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||Version 3, 12 Nov 2008, 11:43
|-||From humble beginnings in the basement of Daddy Kool's reggae shop on Berwick St in 1989, Mr Bongo is seen as the standard bearer for Latin music in Europe. With regular imports from Latin America, Cuba and the USA, Mr Bongo brought the salsa and Brazilian vibe to the masses, establishing a core market for Latin music.||+||From humble beginnings in the London basement of Daddy Kool’s reggae shop on Berwick Street, Mr Bongo is now seen as the standard bearer for Latin music outside the Americas. With regular imports from Latin America, Cuba and the USA to our store, we brought the Latin and Brazilian sound to discerning listeners across Europe, establishing a core interest which has since gone from strength to strength. Championed by characters such as Gilles Peterson and clubs like Dingwall’s in the late 1980’s, Mr Bongo soon began to establish itself as the leader and provider for the whole scene.|
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|-||Out of this basement a thriving Latin shop was born and supplied music for salsa dancers, Latin Jazz addicts and Brazilian groovers alike. Characters such as Giles Peterson and the club Dingwalls championed this music and in the following years Mr Bongo established itself as the leader and provider for whole scene.||+||In 1991, Huw Bowles entered the fray, bringing his own encyclopaedic knowledge of hip hop thereby expanding Bongo’s field of expertise. Initially stocking what is now termed old and mid school hip hop, Mr Bongo was the first store in the UK to start selling releases from independent US hip hop labels - artists like Jurassic5 had special Bongo vinyl pressings and we exclusively imported the first releases by Dr. Octagon, Mos Def and many others. As interest in this area grew, light was shed on the wealth of home-grown talent and the shop became a hot spot for now well known UK artists and DJs as well an essential stop off for all touring artists.|
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|-||In 1991, Huw Bowles entered the Mr Bongo fray bringing his own encyclopaedic knowledge of hip hop, expanding Bongos field of expertise. Initially selling old skool and hip hop, the shop was the first to start selling music from small independent hip hop labels from around the world with artists such as Jurassic 5 having special Bongo pressings. This pioneering spirit revived the waning interest in hip hop and also started to bring focus to home-grown talent. As the independent scene grew, Mr bongo exclusively imported the first releases by Dr Octagon, J5, Mos Def and many more.||+||Ray Barretto opened our much needed new premises in Lexington Street, London, as the Latin section expanded having to bite the CD bullet. Five years later the Mr Bongo store moved to its final and most well known premises in Poland Street, London. This premises initially acted as the home of the record label and newer imprints Disorient (for Japanese dance music) and Beyongolia (for old school hip hop reissues). In 1995 the empire expanded into Japan, opening a store in Shibuya, Tokyo, that proved to be an incredibly useful A&R channel for Disorient, leading to classic releases such as Kaori’s ‘Good Life’, ‘Samurai’ by Jazztronik and Love Love Mode by Dimitri from Tokyo, as well as heaps of disco house classics.|
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|-||Ray Barreto opened a much needed new premises in Lexington Street as the Latin section expanded, having to bite the CD bullet. Always expanding its field of vision and expertise, the Mr Bongo store moved again, to its final premises in Poland Street, Soho. Now fully established, Saturday road-blocks were common with those hungry to get hands on Bongo's exclusive vinyl.||+||The Mr Bongo label, meanwhile, began by releasing Brazilian classics by artists such as Joyce, Marcos Valle and Os Ipanemas. Some delicious reissues followed in the form of Swedish singer Doris, Labi Siffre (sampled by Wu Tang, Jay-Z and Dr Dre and featuring a track written by Chas & Dave) and Charlie Palmieri in the Montuno Sessions (which led to recording Tito Puente one night in the basement of the Chelsea Hotel in New York and sleeping under a piano… a whole other story).|
