and typography of the 45 rpm records were really in and of their time. Out of these record sleeves came expression that was close to our culture, our lives, that transcended us to some extent. Our culture was printed on these sleeves, they were impregnated by it.», recalls Shuck One. A graffiti artist born in Pointe-A-Pitre in 1970, he was very involved in the hip-hop movement.
What is most striking is the diversity of techniques used and the variety of themes addressed in the record sleeves. It ranges from figurative painting, marked by the plantation’s system, to more abstract features. We can also find full frame portraits of great local figures, group paintings of men in suits or in more laid-back outfits, drawings with a hint of irony — like the ones that depict the Invader who lands on the island (!) — while others are more dreamlike, following down Cocteau’s path. Some LP sleeves opt for an extremely geometric and minimalist style, while other designs choose instead to overload colours, reminding us of a sort of tropical version of Malevich. Be it in the form of lettering or of background collages, they all suggest the DIY spirit. From the most authentic and straightforward to the very artsy, there is something for everyone in every style, like the soundtracks that they illustrate: biguine, gwoka, bele, mazurka, merengue, cadence, mambo and other traditional adaptations, latin jazz, tropicalized funk, aromatised soul, swaying yéyé — from the roaring drums to hair-raising voices.
«Looking at these covers, we can review the history of Caribbean society through titles that have been the happiness of music lovers», says producer Sully Cally. On these 45 rpms, the iconic zandoli rubs shoulders with the equally famous creole pig. Similarly, the age-old accordion has as much a place as the electric guitar and music clubs have as much importance as football (soccer) teams. The texts can be light and enjoyable or more political, like those produced at the time of Bumidom, which bled the island of a part of its youth. The music talks about carnivals, sings of Christmas or visits an idealised Paris from the Eiffel Tower to the anarchist Bonnot gang from the Belle Époque. It is this trace of Creolité, in Edouard Glissant’s sense, that remains tenacious on these record sleeves. The hallmark of a 100% local, 200% original production.