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Herb Sundays 23: Yale Evelev
The Luaka Bop label co-owner (along with David Byrne) shares his go-to fave album sides in 2x2 formation.
Herb Sundays 23: Yale Evelev
As the co-owner and president of the famed Luaka Bop label, Yale Evelev has been more than partially responsible for the increased interest in music beyond the limited western paradigm, an instinct that has helped reinvent the pop music landscape which we now take for granted.
Founded by David Byrne 1989 (or 1988, depending on what source you cite), the label initially was lumped into the “world” music marketing paradigm. A tag that has been dispelled by both founders and culture writ large as limited and outdated. So what do you call the music the label has helped source or re-source?
There’s a quote by Byrne on Luaka’s site that perfectly encapsulates their M.O.: "Overall, we think of the music we work with as contemporary pop music, and we try to present it as such." The label has had a knack for making the once unheralded seem like an inevitable fact.
The catalog doesn’t lie: Nigerian funk eccentric William Onyeabor, Bay Area public access myth Doug Hhrem Blunt, the spiritual echoes of Alice Coltrane, Brazilian legends Tom Zé and Os Mutantes, and UK Dream Pop innovators A.R. Kane, sit alongside contemporary artists like Zap Mama, Javelin, and Delicate Steve. One of this year’s most acclaimed releases is also on Luaka Bop: London’s Floating Points’ collaboration with the jazz legend Pharaoh Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra (which is back on vinyl if needed).
My first cognizant introduction to Luaka Bop (whose logo was created by Tibor Kalman btw) was the Shuggie Otis Inspiration Information reissue in 2001, whose breezy psych soul sent me digging into the label’s early Brazilian compilations.
Yale’s bio is too long to capture in full here, so I’d recommend their site for a deeper dive. While you do that, enjoy this mix which has a conceptual bent to it, leading you back to the original albums. Yale is an album person, and each of these songs (paired in two mainly) represent single “sides” of a record he loves. Think of this as a Cliffs Notes to albums you should devour in full. If Mamman Sani or Caetano Veloso don’t send you searching for more, this series may not be for you.
When I lived on Chrystie st, I would see Yale here and there, or at PS1 Warm Up, or the odd record fair, and have always found him to be warm and enthused. The more research you do the more you uncover about this life the more interesting it gets. Yale, to me, represents a New York that maybe is mostly gone but sets up a challenge for us as music fans. An analog for his work in pop culture might be someone like Bourdain, a global traveler seeking knowledge and quality where others maybe have not, or have but have not been as generous to share with us. His work reminds us that we haven’t heard or seen the best thing yet, there is always more to find.
Further Reading (and photo source): https://dustandgrooves.com/yale-evelev-new-york-ny/