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|-||The shop initially acted as home to the Mr Bongo Record label and the later formed imprints: Disorient (Tokyo sound) and Beyongolia. In 1995 the Bongo empire expanded into Japan, opening a store in Tokyo which provided a useful A&R source for Disorient. After a 2 year crusade Bongo's secured the soundtrack rights to the classic hip hop movie Wildstyle and released two LP's from the film on Beyongolia. Unfortunately, the loss of a large proportion of the exclusive material to major music distributors and internet sales, coupled with rising rents was too much in the end and both shops were eventually forced to close down.||+||We spent three years recording Terry Callier at the Jazz Cafe aided by Andy ‘Atmosphere’ Sojka, resulting in the classic ‘Alive’ live album and so ensued our finest musical alliance with the main man TC. My proudest moment is seeing Terry live and pinching myself as I could not believe we were working with such an incredible performer, who provokes tears, laughter and cheers in an instant.|
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|-||The Mr Bongo record label, now based in Brighton, remains strong 15 years on and still presents an enormous wealth and breadth of contemporary Brazilian music to wider audiences. Releases include albums from hip hop artist Marcelo D2, who sold over 500,000 units of his first album in Brazil and Seu Jorge (City of God, Life Aquatic), both produced by Mario Caldatto (Beastie Boys).||+||After moving the office to Brighton in 1999 we opened a studio with Ben ‘Mr Hermano/Sao Benitez’ Mitchell, recording the likes of Paulisto hero Pedro Martins and his band Bazeado as well as Bukky Leo, Mr Hermano, Terry Callier and Mitchell & Dewbury.|
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|-||Add to that a back catalogue containing work from legends such as Tito Puente, Marcos Valle, Masters at Work, Ive Mendes, Banda Black Rio, Doris, Labi Siffre, Terry Callier, plus six instalments of the Brazilian Beats compilation, Tetine with their uncompromising Funk Carioca sound, the Batucada LPs, the legendary Wildstyle soundtrack and Incredible Bongo Band 'Bongo Rock' LP's, and the lost cinema classic I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba) DVD and you get an idea of the level of the quality and diversity that Mr Bongo represents. ||+||Known for being pioneers in releasing Brazil’s finest fruits, we were the first to release Seu Jorge outside Brazil, with what many regard as his finest album ‘Carolina’. In partnership with Regatae we recorded Banda Black Rio, Clube Balanco and Paula Lima and worked with Sade’s producer Robin Millar to record Ive Mendes self titled debut album.|
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|-||In 2008 Mr Bongo's flagship series 'Brazilian Beats' was released in a massive 8CD box set and 2 part down load. To celebrate this even an official Brazilian Beats fansite was set up at [url]http://www.brazilianbeats.info/[/url]||+||Always keen to stay on top of the current sounds from Brazil we teamed up with Tetine and the legendary DJ Marlboro to put out a killer Baile Funk compilation ‘Slum Dunk’. Working with Brazilian hip hop legend Marcelo D2 was a real honour and we toured him and his band worldwide - from the MTV Awards in Portugal to a performance at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles in 2007 alongside Sergio Mendes, which saw Fernandino rocking the crowd with a killer beatbox verison of ‘Elephant’.|
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| ||+||The legendary Brazilian Beats series was created around a Kenny Dope beat - Brazilian Beat - that went on to become a worldwide club anthem. Eight instalments of the series followed and these were finally released as a comprehensive boxset featuring every single one.|
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| ||+||After a two year crusade we secured the soundtrack rights to the classic hip hop movie Wild Style, and more recently we’ve reissued another legendary album by the Incredible Bongo Band, featuring the all-time classic break ‘Apache’. We’ve kept them coming with the long-lost, highly collectible, 1970s Brazilian psychedelic monster ‘Paebiru’ by Lula ‘Squid’ Cortes and Ze Ramalho.|
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| ||+||In the new millennia, we expanded out of South America into Africa with releases from Nigerian Afrobeat legends Bukky Leo and Lekan Babalola, and most recently Fela Kuti’s son Seun; backed by members of his fathers original Egypt 80 band. Then to Ghana, collaborating with the charity Bottletop to release Sound Affects: Africa, to South Africa for The Mothers album and finally to Senegal with French hip hop main stay and former member of Positive Black Soul ‘Awadi’.|
