Luaka Bop

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Luaka Bop
Luaka Bop logo.svg
Founded1988 (1988)
FounderDavid Byrne
GenreRock, pop, jazz, bubu, soul, funk, folk, psychedelic, world music
Country of originUnited States
LocationNew York City

Luaka Bop is a New York–based record label founded by musician David Byrne, former lead singer and guitarist for the art rocknew wave band Talking Heads.[1] What began with Byrne making cassettes of his favorite Tropicália tracks for his friends became a full-fledged record label in 1988 after Byrne received a solo artist deal from Warner Bros.

Since then, Luaka Bop has developed into a label known for bringing eclectic music to new audiences. Though initially affiliated with Warner Bros, Luaka Bop has been wholly independent since 2006. Often categorized as a “world music” label, Luaka Bop considers its own music to be mostly contemporary pop.[2]

Luaka Bop has released full-length albums, EPs, and singles from artists such as Alice Coltrane, William Onyeabor, and Floating Points, as well as compilations covering a wide range of musical movements and styles. The label’s maiden release eventually became the seven-album Brazil Classics series, which surveys genres from samba to Tropicália, as well as individual artists. This was the first of a number of region- or genre-specific compilation series released by Luaka Bop.

Luaka Bop’s releases have frequently been well received by critics,[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] with both compilations and releases of individual artists regularly featuring in best-of-year lists.[11][12] The label has been highlighted for its “singular ability to (re)discover, celebrate, and legitimize the otherwise low-profile work of some of the world’s more eccentric musical figures.”[1]


Byrne took the phrase "Luaka Bop" from the inner packaging of a specialty tea which is sold in England. Luaka is the name of a tea importer. Their "Broken Orange Pekoe" is packaged in a silver foil block; when the sleeve is removed, it reveals a white label that reads "Luaka BOP". Byrne found the phrase to be “strange, but musical”, a combination he liked.[2]

The Luaka Bop logo design was conceived by David Byrne and illustrated by Tibor Kalman. According to Byrne:

The logo, whose use is granted through an agreement that is subject to certain conditions, is a rather obscure Masonic symbol linked at various times to the Trinity of the Illuminati and to the Egyptian Knights of Templar. … The eye of the Luaka Bop logo is the eye of Vilaç Trismegistes, the Balkan alchemist who gave his eyes to his work, and who was the first to uncover the secrets of the Egyptian Knights.[2]

Musical Philosophy[edit]

While often described as a “world music” label, Luaka Bop has no explicit musical focus. Asked about the original concept for the label, Byrne says “the initial concept was no concept”, going on to say “I’ve never had an artistic plan with this label—there are no guidelines as far as what we’re going to do or what kind of music it might be”.[2]

In fact, the label has often tried to avoid the “world music” moniker and the changed perceptions that come with it. On Luaka Bop’s website, Byrne details this tension through the example of Zap Mama, who debuted on Luaka Bop as part of the Adventures in Afropea series:

Overall, we think of the music we work with as contemporary pop music, and we try to present it as such. While something like Zap Mama’s first record could be, and sometimes was, perceived as an ‘ethnic’ record, we did our damnedest to alter that perception. The CD covers go a long way, in my opinion, to creating this attitude. We don’t do covers that look like folkloric records or like academic records of obscure material of interest only to musicologists and a few weird fringe types… we work with the designers to come up with a graphic statement that says ‘this music is as relevant to your life and is as contemporary as Prodigy, Fiona Apple, or Cornershop.’ … So gradually, although Zap Mama might have initially been thought of as an ‘ethnic-folkloric’ ensemble, they are now thought of just as a cool group.[2]

Tibor Kalman designed the first two Brazil Classics albums, and several other designers from Kalman's M&Co. design firm have provided the label with distinctive album art.

Compilation Series[edit]

Brazil Classics[edit]

The Brazil Classics series began with Luaka Bop’s first-ever release, and has garnered both critical acclaim and commercial success.[13][1] The series has grown to consist of the following records:

  • Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical (1989)
  • Brazil Classics 2: O Samba (1989)
  • Brazil Classics 3: Forro etc.: Music of the Brazilian Northeast (1991)
  • Brazil Classics 4: The Best of Tom Zé (1990)
  • Brazil Classics 5: The Return of Tom Zé: The Hips of Tradition (1992)
  • Brazil Classics 6: Beleza Tropical 2: Novo! Mais! Melhor! (1998)
  • Brazil Classics 7: In Pernambuco: New Sounds of the Brazilian Northeast (2008)

Luaka Bop has also released music by Brazilian artists outside of the Brazil Classics series, such as Tim Maia, Os Mutantes and Moreno Veloso.

