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The Portfolio: Matsuli Music

Matsuli Music is an independent record label run by Matt Temple in London and Chris Albertyn in Durban. Given our own histories and tastes, we are passionate about finding and re-issuing great historical South African musical moments on vinyl. 

Digging into South Africa’s cultural history inevitably stirs up the ghosts of exploitation – so much so that some artists have flatly refused to agree to their music being re-released. Sometimes great recordings are strangled and lost in the history of sour relations between artists and those who own the recordings. At other times, the original master recordings have been lost to fire, or just bad archiving.

Before Matsuli can start the complex but ultimately satisfying process of producing a vinyl re-issue we have to find those who “own” the recording and negotiate the licensing and master royalty fees payable. We also have to find the people who recorded the music (or their families) and seek their approval and blessing for the project. In addition to paying master recording license fees, ‘mechanical’ royalties must be paid, which (in theory) are then distributed by music rights organisations to the composers or their heirs.

Lets just say that we have to work within an imperfectly constructed and fluid system whose default is to maintain the privilege and power that has been historically accumulated. When and where we can, we try and do extra to ensure a better deal for the artists.

Matsuli can afford to re-issue on vinyl because of the ongoing international interest in great South African music. Though the number of vinyl  buyers in South Africa is soon going to pass CD buyers, the market is still relatively small, and is not big enough on its own to cover the costs of pressing and printing. International sales are essential if a re-issue is going to break even.

Another vinyl challenge facing Africans is that there are no longer any record pressing plants on the continent. Our transcontinental Matsuli partnership and approach makes it easier to coordinate licensing, re-mastering, production and distribution of quality vinyl, supplemented by carefully researched liner notes and historical photos.

To date, Matsuli Music has resurrected sixteen important recordings for a new and growing audience of vinyl collectors. Our next three releases will (if this crazy world permits) be available by June this year – with another three or four surprises before year end.

For more info on Matsuli Music visit our bandcamp website, or our Facebook page.

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