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| ||+||On the Latin side, we recorded Hanny in Cuba, and our triple LP ‘Latin Beats’ compilation hit new heights - essential in every collection. Most recently we were thrilled to put out the ‘I Like It Like That’ album with the help of Mr Dean Rudland, featuring remixes of the awesome Fania catalogue from DJ Format, Bugz In The Attic, Bonde de Role, 4Hero and more. Jose Conde and Zemog came in from Puerto Rico via New York - watch out for Zemog’s killer indie latin rock album ‘Nueva York Sessions’ to be released in 2009.|
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| ||+||We have been increasingly employed to source and produce music for adverts for brands including Nike and Adidas. The well-known Parney De Castro was used for a Fosters advert, Tejo, Black Alien & Speed on the Nissan X Trail advert and the infamous Babarabitiri by Beny More for THAT Guinness advert with the racing snails (huge thanks to Pete Soundtree who nailed this one down and picked up many deserved awards for his work in the future). We now have a production studio of our own along with offices in London and LA specialising in music for advert, film and TV.|
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| ||+||In 1996 we visited Salvador, Brazil and started helping out with the Street Angels charity resulting in construction of a school and running a health clinic in a marginalised favela community. Luciano, Miriam, Helen, Luiz and Jozefa have all helped this project grow and bring so much light to so many people. The Street Angels album was later recorded with Luis Bonfa, Joyce and the naturist artist Lord K amnogst others, to raise money for the project. Big support came more recently from Cameron & Oly at the Bottletop organisation and we have since started making recycled ring-pull bags in the community - importing and selling them in clothes stores in the UK to continue to raise funds for the project and create job opportunities.|
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| ||+||The most recent chapter, Mr Bongo Films, was setup as a result of our love for world and arthouse cinema. Our first joyous classic ‘I Am Cuba’ (or ‘Soy Cuba’) was a huge success and led to many other titles such as ‘Saragossa Manuscript, ‘L’Avventura and ‘Under the Volcano’ with many more planned for release in the coming years.|
We started life in 1989 as a small record shop underneath Daddy Kool’s Reggae Store on Berwick Street in London. We were the first shop to sell vinyl releases from independent hip hop labels such as Def Jam, Rawkus, Nervous and Big Beat outside of the USA. We also became an established bearer for hard-to-find, classic Latin music, particularly Brazilian, outside of the Americas.
Over the following years Bongo moved three times within Soho and opened in Shibuya, Japan. We moved our offices to Brighton in 1999 and closed all shops in 2003.
22 years on we now have a recording roster featuring some of the best Brazilian, Latin, reggae, African and Jazz music by artists including Terry Callier, Jorge Ben, Joyce, Seu Jorge, Prince Fatty, Incredible Bongo Band and Marcos Valle.
In 2004 we moved into world cinema, a venture that has grown to compliment the music. In keeping with the record label philosophy, we carefully select and source films from around the world and our catalogue now includes works by esteemed directors including Scorsese, Coppola, Has, Bertolucci, Rocha and Dovzhenko amongst others. We aim to unearth iconic, stylish, hard-to-find gems and cult classics and make them readily available to cinema lovers.
We keep production costs relatively low by releasing the feature film without multiple extras allowing us to deliver the highest possible quality prints on DVD’s at the most competitive prices.
We are modest compared to our competitors in the film world but hope that our rich history and knowledge has established us as an aficionado that punches above its weight (and is yet to reach its full potential).
In 2011 we ventured into the realm of feature film production and theatrical releases with Justin Mitchell's Rio Breaks which premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in June. We look forward to working on more projects like this.
We also have a publishing arm with an in-house team that produces and licenses music for use by third parties. Our clients include advertising, film and TV companies around the world; brands such as Bacardi, Nike, Adidas, Fosters, Nissan and Guinness have used our music. We also deal with worldwide royalty collection for artists and organisations.