with love from Utrecht ARC record fair -April 2019

well folks, happy to have survived another 3 days of unlimited digging and selling on the biggest record fair in the World; the Spring edition of the ARC record fair in Utrecht.

As ever, the bi-yearly pow wow of national and international dealers provided the finest selection of top-end collectible vinyl, as well as a huge amount of cheap vinyl and everything in between. Something for everybody.

I had brought quite a nice selection of original South African vinyl, ranging from electronic afro-synth, boogie, bubblegum, kwaito as well as rare jazz. And other African music too, next to soundtracks, disco, soul, reggae, latin and a small but intriguing selection of unusual and weird records. Thanks to all customers, new and regular, for visiting my stall and supporting this selection. Next autumn I will be back with lots of more goodies…. at my stall nr. 388

Do Not Sell At Any Price -The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich

do-not-sell-at-any-price 1

You need this book. Really. Especially if you are -just like myself- an obsessed collector of long lost music.

It is one of the most intriguing and well researched music books ever written on the 0bsessive hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records.

see also Caluza’s Double Quartet -makwaya music on 78 rpm

“A thoughtful, entertaining history of obsessed music collectors and their quest for rare early 78 rpm records” (Los Angeles Times), “Do Not Sell at Any Price” is a fascinating, complex story of preservation, loss, obsession, and art. Before MP3s, CDs, and cassette tapes, even before LPs or 45s, the world listened to music on fragile, 10-inch shellac discs that spun at 78 revolutions per minute. While vinyl has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, rare and noteworthy 78rpm records are exponentially harder to come by. The most sought-after sides now command tens of thousands of dollars, when they’re found at all. “Do Not Sell at Any Price” is the untold story of a fixated coterie of record collectors working to ensure those songs aren’t lost forever.

Music critic and author Amanda Petrusich considers the particular world of the 78—from its heyday to its near extinction—and examines how a cabal of competitive, quirky individuals have been frantically lining their shelves with some of the rarest records in the world. Besides the mania of collecting, Petrusich also explores the history of the lost backwoods blues artists from the 1920s and 30s whose work has barely survived and introduces the oddball fraternity of men—including Joe Bussard, Chris King, John Tefteller, and others—who are helping to save and digitize the blues, country, jazz, and gospel records that ultimately gave seed to the rock, pop, and hip-hop we hear today. From Thomas Edison to Jack White, “Do Not Sell at Any Price” is an untold, intriguing story of the evolution of the recording formats that have changed the ways we listen to (and create) music. “Whether you’re already a 78 aficionado, a casual record collector, a crate-digger, or just someone…who enjoys listening to music, you’re going to love this book” (Slate).



Scribner |
288 pages |
ISBN 9781451667066 |
June 2015

– See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Do-Not-Sell-At-Any-Price/Amanda-Petrusich/9781451667066#sthash.uBOoq898.dpuf

diggin’ in NYC -update October 2015

things move fast in NYC. Faster than a devoted collector can handle sometimes. On my last safari in NYC I noticed that an update to  diggin’ in NYC -top 5 record shops-is necessary. Quite a walk!

 academy records 1

New location checked 12th October 2015


Academy Records Annex

85 Oak Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222



A year ago my favourite recordshop re-located to Oak Street, a few blocks more up north. It’s quite a walk from the subway but the scenics of the river and the skyline of Manhattan on a clear sunny day are just mindblowing.

Change trains at Union Square Station for L Train, stop Bedford Avenue. Leave the subway, cross the street and go down to Berry Street, then continue along the waterfront.  Long walk but soothing after the huzz&buzz of Manhattan, quite unreal. It felt like stepping out in a different world onto a movie set.

academy records 2
academy records annex

The new Academy Annex is airy with high ceilings, nice wide spacing of bins, even a few listening posts. Second hand vinyl galore here…although not as huge in stock as in bygone days. The shop remains a well recommended address in NYC with daily fresh supply at reasonable prices. I dug the broad selection of vinyl in every genre.Rare vintage records abundant on display on the walls. A limited supply of new produced vinyl in the rock genre is available. The extra attraction are the ‘dollarbins’; -3 for $ 5 second hand vinyl. Many DJs search for house 12” and disco classics here.


rough trade NYC
rough trade NYC

Rough Trade NYC

64 North 9th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249




Housed in a big old warehouse along the quays of the East River a new branch of the famed UK record label Rough Trade opened within walking distance of Academy Annex.  A big record shop on the main floor, and a concert hall as extra attraction. British indie bands and a wide variety of American artists find a shelter here at night. See the signs on the walls for a daily calendar.

