|Distributor(s)||Warner Bros. Records (1988–2000)|
Narada/Virgin/EMI Records (2000–2005)
V2/BMG Records (2005–2006)
|Genre||rock, pop, jazz, bubu, soul, funk, folk, psychedelic, world music|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Location||New York City|
Luaka Bop is a New York-based record label founded by musician David Byrne, former lead singer and guitarist for the art rock–new wave band Talking Heads. What began with Byrne making cassettes of his favorite Tropicália tracks for his friends became a fully-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.
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, with both compilations and releases of individual artists regularly featuring in best-of-year lists. 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.”
Name and Logo
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
- 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 Ze (1990)
- Brazil Classics 5: The Return of Tom Ze: 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)
- 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 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
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)
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
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 1: Everything Is Possible: The Best of Os Mutantes (1999)
- World Psychedelic Classics 2: California Soul: Inspiration Information (2001) (rework and reissue of Shuggie Otis’ 1974 album)
- World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love’s a Real Thing: The Funky Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa (2004)
- World Psychedelic Classics 4: Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia (2012)
- World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor? (2013)
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. 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.
World Spirituality Classics
- World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (2017)
- World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time for Peace Is Now: Gospel Music About Us (2019)
Notable artists who have had individual releases on the label include:
- The +2s
- Alice Coltrane
- AR Kane
- Bright Moments
- David Byrne
- Delicate Steve
- Djur Djura
- Domenico Lancellotti
- Doug Hream Blunt
- Floating Points
- Geggy Tah
- Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang
- Jim White
- John Panduranga Henderson
- King Changó
- Kings Go Forth
- Los Amigos Invisibles
- Los de Abajo
- Márcio Local
- Mimi Goese
- Moreno Veloso
- Nouvelle Vague
- Os Mutantes
- Paulo Bragança
- Shoukichi Kina
- Shuggie Otis
- Silvio Rodríguez
- Susana Baca
- The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt!
- Tim Maia
- Tom Zé
- Vijaya Anand
- Waldemar Bastos
- William Onyeabor
- Zap Mama
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Jim White||Wrong-Eyed Jesus||46472||1996-10|
|Susana Baca||Susana Baca||46627||1997-09|
|Cornershop||When I Was Born for the 7th Time||46576||1997-09|
|Los Amigos Invisibles||The New Sound of the Venezuelan Gozadera||46839||1998-03|
|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|
|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|
|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 Ze: 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||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||Body & Soul||LBOP5035||2015|
|William Onyeabor||Great Lover||LBOP5036||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||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|
|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|
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