Ghetto Palms 103: Masala / Mr. OK / New Label / Exclusive Music + Interviews!

May 28, 2010

A lot of people probably first heard about the tropically-oriented music blog called Masala or Masalacism when they got famously shut down by the don’t-be-evil exceptions department at Google a few months back. But if you read Ghetto Palms you probably already noticed me quoting/recycling/linking to the good work they do over at Advanced Palmistas may have also pieced together that as the manager of Poirier and Bonjay, Masala co-blogger Guillaume Decouflet is kind of the lynchpin of the tropical music scene up there in semi-arctic Montreal. All of this, of course, is just background info to provide context for the big announcement, which is that in addition to the blog and their weekly radio show Masalacism is now a label!

This week’s blend is dedicated to the music of their flagship artists  Mr. OK (plus a few random french-connection jawms I true in for fun). Mr. OK is a kreyol rapper who recently located from Haiti to Montreal and linked up with producer Freeworm at a Masala Sono fundraiser for the Haiti earthquake (not to get all ‘pay it forward’ but it just goes to show you never know what good will come of the good you do.) and I took the opportunity to grill both Guillaume (who spoke for his co-Masalacists Benoit and Jean-Philippe) and Mr. OK about the vision for their music and the label. Scroll down for the Masala Q&A and check Mr. OK’s interview where I posted it over here.

Download: GP103 Mr. OK Kreyol blend

GP103 Mr. OK Kreyol blend:

Baloji, "Independence Cha-Cha" intro
Mr. OK f. Larose, "Yaya" (Chief Boima remix)
Tony Mix, "Anba Denkonb"
Mr. OK, "Me Mwen"
Vieux Farka Toure, "Cherie Le" (Sabbo remix)
Mr. OK, "Poto Mitan"

What was the impetus to start the label? Is it in any way related to the problems you had with Google for posting other people’s tracks?
It has nothing to do with what happened with Google and the DMCA notices. The idea of starting a label came from the passion and the same enthusiasm that push the three of us to regularly blog and do our radio show every week for the last 5 years. With Masala, we’re trying to give exposure to cool music from all around the planet, in all kind of languages. We crossed paths with so much amazing music that deserves more attention, so starting a label is simply an extension of what we’re already doing. If we can generate some money for the artists on top of that, well that’s 100% bonus!

Do you already have a schedule or vision for future projects beyond Mr. OK? Can you give us a taste of what future releases might include? Will you be focusing on Montreal artists or looking elsewhere?
We are already working on the next releases and it won’t be only focusing on Montreal artists. There’s always kind of that local-global dialectic in what we’re doing, so I feel we somehow still going to put a bit of the French-Canadian spirit in the next releases.  More precisely at the end of June, we’re going to help spread out a mindblowing mixtape en español crafted by Boogat, who did the Las Americas EP on ZZK with Poirier a few month ago. Poirier and I helped on the song selection and I can tell you, there’s nothing like that out here at the moment; it’s just crazy. After that, during the summer, we’ll release music from Botswana by MaSuper Star, and then around September, it will be an EP by a very, very talented young producer from Brighton, UK who’s doing amazing beatmaking and also great visual art, named Murlo.

How closely (or not) will the vision of label hew to that of Masala blog/radio show and your artist management?
The label is really promoting and following the same vision as the blog and the radio show. We have a foot in the electronic scene, a second one in a more traditional or “world” music scene, and another in the hip-hop/Dancehall scene. It’s a weird hybrid beast dancing on 3 feets!  In a broader perspective though, for me personally and I believe for Benoit and JP as well, I’m drawn to this music that some labeled World 2.0, but also music that’s created by 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants. These are musicians who are truly expressing their inner cultural and musical landscape, which doesn’t make any clear distinction between what’s West and what’s not, as they grew with both (or sometimes more than two) musical worlds. I’m also into what likeminded musicians can come up with. A French-Canadian like Poirier, doing his own very electrified version of soca, is most definitely an artist with to notice and champion!

What format will releases take? Digital only? iTunes?
For the first releases we want to keep a format of 4 original songs and1 remix. It will be digital only on the label side, but artists can burn CDs to sell at shows. We might do albums in the future, but not right now. The music will be available world wide on iTunes, Amazon MP3, E-Music and maybe some other stores. The Mr. OK EP is on sale on June 8th!

Are there any particular labels you are looking at as models considering the current confusion in the music biz and proliferation of different approaches (fair trade labels, ad-sponsored, brand-sponsored etc.)
I’m speaking for myself and would like to say I do, but actually I don’t. I think it’s great to see some structural creativity going on with labels these days, but a lot of that is just industry internal marketing. The music industry is a ridiculously small industry compare to say the automobile, the perfume and jewelry or fashion industry. On the short term, it’s meant to be overrun by “external” players that are into the business of hardware used to consume content (ISPs, Cell Phone companies, Electronics). So for Masalacism Rec, the label I’m looking at would be more something like Soul Jazz Records. It’s the good old-fashioned way of building a repertoire, except that we don’t have to pretend to earn a living with selling music recordings--it’s just for it’s own sake, for as long as it lasts.

I truly think that some blogs (not all of them) are the natural next generation of labels. Blogs that have a very niche and strong identity are developing with their readership the same relationship that labels (like Soul Jazz for me personally) developed with their audience. You’re going to regularly check out what they put out and maybe buy it without even listening to it first, because there is a very good chance that you’re going to like it and plus you want to support them and help them continuing putting out great music. I think we’ve already been seeing that blog-to-label process over the last 2-3 years and Masalacism Records is no exception.

From The Collection:

Ghetto Palms
Ghetto Palms 103: Masala / Mr. OK / New Label / Exclusive Music + Interviews!