Cuba Classics[edit]

  • Cuba Classics 1: The Best of Silvio Rodriguez (1991)
  • Cuba Classics 2: Dancing with the Enemy (1991)
  • ¡Cuba Classics 3: Diablo al Infierno! (1992)

Asia Classics[edit]

  • Asia Classics 1: The South Indian Film Music of Vijaya Anand: Dance Raja Dance (1992)
  • Asia Classics 2: The Best of Shoukichi Kina: Peppermint Tea House (1994)

Adventures in Afropea[edit]

The Adventures in Afropea series signaled a slight shift, as the music here is grouped by a broad stylistic criterion (a fusion of African and European influences) as opposed to a purely geographic one.

  • Adventures in Afropea 1: Zap Mama (1993)
  • Adventures in Afropea 2: The Best of Djur Djura: Voice of Silence (1993)
  • Adventures in Afropea 3: Telling Stories to the Sea (1995)

Afro-Peruvian Classics[edit]

The Afro-Peruvian Classics series continued the label’s shift towards more stylistically specific compilation albums, focusing on a single subgroup of Peruvian music.

While the series still has only one entry, that record saw Luaka Bop begin its work with Susana Baca, who has since released six albums with the label.

World Psychedelic Classics[edit]

The World Psychedelic Classics series was the first from Luaka Bop to have no geographic aspect to it. The five entries in the series span decades and continents.

World Psychedelic Classics 3 helped “inspire an industrious coterie of crate diggers and lead to an explosion of ‘70s funk from Nigeria and Ghana”, with other labels crediting it with influencing the look and sound of their later releases.[1][9] It also featured the song “Better Change Your Mind” by William Onyeabor, which eventually led to the release of World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?

The popularity of Onyeabor’s music in these compilations led to an eventual Luaka Bop reissue of Onyeabor’s entire discography and the formation of the Atomic Bomb! Band, a “supergroup” dedicated to performing his music live. This was the first time Onyeabor’s music was played live, as he never performed himself.[14]

World Spirituality Classics[edit]

  • World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (2017)[8]
  • World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time for Peace Is Now: Gospel Music About Us (2019)[7]


Notable artists who have had individual releases on the label include:


