In Search Of: KCRW's Jeremy Sole on Rare African Psych And More
Jeremy Sole spends Wednesday night from midnight to 3 AM spinning records for KCRW; Thursdays, he's at Zanzibar, co-hosting Afro-Funké with Glenn Red and Rocky Dawuni. He joins us now and discusses digging through records in Ghana and the popularity of African psych.
What's the best place you've ever gone digging for music?
In the world, the most interesting place, was definitely Ghana, West Africa. I wasn't just there to get records, I was there to DJ for their independence day festival, with my partner Rocky [Dawuni]. He's from Ghana, and he went back there to throw this party and I was the guest DJ, which was an honor for me. I was really into finding local music, like African '70s funk stuff--crazy older types of music. There were real interesting scenes that happened and I wanted to take advantage of being able to get the kind of records you can only get from the local spot. So that was a real trip, cause when you go looking for records, people speak English for the most part. But there are all these local dialects that change like from town to town, or even area to area. There's like 200 different dialects, and they don't even all speak each other's dialect. So the only word every one all knows is cidi--cause that's a unit of currency over there. It's like a dollar. People always thought I was looking for the currency exchange when I was looking for music so it was pretty confusing. There were a lot of people shocked to see a white dude because I was the only white dude there. The name of my publishing company is Obruni be cause the whole time I was there I kept hearing the word "obruni" and it means "white guy" apparently. People point and say, "white guy"!
Was it hard to find actual records in Ghana?
It was impossible. By the time I found some guy--well I went to the town market, and they sent someone to bring them. And I waited there for hours and hours and this guy came and you've never seen anyone carry so many records. They were way over his head, like a huge pile of them. When we went through them, most of them were destroyed, which is like the saddest thing. Because some of it was the rarest deepest craziest African psych rock. The freakiest stuff that I was hoping to find. I got a bunch even though most of them were mostly destroyed--you just have to get them.
Is there a place in LA that you can recommend to get African psychedelic records?
OK. I see how it is. That's fine.
Nah, I'm not being like that! I'm ok with blowing up a good spot. I know how great that feeling is--when you find something you thought you'd never ever find.
Stone's Throw and other labels are reissuing African psych these days. Why do you think that is?
Good question. I guess it's a byproduct of the eBay era. The rate at which you could find stuff was way more than what you could hope to get by going to your local record shops. So you could pillage your whole town and memorize what's in each crate. And you can pretty much tell what places have a good turnover rate, but still--a lot of times the good stuff ends up on the wall and not in the crate and it's like $125. So a lot of people ended up on eBay. A lot of collectors got serious that way too--started flying around the world and tried to be the first one there when they got a tip on someone's collection. I dunno if it's these hard-hitters in this re-issuing game or whatever, but they started buying up not just the record collection, but also the rights of the songs for the original artists--and got them paid and fed for the first time in a long time.
Why is it getting popular?
I think the quality of stuff--these guys have arsenals of music that's just so beautiful and the recordings are in a real timeless style. 1974, 1977 ... these are eras that like, even now, we try to emulate the mixing consoles and amps and mics. So much good stuff got released that I think it just naturally caught on in popularity. There are enough people of substance out there that OK, you can appreciate them as part of another culture--but some of it is just genius on a whole other level. I got into this music at the same time that huge nuggets of it were unearthed from the caverns of history. Also I mean, a lot of people get into music "backwards"--and by that I mean, they'll get into electronic music first and dig their way back into the past. A lot of us come from the remixing generation, and maybe got into jazz from hearing a sample of it first. A lot of us, maybe, think like that we love it so much we'll turn people onto it by putting it into a dance-y remix, to hook people. Then we drag them over to where we are.
Afro Funké this and every Thursday at Zanzibar. 21+. 1301 5th Street @ Arizona
Santa Monica, CA 90401. $10. 9 pm. zanzibarlive.com. Jeremy Sole on KCRW every Wednesday midnight to 3 am.