Label Spotlight #004 - Tribe Records
Zepherin Saint’s Afro mainstay Tribe Records makes the grade for our label spotlight series this time. The London-based imprint is home to the likes of Sean McCabe, Nathan Adams, Afrowarriors, Mark Francis and many more, with releases supported by everyone from Alex Niggeman to Doc Martin.
Hey Dean, thanks for chatting with us. Please give us a little bit of background about Tribe.
I started Tribe in 2009 as an output for my productions and music that I came across that I felt deserved to be heard. I guess people started to like what I was choosing to release and soon enough the likes of Timmy Regisford, Peven Everett, Culoe De song, Manoo and many others – sent me music.
I gained my musical knowledge in the eighties growing up with strong labels such as Salsoul, West End and Prelude and then Nu groove, Trax and Transmat towards the end of the decade. Because of this musical upbringing, it was important to me to also consistently put out strong releases and not compromise my own musical integrity.
My first major job in the industry was managing a pioneering store in London named Black Market records in the 90’s where I would serve the likes of David Morales and Norman Jay as well as lots of other well known DJs at the time and I was very lucky to be in a positon first-hand to see which music caught the DJ’s attention.
I’m of Caribbean decent and growing up in the UK we were not exposed to a lot of our African heritage in the school system in the 80’s, so you had to go find it yourself and in doing so I discovered a lot of music that opened me up to a whole new world as a teenager. This became a natural ingredient of my productions as I fell in love with drums, time signatures, rhythms and traditional music from the amazing continent. To school myself I later travelled to West Africa and the Gulf to learn and record with drumming troupes, discovering many ancient folk instruments along the way.
Tribe is a manifestation of all my musical experiences, roles and inspirations over the years rolled into one label. Which is why you will hear great soulful songs next to strong African beats. Being associated with only one genre would make a better business model and be more Kaizen but my musical make-up has not allowed for that approach. Hence the starting of Tribe Trax and a IFA IYAY (a new project I am developing for 2017).
Exploring and fusing musicality is what motivates me. It’s a good feeling to see your labels music break down barriers and get to the underground masses, which is why we do this labor of love to connect with music lovers globally.
What have been your favourite releases on the label over the years?
All our releases have meant a great deal to me otherwise I would not sign it. Some of the stand-out releases on the label for different reasons have been;
• 100 Zulu Warriors – Culoe De Song
• At the Club – Timmy Regisford
• Belebo – Jose Marquez
• Sister Pearl – Bang The Drum (Manoo Remix)
• Celebration – Djeff Afrozilla ft. Ade Alafia
• Sweetness in Your Soul – Nathan Adams (Louie Vega Remix)
• Souldynamic – Equartoriale
• Optimistic – Zepherin saint and Ann Nesby
• Oral Deep – Fifth Dimension
• DJ Angelo – See The Sea
• Elektronikart – Manoo
• Inspiration / Burning Hot – Peven Everett
• Canima – Zepherin Saint (Ifa Iyay Afrotech Remix)
Tell us a bit about what’s coming up on Tribe…
We are very excited about Souldynamic’s forthcoming album featuring various vocalists such as Miranda Nicole, Deborah Bond, Tamara Wellons, Mr V and Divinti to name a few. They have put their heart and soul into this project and created soulful bliss bringing great songs and arrangements to soulful house. The first release will be in November and features Dana Weaver – ‘Live your life’.
Sara Devine, a vocalist who has worked with Chaka Khan, Louie Vega, Mary J Blige and Alicia keys as well as being one of my favourite vocalists makes her debut on Tribe. For me this is a dream come true as we had been in talks for some time about doing a ZS collaboration. The result finally came with her new single ‘Hurry’ out in December.
Jose Marquez in my humble opinion is one of the best producers out there and knows how to make a traditional folk song turn into a weapon on the dance floor (not an easy task!). He brings the heat on an original piece of music named ‘Mali Blues’ a project I have put together exploring the traditional blues music of Mali which you will hear a lot more of in 2017.
Grammy nominated DJ Kemit joined forces with Mike City who has enjoyed a string of hits songwriting for the likes of Brandy and Sunshine Anderson to deliver a soulful gem with ‘She’s the One’. Mike city will also feature on upcoming releases from The Journey Men and (now doing its rounds on radio) and Dj Able.
Shota who started his career in Shana with Black coffee is an artist to look out for with a fierce album produced by Timmy Regisford it’s where NYC meets Joburg with all the Shelter trimmings.
‘Fantasize’ by Tumelo finally gets its release on the label – I signed this quite some time ago – with new remixes from NJ’s Mark Francis and myself and caters to both the soulful and afro audiences in the packages.
Afro Warrior’s are the new up and coming producers to watch out for. They create the afro and soul blend perfectly with new singles released end of the year. Their debut hit Uyankenteza gets a very special remix from a producer I am really digging and pushes the boundaries’, Hyenah.
Cazz Ear follows up his hit with Ursula Rucker with another positive message to the world through his music teaming up with Natasha Kitty Kat to make a very relevant statement delivered by an Icon in Black culture out Nov 4th” Birthday of Blackness’
Look out for killers from David Montoya, Da Mike, DJ FNX and Bruthas, all new signings to Tribe Trax. You can hear our forthcoming releases on our soundcloud or via our Mix Monday guest mixes.
What do you look for when signing a record to Tribe ? Any tips for budding producers looking to get signed to the label?
I look for what will move a dance floor first and foremost and that does not mean hands-in- the-air, it’s more the emotion it evokes. If it’s song based I want to hear emotion in the lyrics and delivery so it transcends to someone’s life in that moment. The same goes for our afro driven releases – I expect to hear the power, sounds and arrangement in the production that take the dance floor to another height, so you the producer, can truly connect your vision with the dance floor.
Tribe is pro-new talent and always on the look out for new artists and producers to work with. We are proud of the producers and artists we have released and in some regards assisted to raise their profile over the years and continue to do so. We do not rely on your social media stats to decide if the artist is worth investing in. At the end of the day its about the music and art.
Originality is the key and difference that will stand the test of time. I have not got energy for those who wish to just copy another producer and deliver half baked material. Challenge yourself as a producer. If we are to make the underground music industry sustainable it has to start with great music.
One sound, One people, One Tribe.