Artist Title Catalog Number Release Date
Various Artists Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical 25805 1989-01
David Byrne Rei Momo 25990 1989-10
Various Artists Brazil Classics 2: O Samba 26019 1989-11
Tom Zé Brazil Classics 4: The Best of Tom Zé 26323 1990-11
Various Artists Brazil Classics 3: Forro etc.: Music of the Brazilian Northeast 26323 1991-03
Silvio Rodríguez Cuba Classics 1: The Best of Silvio Rodríguez 26789 1991-03
Various Artists Cuba Classics 2: Dancing With the Enemy 26580 1991-06
David Byrne The Forest 26584 1991-06
A.R. Kane Americana 26669 1992-01
David Byrne Uh-Oh 26799 1992-03
Vijaya Anand Asia Classics 1: The South Indian Film Music of Viajaya Anand: Dance Raja Dance 26847 1992-04
Vijaya Anand "Dancing Is Beautiful" (12") 40636 1992
Various Artists Cuba Classics 3: Diablo al Infierno 45107 1992-11
Zap Mama "Bottom" (single) 41002 1992
Tom Zé Brazil 5: The Return of Tom Zé: The Hips of Tradition 45118 1992-11
Zap Mama Adventures in Afropea 1 45183 1993
Djur Djura Adventures in Afropea 2: The Best of Djur Djura: Voice of Silence 45211 1993-10
Zap Mama Sabsylma 46486 1994
Shoukichi Kina Asia Classics 2: The Best of Shoukichi Kina: Peppermint Tea House 45159 1994-05
David Byrne David Byrne (album) 46605 1994-05
Geggy Tah Grand Opening 45254 1994-05
A.R. Kane New Clear Child 45253 1994-09
Various Artists Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru 45876 1995-05
Original Soundtrack Blue in the Face 45921 1995-09
Cornershop Woman's Gotta Have It 46018 1995-10
Cornershop "W.O.G. – The U.S Western Oriental mixes" (single) 43648 1995
Various Artists Adventures in Afropea 3: Telling Stories to the Sea 45669 1995
Geggy Tah Sacred Cow 46113 1996
King Changó King Changó 46288 1995-10
Paulo Bragança Amai 46334 1996-08
Zap Mama Seven 45537 1997
Jim White Wrong-Eyed Jesus 46472 1996-10
David Byrne Feelings 46605 1997-04
Susana Baca Susana Baca 46627 1997-09
Cornershop When I Was Born for the 7th Time 46576 1997-09
Waldemar Bastos Pretaluz 46481 1998-03
Los Amigos Invisibles The New Sound of the Venezuelan Gozadera 46839 1998-03
Mimi Goese Soak 46651 1998-05
Cornershop "Sleep on the Left Side"/"Brimful of Asha" (single) 44524 1998
Los de Abajo Los de Abajo 46974 1998-08
Tom Zé Fabrication Defect 46953 1998-09
Mimi Goese "Piece of Cake" 6 80899 5003-2-6 1998
Bloque Bloque 47060 1998-10
Various Artists Beleza Tropical 2: Novo! Mais! Melhor! 46275 1998-11
Tom Zé Postmodern Platos (EP) PRO-CD-9561 1999-05
Os Mutantes World Psychedelic Classics 1: Everything is Possible: The Best of Os Mutantes 47251 1999-06
Zap Mama A Ma Zone 7243 8 48412 2 5/V2-48412 1999-10
King Changó Return of El Santo 7243 8 50307 2 7/V2-50307 2000
Various Artists Luaka Bop 10th Anniversary: Zero Accidents on the Job 7243 8 48922 2 7/V2-48922 2000
Moreno Veloso Coisa Boa LBOP0084 2014
Clinton Disco and the Halfway to Discontent ASW 48792 2000
Los Amigos Invisibles Arepa 3000 6 80899 0041-2-1 2000
Susana Baca Eco do Sombras 6 80899 0042-2-0 2000
Jim White No Such Place 6 80899 0043-2-2 2001
Si*Sé The Rain (Where Do I Begin?) (EP) 7243 8 11667 2 7/V2-11667 2001
David Byrne Look into the Eyeball 7243 8 50924 2 8/V2-50924 2001
Jim White Gimme Five 6 80899 5002-2-7 2001
Geggy Tah Into the Oh 6 80899 0044-2-8 2001
Shuggie Otis World Psychedelic Classics 2: California Soul: Inspiration Information 6 80899 0045-2-7 2001
Si*Sé Si*Sé 6 80899 0046-2-6 2001
Los de Abajo Cybertropic Chilango Power 6 80899 0047-2-5 2001
Susana Baca Espiritu Vivo 6 80899 0048-2-4 2002
Si*Sé "The Rain (Where Do I Begin?)" (single) 7243 8 38802 2 5/V2-38802 2002
Moreno + Two Music Typewriter 6 80899 0049-2-3 2002
Various Artists The Only Blip Hop Record You’ll Ever Need, Vol. 1 6 80899 0050-2-9 2002
Various Artists Cuisine Non-Stop: Introduction to The French Nouvelle Generation 6 80899 0051-2-8 2002
Various Artists World Psychedelic Classics, Vol. 3: Love's a Real Thing 6 80899 0052-2-7 2004
Jim White Drill a Hole in That Substrate and Tell Me What You See LBOP0055 2004
Domenico + Two Sincerely Hot 6 80899 0053-2-6 2004
Los Amigos Invisibles The Venezuelan Zinga Son, Vol. 1 6 80899 0054-2-5 2004
Zap Mama Ancestry In Progress 6 8089-90056-2 2004
Zap Mama Push It To The Max 6 80899 5005-2-4 2006
Tom Zé Estudande O Pagode: Na Opereta Segregamulher E Amor 6 8089-90062-2 2006
Various Artists Luaka Bop Remix VVR1041052 2006
Susana Baca Travesías LBOP0063 2006
Kassin +2 Futurismo LBOP0066 2008
Os Mutantes Os Mutantes Live at the Barbican Theatre 6 80899 0068-2-8 2007
Various Artists Brazil Classics 7: What's Happening In Pernambuco: New Sounds of the Brazilian Northeast 6 80899 0065-2-1 2008
Jim White A Funny Little Cross To Bear 6 80899 5016-2-0 2009
Jim White Transnormal Skiperoo 6 80899 0069-2-7 2008
Various Artists Brazil Classics at 20: Anti-Aging Secret LBOP5015 2008
Yonlu A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed Is Inconceivably Mediocre 6 80899 0070-2-3 2009
Susana Baca Seis Poemas 6 80899 5017-2-9 2009
Marcio Local Says Don Day Don Dree Don Don: Adventures In Samba Soul 6 80899 0071-2-2 2009
Various Artists Luaka Bop: Twenty First Century, Twenty First Year LBOP5018 2009
The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! I Love You I Love You I Love You and I’m In Love With You! Have an Awesome Day! 6 80899 0073-2-0 2009
Javelin No Mas 6 80899 0074-2-9 2010
Kings Go Forth The Outsiders Are Back 6 80899 0075-2-8 2010
Tom Zé Studies of Tom Zé: Explaining Things So I Can Confuse You 6 80899 8001-1-2 2010
Tom Zé Estudando A Bossa (Nordeste Plaza) 6 80899 0072-2-1 2010
Kings Go Forth Don't Take My Shadow: The Tom Moulton Mixes (12") 6 80899 4508-1-2 2010
Javelin "Coleridge" b/w "Colleagues" (7") 6 80899 4511-1-6 2011
Delicate Steve "Butterfly" b/w "Albatross" (7") 6 80899 4510-1-7 2011
Delicate Steve Wondervisions 6 80899 0076-2-7 2011
Susana Baca Afrodiaspora 6 80899 0077-2-6 2011
Javelin Canyon Candy 6 80899 5019-1-0 2011
Bright Moments Natives 6 80899 0078-2-6 2012
Javelin EP 1 & EP 2 6 80899 5020-3-0 2012
Delicate Steve Positive Force 6 80899 0081-1-2 2012
Janka Nabay & The Bubu Gang En Yay Sah 6 80899 0080-1-3 2012
Tim Maia World Psychedelic Classics 4: Nobody Can Live Forever – The Existential Soul of Tim Maia 6 80899 0067-1-2 2012
Javelin Hi Beams 6 80899 0082-1-1 2013
Various Artists Adventures in Afropea 3: Telling Stories to the Sea 6 80899 0021-1-0 2013
William Onyeabor World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who is William Onyeabor? 6 80899 0079-2-4 2013
William Onyeabor Box Set 1 LBOP8002 2014
William Onyeabor Box Set 2 LBOP8003 2014
William Onyeabor What?! LBOP5039 2014
William Onyeabor Body & Soul LBOP5035 2015
William Onyeabor Crashes in Love (Original Verson) LBOP5031 2015
William Onyeabor Good Name LBOP5030 2015
William Onyeabor Crashes in Love (2nd Version) LBOP5032 2015
William Onyeabor Tomorrow LBOP5034 2015
William Onyeabor Body & Soul LBOP5035 2015
William Onyeabor Great Lover LBOP5036 2015
William Onyeabor Hypertension LBOP5037 2015
William Onyeabor Anything You Sow LBOP5038 2015
William Onyeabor Atomic Bomb LBOP5033 2016
Doug Hream Blunt My Name Is Doug Hream Blunt: Featuring the Hit "Gentle Persuasion" 6 80899 0083-2-7 2015
Floating Points Kuiper LBOP4528 2016
Floating Points Elaenia 6 80899 0085-2-5 2015
Janka Nabay & The Bubu Gang Build Music 6 80899 0086-2-4 2017
Floating Points Reflections: Mojave Desert LBOP5041 2017
Alice Coltrane World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda LBOP0087 2017
Kassin Relax LBOP0089 2018
Domenico Lancellotti The Good Is a Big God LBOP0088 2018
Preacherman Universal Philosophy: Preacherman Plays T.J. Hustler's Greatest Hits LBOP0093 2018
Various Artists World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time for Peace Is Now: Gospel Music About Us LBOP0094 2019
Bremer/McCoy Utopia LBOP0095 2019
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra Promises LBOP0097 2021