The shop is huge and looks like a cocoon of hi- polished metal stands filled with the latest import and 180 grams vinyl reissues !! An exemplary stocked selection of all brand new published vinyl in all genres. Rough Trade rules the bins here for sure but what a highly surprising  selection of music can be found. There is even one tiny square meter of selected vintage vinyl, for serious cratediggers only.

Diggin’ in Japan; vol 6 Osaka Dec 2014 by MP Flapp


in addition to MP Flapp’s previous post on diggin’ in Japan here is his report on Osaka.

see also Diggin’ in Japan; vol 5 Tokyo Dec 2014 by MP Flapp


Next stop Osaka.

Osaka is just over three hours from Tokyo by shinkansen. Unlike Tokyo Shin-Osaka where the shinkansen arrives is about 20 minutes from downtown Osaka by metro. Namba is a recommended spot to find a hotel as two large groupings of records stores exist in this area. The first is roughly between Shinsaibashi and Yotsubashi metro stations. The second is south-west of the main Namba railway station. Between the two there are in excess of twenty record stores. A third area with about five stores exists just south of Nakazakicho metro station.

Complementing the stores, from 26th December for four days, the Hanshin Department Store at Umeda plays host to a record fair. Recommended for the fact many stores not based in Osaka are represented at the fair. The stores from Osaka who sell at the fair tend to use it as a means to offload excess stock at sensible prices. It is still worth visiting the stores in person as many of the more obtuse or rare records remain in store and not at the fair. The fair is a bit different to European fairs in the organised loosely by genre/theme across a number of tables. None of the sellers are present, but their stock is tagged up according. You basically build up a pile of records from across all the sellers. Go to the inspection area where you can check the records, returning any that are not up to scratch. Then proceed to the check-out areas where you pay for and get your finds bagged. A bit odd the first time you do it, but I have to say it is fairly efficient.

Osaka  shop 1

Possibly the biggest difference between Tokyo and Osaka for record shopping is that there is less need for public transport. You can for the most part walk between stores and as such Osaka is a fairly laid back shopping experience. The shops are as equally well stocked as Tokyo, but there are just slightly less of them.

Some recommendations? Bamboo Music is closest to Nakazakicho metro station and a little out of the way, but is always worth a visit for the Jazz, soul and funk based selection. One of those stores with something for every pocket and quite a few titles you only ever see on-line. At the other end of town near Namba station you’ll find Naka Records. The store is a good starting point for the area as it often has a map for the other stores in the vicinity, and is a great source of lounge, easy and Japanese 45s. A short walk from Naka you’ll find Wild One Records. A delight of a store for Folk and Progressive rock music fans. The store is sensibly priced and has something for every pocket. Heading up to Shinsaibashi there is a great little club based music port of call called Rare Groove Records. Again the shop stocks a great range of LPs, 12s and 45s. They also have flyer map for the other stores in that area, a number of which are in the same building. A short walk from here and close to Yotsubashi metro station you’ll find Maru Ka Batsu. The store has existed for some years and has a great stock of 80s focused punk, alternative and industrial music. It’s well stocked in other areas too, but the aforementioned genres are always a distinct highlight. I often make this the last top of the day as at the end of the street the store is on you’ll find craft beer bar Kamikaze. It’s always a pleasure to drink there at the end of the day.


