Sterns Music began life as pop-up style record shop housed in the back room of an electrical shop near Warren Street and grew to become the second biggest distributor of music from Africa outside of the continent itself. Over the years they released and distributed hundreds of artists, including household names like Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour, Baaba Maal, Oumou Dioubate and Orchestre Baobab, building a comprehensive catalogue of music from across the region that spans some six decades. Now located inside a former bank vault underneath Warren Street station, they continue to work with a plethora of African labels, in some cases transferring master tapes to make them available digitally for the first time.
Gomori stumbled across this treasure trove of material when he discovered contemporary Gambian-born, Danish-residing singer and kora player Dawd Jobarteh‘s propulsive ‘Sama Kebbalu’ and decided he wanted to create an edit of it for his sets. He decided to see if he could license the track to make for an official release on his label Monologues Records, but soon recognised the bigger opportunity: “I was blown away when I met Robert from Sterns for the first time and he took me down into his vault. Original master reels stuffed into banana boxes, decades of vinyl, cassette tape and CD releases… history everywhere you looked. After exploring their vast catalogue and talking to Robert more, I felt like something could be done to bring some of their music and history into a new context and introduce it to new generations in the process.”
Each Sterns Edits release will see Gomori – who has created dozens of much-loved edits of the likes of Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Sampha and DJ Shadow over the years – rework two tracks from the vast Sterns catalogue, melding these various styles of African music with his own house grooves to make for dancefloor ready weapons.
The intricate kora playing of Dawda Jobarteh makes for a mesmeric trip on this debut release, with ‘Sama Kebbalu’ (‘tomorrow’s elders’) given a peak-time workout that makes fine use of the rousing, chanted chorus and rolling rhythm, and ‘Bright Sky Over Monrovia’ cut into a dub that focuses on the stunning finger-picking and passes it through heady delays.