The record label produces mostly South African music and is known as the home of Cape Jazz recordings, having issued a number of albums by such names as Basil Coetzee, Robbie Jansen, Jonathan Butler, Tony Schilder and others.
In the early years of the label's existence, a certain amount of commercial success was garnered from releases by such artists as David Kramer, Robin Auld and later the neo-traditional African band Amampondo. This success was partly due to the label's involvement in the live presentation of these artists.
From the outset through to the early 1990s, the state-owned radio and TV media, SABC, restricted their stations from playing certain music by Kramer, Edi Niederlander, Coenie de Villiers and others because of the critical text in the songs by these performers released by Mountain Records.
From 1996, the label set up a European base, with an office in Hamburg, Germany. The label continued to market their own artists but also facilitated the release or distribution of non-label South African acts such as Brenda Fassie, Philip Tabane and the Soul Brothers. The artists Tony Bird (USA), Janvier Honfo (Benin) and Celso Fonseca (Brazil), all African music inspired, were released on the label through the European offices. A sub-label, known as Sea Records, was launched in about 1989 to release jazz productions and several German jazz ensembles had their music issued on the label.
The label still maintains an office in Cape Town. Recent releases include a DVD of the original Amampondo line-up performing live, and the re-issue of a classic Morris Goldberg recording and the third part in the label's Cape Jazz series. Former Amampondo leader Dizu Plaatjies has two solo projects on the label. The latest, entitled African Kings, was launched in Paris and Cape Town in February and March 2009 respectively. These are distributed by EMI in southern Africa and New Music Distribution in Europe.
Mountain Records have won numerous awards with their artists. These include Sarie Award, Scotty Award, SA Music Awards (ASAMI) and most recently the SAMA Award for the aforementioned "African Kings" release in 2009.
It should not be confused with a British record label of the same name, believed to have been started by Bill Fehilly, manager of Nazareth, who died in a plane crash in the Grampians in 1976. Between 1975 and 1980, the label released material by Nazareth, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Voyager, and was distributed successively by EMI, Phonogram and RCA. A label (Mountain of Light) emerged in the UK in 2000 presenting the music of the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens. There is no evidence that it is associated with either of the aforementioned. Internet searches in 2011 turned up numerous record labels incorporating "mountain" in their names.
Interviewed in 2000, label management of the African company stated that they were not aware of the existence of the UK-based label until several years into business, by which time the name had established itself substantially in the World Music field, having appeared in African and European world music charts a number of times with Amampondo, Celso Fonseca, Cape Jazz (a compilation) and Jean Bosco Mwenda.