As short as this piece is you’ve probably guessed that with not too much effort and a bit of time it’s possible to discover a fantastic range of stores with an equally eclectic stock of records at a range of prices that makes record collecting available to every type of buyer. It’s not all about finding super rare records for three figure sums of money, but discovering new music that excites you and at a price you can afford. Saying that, if luck’s on your side you might just find that grail along the way by chance…



  1. The for the Japanese record map book is http://recordmap.com/
  2. List of Five Independent stores in Tokyo. All of the following stores can easily be found via Google. Flash Disc Ranch and Yellow Pop both in Shimo-Kitazawa. Record Sya in Jinbouchou. Sonota (aka Manual of Errors) and El Sur Records both in Shibuya.
  3. List of Five Independent stores in Osaka. All of the following stores can easily be found via Google. Bamboo Records, Naka Records, Wild One Records, Rare Groove Records and Maru Ka Batsu
  4. For Sound Cafe Dzumi check https://www.facebook.com/SoundCafedzumi or www.dzumi.jp
  5. Two recommend craft beer bars that do a fine range of food in Osaka are as follows: Craft Beer Works Kamikaze (see http://www.cbw-kamikaze.com/) and Lezzet Craft Beer & Food Experience Bar (see http://ameblo.jp/lezzetcraftbeer)
  6. The Record Sale. A good resource for finding information on occasional record sales is http://www.oneboxrecordfair.com/. As well as organising the One Box Record Fair the site highlights other similar events.
  7. One record sale well worth investigating if you are in Tokyo on 14th and 15th Feb. 2015 is organised by Enan formally of the Turntable store. The details of the record fair are at https://www.facebook.com/Turntable-Tokyo/. This one takes place in a rented space, so is a little bit bigger than a bar sale. A short clip of one of Enan’s previous events is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJQQZBjpUKo
  8. ??????????

Diggin’ in Japan; vol 5 Tokyo Dec 2014 by MP Flapp

today brings an exciting post by guest editor MP Flapp who recently came back fully loaded from a trip to Japan and who is so generous to share his experiences on this blog. Regard it as an additional update to the published previous posts of diggin’ in Japan. First up is his report on Tokyo, next post will cover Osaka.

see also diggin’ in Japan vol 1; Tokyo record shops 

see also diggin’ in Japan vol 2; Osaka finds 

see also diggin’ in Japan, vol 3; One Box Record Fair Tokyo 

see also diggin’ in Japan vol 4-El Sur Records Tokyo-interview with Takashi Harada (translation in Japanese)

MP Flapp in Tokyo Dec 14

Diggin’ for gold in Tokyo -December 2014

by guest editor MP Flapp

Sometimes the best trips to look for records happen more by chance than design. This is one of those. It’s December and the year is running out. I’ve still not taken a proper holiday. Where’s best place to go to score some vinyl, chill a little, eat well and tactically avoid the commercial excesses of the season? It might come as a surprise that Japan would be the answer.

It’s actually a good time to go. It’s out-with the regular tourist season, the flights tend to be a bit cheaper, the hotels tend not to be fully booked, the shinkansen trains not overly busy, the weather can have an autumnal air, the shops are open every day and many record stores have end of year sales combined with the fact they pull out their top stock for the lure of the salary man’s bonus.

I’ve been to Japan more than once to buy records, so have a collection of maps and notes put together over the years with some valuable local assistance as a starting point. Having someone locally to point you in the right direction helps a lot, like anywhere else shops open, close and move, so one year’s good spots don’t necessary hold true for the next.

Until a few years ago the best guide to finding stores was the “Record Map”, a Japanese text only book detailing the locations of record and CD stores in almost every city in the country. It was never fully comprehensive, but as a guide it was invaluable. It ceased to be published in 2013. However, a sign that interest in stores and buying used music may be picking up is that the book is back on the shelves as a new and updated edition as of December 2014. The publication date was a bit late for this expedition as I was already on the ground when the book hit the shops.

This trip I’ve decided to focus on two locations: Tokyo and Osaka. Fly in to Tokyo spend some days there, travel to Osaka for a few more days, then return to Tokyo for a couple of days, before flying home on New Year’s Eve.