  1. ^ a b c d "Luaka Bop: An Introduction". Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  2. ^ a b c d e "history « LUAKA BOP". Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  3. ^ "Luaka Bop". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  4. ^ Knight-Ridder/Tribune, Fernando Gonzalez. "LUAKA BOP MAKES ITS IMPRINT". Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  5. ^ "Yale Evelev, Luaka Bop". Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  6. ^ "William Onyeabor: Box Set". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  7. ^ a b "Various Artists: The Time for Peace Is Now". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  8. ^ a b "Alice Coltrane: World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  9. ^ a b c "William Onyeabor: Who Is William Onyeabor?". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  10. ^ "David Byrne's Luaka Bop label is releasing a compilation of "secular gospel" from the 1970s, with liner notes by Jonathan Lethem". Boing Boing. 2019-07-09. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  11. ^ "The 30 best reissues and retrospectives of 2017". The Vinyl Factory. 2017-12-11. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  12. ^ Spice, Anton (2013-12-13). "The Top 100 vinyl releases of 2013: 20-1". The Vinyl Factory. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  13. ^ Archive-Robert-L-Doerschuk. "David Byrne's Luaka Bop Label To Reissue Catalog". MTV News. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  14. ^ ""The Atomic Bomb Band" Available Record Store Day! « LUAKA BOP". Retrieved 2020-08-25.

External links[edit]