In my opinion, even if you drive, the best way to get between and around these cities is with the aid of the JR Rail Pass. Once you have the pass (the voucher is bought in advance of travelling to Japan) you are free to travel on any JR train. There are some exceptions with travelling on the shinkansen. The pass isn’t valid for a small number of superfast trains. However, the majority of shinkansen you can travel on by just making a reservation prior to boarding.

One thing I did differently to previous trips was to take a cheap Wi-Fi enabled tablet device. Given the short notice of the trip all I had was a rough plan with nothing fixed. Unlike a number of other countries cafes and bars tend not to have free Wi-Fi. All the hotels I stayed in had free Wi-Fi. So with this in mind all I did was firm up a plan for the day the night before and make sure any maps and the like were in an off-line form for browsing on the hoof.



For the first few days in Tokyo I usually focus on three main areas: Shibuya (with a side trip to Shimokitazawa), Shinjuku and Ochanomizu (with a side trip on foot to Jinbouchou). It’s a fairly easy circle of stores on the metro and in each of the areas there are enough shops dominated by the spread of Disk Unions to make finding your feet and common titles fairly easy. Disk Union is the dominant used music chain in Tokyo. However, in the vicinity of the stores in Shinjuku and Ochanomizu there are some other great independent stores well worth checking. Sadly a few of the regular spots in the Jinbouchou area (Turntable for example) have closed.

Although at least in Turntable’s case the entity still exists. Admittedly off the high street. Enan (the former proprietor of Turntable), having shut the physical store still operates privately and through the pop-up one day record sale. I made it to one such record sale in Jinbouchou. The record sales are usually held in a bar or small hall for one day with a few sellers offering a limited set of stock from boxes. The sale is usually wrapped in a very social setting with both sellers and buyers soundtracking the event by playing records for each other whilst discussing music. More of a house party style event in a bar than a formal record fair. The sales seem to be a welcome new trend, with the stock available and those selling varying from event-to-event.

There have been some changes in the records available and the prices since my last trip. As of 1st April 2014 sales tax went up to 8%. It’s often possible to see the price less tax and with tax on the price sticker on the record. Very few stores add the tax on unexpectedly, so what you see on the sticker is the price. One type of record I collect is the Japanese vinyl editions of what might be classed as well known releases (David Bowie, Brian Eno, Scott Walker etc). These are the LP versions wrapped by an OBI strip round the cover with an insert or booklet specifically made for the edition. Complete, these records would appear to have become much harder to find over the years and a bit more expensive than they used to be. There are a few that have eluded me for more than one trip now. A complete copy of Fripp and Eno’s “Evening Star” in theory should be relatively straightforward to score. It isn’t. There are plenty of clean copies of great titles at super cheap prices, but complete top copies are becoming a challenge.

That said there is no shortage of records from about every conceivable geographical location and genre available in almost every store. There are some highly specialist stores that focus on a specific range of music, but in general most stores are across the board. It’s the main reason I come. It’s not just the availability and price of records (which is usually very competitive), but the fact you can zip round town on public transport and without really trying visit anywhere between ten and fifteen stores in any one day and do the same again the next without covering the same ground twice.


Some recommendations? It goes without saying any of the Disk Unions are worth visiting. The stock turns over frequently and there is always a good range of records for every pocket. Of the independent stores in Shibuya I would recommend a visit to both Sonota (aka Manual of Errors) and El Sur Records. The former is a haven for the most obtuse mondo style records you’ve ever seen whilst the later has a broad range of world music with a healthy selection of African recordings (more CDs and less vinyl these days). One stop on the Keio Line on the express train from Shibuya is Shimokitazawa. Two notable spots here are Flash Disc Ranch for the selection of US used records combined with the sensible pricing policy and Yellow Pop whist not big is always good for turning up 80s alternative titles in top condition. The best Disk Union for Jazz is at Ochanomizu. A short walk from there in Jinbouchou is Record Sya. The store has existed on three floors for many years and is a great source for Japanese releases across almost every genre.

After all the digging for records you probably want a music related break for a drink. Tokyo has a wealth of unique music related café/bars. It’s really just a matter of finding them that is often the problem. Very few of these are often at street level and hence noticeable is passing. One distinct highlight of this trip was a visit to Sound Cafe Dzumi in Kichijoji. An upper floor haven for improvised and free jazz stoked with music and literature from the proprietors (Izumi Hideki) own archive. In addition to the Free Music Archive making regular radio broadcasts from the café they host frequent live performances.





  1. The for the Japanese record map book is http://recordmap.com/
  2. List of Five Independent stores in Tokyo. All of the following stores can easily be found via Google. Flash Disc Ranch and Yellow Pop both in Shimo-Kitazawa. Record Sya in Jinbouchou. Sonota (aka Manual of Errors) and El Sur Records both in Shibuya.
  3. List of Five Independent stores in Osaka. All of the following stores can easily be found via Google. Bamboo Records, Naka Records, Wild One Records, Rare Groove Records and Maru Ka Batsu
  4. For Sound Cafe Dzumi check https://www.facebook.com/SoundCafedzumi or http://www.dzumi.jp
  5. Two recommend craft beer bars that do a fine range of food in Osaka are as follows: Craft Beer Works Kamikaze (see http://www.cbw-kamikaze.com/) and Lezzet Craft Beer & Food Experience Bar (see http://ameblo.jp/lezzetcraftbeer)
  6. The Record Sale. A good resource for finding information on occasional record sales is http://www.oneboxrecordfair.com/. As well as organising the One Box Record Fair the site highlights other similar events
  7. One record sale well worth investigating if you are in Tokyo on 14th and 15th Feb. 2015 is organised by Enan formally of the Turntable store. The details of the record fair are at https://www.facebook.com/Turntable-Tokyo/. This one takes place in a rented space, so is a little bit bigger than a bar sale. A short clip of one of Enan’s previous events is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJQQZBjpUKo


latest record finds -October 2013 USA

my last safari through the concrete jungle of cities like New York City and Philadelphia generated a lot of great finds, not just African music but a few  interesting otherwordly records as well. What about The Afro-Latin Soultet ‘Wild!’, a truely rare jazz-soul gem rarely seen in the wild.

Best catch of this safari must be the American release of Spokes Mashiyane’s  LP ‘King Kwela’, recorded during his  first US live tour,  The Boyoyo Boys ‘Back In Town’, Josef Marais, and Dorothy Masuka ‘Pata Pata’ as runner up… maybe not the holy grails I was looking for in the first place but still a decent selection of music from the African diaspora that I like to share with you. More info and mp3 files in coming posts….and my experience of diggin’ in Philadelphia will be revealed shortly.

the afro-latin soultet -wild! gecomp

abdullah ibrahim- water from an ancient well gecomp

see also SA Jazz -Abdullah Ibrahim speaks! Staffrider interview with poet Hein Willemse NYC Dec 1986

boyoyo boys -back in town gecomp

see also David Thekwane & The Boyoyo Boys -Township Jive 1977

dorothy masuka -pata pata gecomp

see also South African Soul Divas pt 2 Dorothy Masuka, Mahotella Queens, Irene & The Sweet Melodians

hi-life intl -gecomp josef marais -songs of the african veld gecomp

see also the Bleached Zulu

majuba ost -gecomp

rare South African OST ‘Majuba’. I will review this LP shortly

next stop soweto vol 3 gecomp

ah…all the essential and most collectable Cape Jazz holy grails on a double album, released by Strut Records in 2010.

phezulu eqhudeni -gecomp rochereau tabu ley & l'african fiesta vol 2 gecomp spokes mashiyane -king kwela gecomp tabu ley babeti soukous gecomp

the secret to happiness

at present time I am hunting for records throughout the USA; New York, Philadelphia, Boston and then some more. Expect a detailed post on my experiences and finds soon. In the meantime, a thought….

the secret to happiness...gecomp

diggin’ in NYC -Record Finds!

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after a few days of serious digging in the shops of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Princeton I had bought so many records -and not just African stuff- that I had to send parcels back home. The selection here today is just what I could carry in my hand luggage…..check out my future detailed posts with MP3.

see also diggin’ in NYC -Top 5 record shops

King Sunny Ade -Explosion!

the voices and drums of africa -Keita Fodeba, Mouangué, Kante Facelli

The Flaming Souls -Soultime

Ephat Mujuru Ensemble -The Spirit of the People

diggin’ in NYC -Top 5 record shops


diggin’ in NYC -update October 2015

going, going but not yet gone

since 2003, at least 80 record stores have closed in Manhattan and Brooklyn. And still more are closing every month at an alarming speed. It seems like the good old record shop is fast becoming a thing of the past in NYC.

Todays post is a personal Top 5 of the approximately 50 or so still open. It is always wise and advised to call before you go. Take a good map and your best walking shoes. Thanks to MP Flapp for his invaluable help and list.

1. A1 Records 439 E 6th St NY -1st Ave (between 6th & A Avenue)

ace shop for jazz/disco/boogie/hip hop. New arrivals every day.

Famous amongst DJ’s/producers and diggers looking for breaks & beats. Huge selection of cheap records in most genres. If you’re lucky you will find some vintage African records and Island music at affordable prices.

A1 Records  439 6Th St, New York, NY – 10009 – 1001 near Avenue A,6th St

View Map  Call: (212) 473-2870

Academy Records Manhattan

 2. Academy Records -415 E 12th St. NY (between 1st Ave & Ave A) -(212) 780-9166

this is how a ‘real’ recordshop should be run -well stocked prime vintage vinyl in great condition and new re-issues in all genres -from psych to jazz with a handsome selection of Latin and African. There’s a mouthwatering collection of rare original disco/boogie 12” on display.

Don’t forget to check the boxes with 45 rpm 7” that are reasonably priced. Some great finds here. The new arrivals section is extensive and the staff friendly and knowledgeable. There are good listening posts.

Recommended and a personal fave.

Academy Records Manhattan -listening post

Academy Records Manhattan

Academy Annex, a sister shop in Brooklyn -96 N 6th St. Brooklyn (718) 11211 -has re-located. See diggin’ in NYC -update October 2015

3. Good Records 218 E 5th St (betweeen 2nd and 3rd Ave), NY (212) 529-2081

run by a true lover of rare quality vinyl who is also active on Waxidermy. This smallish shop is an example of how a record shop has adapted itself to the changing times.

Specialist selection of mainly black music. The disco 12” section is a marvel, you’ll be able to pick up original gems here at very reasonable prices. During my time here, an original copy of ‘Is It All Over My Face’ by The Loose Joints on Westend Records was snatched up just before my eyes for 18$….grrrr. Oh well, enough choice here. Good Records also stacks a few boxes of rare and cheap 45’s@1$ each. Some bargains can be found, the selection of vintage and contemporary re-issues of African and Latin is excellent. Nice vibe and the owner likes a good deal just like you.

A well recommended shop!

V Bar NYC pic

While in the neighbourhood do check out V Bar St Marks -132 First Ave NY (212) 473-7200. http://www.VBAR.net

An ideal place to chill and wash down a dusty diggers throat with imported and local beers, great cocktails too. Lots of musicians, DJ’s and alternative people hanging out in a lively funky atmosphere.

V Bar also serves food and the best music in town can be heard on the stereo and sometimes live on a tiny stage.

4. Mercer Street Books and Records 206 Mercer St, NY. (212) 505-8615

hush….not a ‘real’ record store but mainly a bookstore with a handsome section of original vintage vinyl. And lots of books, music selection galore. Reasonably priced selection of jazz/pop/rock in all genres. The 1$ bins are worthwile for the VG+ digger.

5. Princeton Record Exchange 20 South Tulane St. Princeton NJ (609) 921-0881


the total trip to Princeton Record Exchange-including local transfer-takes 90 minutes or less from Penn Station, Manhattan (34th St. and 8th Ave). Take the New Jersey Transit ‘Trenton Local’ to Princeton Junction. Switch to the New Jersey Transit shuttle train -the ‘Dinky’- to the centre of Princeton. When you walk out of the station, walk to the right onto University Place, go right into Nassau St., pass one light and turn left into S. Tulane St.

Or take a taxi from either Princeton Junction or Princeton train station directly to the store.

Difficult? Out of the way? Nah, not really. Consider it as  a relaxed all-day railway voyage out of the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and believe me, the store is well worth the trip!! You will not leave empty handed.

Princeton Record Exchange

The new arrivals section is HUGE, there is a GREAT selection of rock/jazz/african/latin mostly vintage vinyl in fine condition + contemporary re-issues and a wall-to-wall selection of CD’s and DVD’s. The $ 1.00 bins are well recommended as  well as the big selection of original 45’s.

During my visit I noticed  a few English and Japanese buyers hoarding up stacks of rare vinyl to re-sell in their own stores overseas.  A well recommended address to score reasonably priced stock. Unfortunaly no listening posts.

While in Manhattan I stayed at the POD Hotel 230 E 51 St (212) 355.0300. www.thepodhotel.com. Reasonable prices and one of the best small hotels located mid-town, close to the Lexington Ave subway for the 6 line.

diggin’ in Japan, vol 3; One Box Record Fair Tokyo

there are just too many records available in Tokyo! But not enough African records, at least not for Iain Lambert who was so kind to  guide me through my recent trip of the Japanese metropolis.

Spinning AMS finds
Iain Lambert

Collector friend MP Flapp had introduced us and after a few wee malts the music of Africa became the topic, as Iain loves African music as well and is an avid record collector but most of all, the man’s got a vision too.

Next to his regular work as an English teacher he organises One Box Record Fair in Tokyo, a small-scale event for invited sellers to buy/sell/trade records in all genres. The most remarkable aspect of the fair is the fact that sellers and traders are allowed to bring one box only (!). Now that requires a hefty task for sellers to select only 1 box! Expect deep diggin’ and ultra specialized stuff in most genres. The first fair coming up will be held on Saturday June 30th 2012 at Bar Dynamo Tokyo.


Our conversation about local record shops took an unexpected turn when I mentioned Fela Kuti’s  ‘pidgin English’ . Little did I realize that Iain was well familiar with the subject.   Reason enough to interview the man for Soul Safari. Thanks also for his translation of the interview with Takashi Harada-san, owner and label-manager of El Sur.

See more ‘pidgin’ English’  Fela Kuti -the black President -Yellow Fever -Decca Afrodisia 1976

1. Please introduce yourself in a few sentences. 

I’ve been buying records for over 30 years – the last 20 of them in Japan – and the more I hear, and the more people I meet, the more I realise I’m still just scratching the surface of what’s out there. It’s a great feeling! Now I co-run the One Box Record Fair event in Tokyo: a small-scale event for individuals to buy and sell records in all styles & genres. We’re into our second year and enjoying it immensely.

2. Do you see yourself as a dj/collector/trader or cultural anthropologist?

I’m undeniably a collector, though I get as much, if not more, pleasure from playing stuff to other people as I do from the process of acquiring records. I love to trade, and find out about a lot of good things that way. A friend once said to me that he saw himself as a “custodian” of his records … someone owned most of them before him, and someone else will have them when he dies, so his job is just to look after them and play them with love while he has them. I like that idea.

3. Do you choose traditional tribal music or contemporary popular music from Africa?

Much of what I like is a kind of intersection between modern instruments and styles and traditional musics. I’m mainly drawn to popular music of the 50s-80s from Zaire/Congo, West Africa, Tanzania & Madagascar, and I also love South African Jazz and Kwela. I like particular instruments, such as the kora, balafon or valiha, and vocal stuff like the polyphonic singing from Cameroon.

4. What is more important to you; the rhythms or the words/poetry? Words that you may not understand, why do they speak to you?

Definitely the rhythms and the interplay between instruments, especially if you take the voice as being another instrument. The vocal harmonies of singers like Djo Mpoy, Carlito and Josky from Franco’s TPOK Jazz are among some of the most beautiful sounds ever committed to vinyl, but I can remember the first time I saw some of Franco’s lyrics translated, I think it was for the track La Vie des Hommes, I’d loved that track for years without understanding the Lingala, but once I knew what it was about it opened up a new level of enjoyment.

Orchestre VéVé -Baluti 1 & 2

5.What was the biggest challenge for you to start collecting African music?

Probably overcoming my own stupid prejudices about it. The first time I heard African music was on the radio. A British DJ called Andy Kershaw had a show in the 1980s where he played a lot of guitar bands from Zimbabwe like The Bhundu Boys, and I didn’t really think it was anything special. However, after I moved to Edinburgh I met a guy who worked in a record shop there and he was the first to play me stuff like Fela Kuti or Franco. I remember going up to his flat with a bunch of other people as we were going to a football match that afternoon and seeing all these African masks on the walls and speakers in all four corners of the room. I don’t remember much about the game, but I can still remember the feeling I had when I heard the first notes of side one of Franco et le TPOK Jazz 20ieme Anniversaire. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. Of course then all I could do was ask him to tape me the album, as there was nowhere in Edinburgh that had anything like that. Then, when I came to Japan in 1991 I discovered shops like Wave in Tokyo and Rhythm Box in Kobe and started accumulating CDs and VHS tapes. I actually stopped buying vinyl when I first came over here as I only planned to stay for a year or two …

Orchestre VéVé -Mikolo Mileki Mingi

6. Please explain your interest in ¨pidgin` English?

As part of my day job I research non-standard varieties of English, and pidgins are one of the most fascinating examples of that. I’m especially interested in their use in literature as a way of marking an oppositional stance and have written about Nigerian pidgin and its use by authors like Ken Saro-Wiwa, Chris Abani and Uzodinma Iweala, as well as musicians like Fela Kuti.

7. Please describe the Japanese fascination for African music. When did it start? Any live /shows? Favorites? DJ’s/Clubs/bands?

I think someone who lived here in the late 80s would be better qualified to answer that than I would. At that time there was a boom in “Afro Pop”, especially with Sunny Ade and Zairean groups like Papa Wemba & Viva la Musica or Zaiko Langa Langa being flown over to tour and record. The label Pili Pili put out a lot of great albums. Then the fashions changed and the next trend took over. When I was first here I lived in Nagoya so didn’t often get to Osaka and Tokyo, where all the best clubs were. You could (and still can) hear African music on the radio thanks to DJs like Peter Barakan or the Sunday night “World Music” show on NHK Radio.

8. Why is it important to save African music for the world?

It’s not just African music, there are many countries whose musical tradition is undervalued domestically as we move towards an increasingly digital and disposable age. I imagine that if I was growing up in a relatively cosmopolitan African city nowadays I’d have so much foreign music from all eras available through the internet that I’d almost naturally neglect my own in favour of something I saw as “exotic”. In the same way many Japanese people are dismissive of the Japanese rock bands that western collectors fawn over, saying “why would I listen to Flower Travellin’ Band when I could listen to the first Black Sabbath album”. I think it’s important to preserve the records especially, as each one carries its own history … be it a name scrawled in pen on the sleeve or a big nasty scratch where someone bumped into the turntable at a party, each scuff or mark tells us something about how they were used and who had them at one stage or another on their journey.

9. What is your best African record find ever?

Not valuable or rare records at all, but I often play these in my African sets: Vivita by Orchestre Veve, Kokoliko by Orchestre Kokoliko du Malawi, Nya na Fesa by Abeti, Namabele by Josky Kiambukuta. I remember finding Sensible by Bibi Den’s Tshibaye in a shop in Amsterdam a few years ago and needledropping the first few songs before the first bars of the title track grabbed me and I had the rush of adrenalin you get when you hear something so good. I think I stood at the listening station with the headphones on through the whole eight minutes literally weeping for joy at how good it was.

10. What is still on your wishlist?

In terms of African records, nothing really. So much great music has been reissued that I feel satisfied with what I’ve got and am happy to just find out things by chance. There are some SA Jazz bits I’d love to have, and some Franco records I need better copies of, but I’m not sweating over them.