Innovative business model allows the label to unveil, promote and develop exceptional, yet under exposed artists
Since it was founded in 2006, the record label Cumbancha has quickly earned wide acclaim for its discerning A&R choices, quality presentation, creative branding, ambitious marketing and promotion efforts and dedication to introducing its artists to the broadest possible audience. This summer, Cumbancha plans to launch the Cumbancha Discovery series, an innovative approach to artist development designed to give up-and-coming talents access to Cumbancha's worldwide physical and digital distribution network, marketing/promotion experience and respected brand, while enabling Cumbancha to work with artists that it might otherwise be unable to sign to traditional recording contracts.
Cumbancha was founded by Jacob Edgar, an ethnomusicologist and music fanatic whose work as the head of music research for the ubiquitous record label Putumayo World Music has taken him to dozens of countries across the globe in search of exceptional musical talents. "I started Cumbancha with the intention of introducing people to outstanding artists from around the world whose work I felt deserved wider recognition," notes Edgar, "But I have been frustrated by the fact that, because of the large investment of resources that go into every Cumbancha release, and the risks associated with a volatile and conservative record retail environment, I have been unable to work with many excellent artists who I feel have true potential."
The Cumbancha Discovery model provides a way of releasing excellent projects from artists who don't yet have an infrastructure in place to support their talent. "It's a bit like a chicken and an egg scenario for many musicians," Edgar points out "They can't get a booking agent or manager unless they have a record out and have started building a fan base." He hopes this new approach will be a way to kick-start an artist's career.
In the Cumbancha Discovery model, both the artist and the label share in the risk and reward of the release. While the albums in the Cumbancha Discovery series will be released in an attractive physical format, the emphasis will be on using new technology to market, promote and sell. With a focus on online marketing and promotion, direct to consumer sales and revenue generated by synch placement, Cumbancha expects a realistic break-even point for Cumbancha Discovery releases and the possibility for greater earnings should the public respond well to the albums or the label generates a well-paying licensing opportunity.
The first release on the Cumbancha Discovery line will be from Kimi Djabaté, a guitarist, percussionist and balafon player from the West African country of Guinea-Bissau who lives in Lisbon, Portugal. Djabaté's sound is acoustic and melodic with a bit of an Afro-Latin swing, reminiscent of Habib Koité, another Cumbancha artist. "When Kimi sent me his demo, it was one of those rare occasions where I fell in love with every song. I think Kimi has the potential to be an African music star," says Edgar. Djabaté's album Karam will be released in July.
That will be followed in late August by Ya Foy!, and album from Ecuador-based musician/producer Sarazino. An Algerian who grew up in Wets Africa and Montreal, before falling in love with Latin America and moving to Quito, Sarazino's appealing music blends
elements of reggae, Latin grooves, Arabic and African music. "Manu Chao fans will love Sarazino," says Edgar. Guests include Toots Hibbert of Toots & the Maytals fame, Blanquito Man from King Chango, and others.
In development is an album from Indonesian reggae star Tony Q Rastafara, who blends the spirit of Bob Marley and roots reggae with Indonesian instruments, languages and melodic influences. Also coming soon on Cumbancha Discovery is a gorgeous album from young Brazilian singer Luisa Maita. "Listening to her reminds me a bit of Mayra Andrade from Cape Verde, and she also will appeal to fans of Bebel Gilberto and Ceu, although her sound is more organic and acoustic," notes Edgar.
"These albums are every bit as wonderful as a regular Cumbancha release," asserts Edgar, "and I am confident that they will appeal to a wide audience all over the world. I believe that through working together with Cumbancha, these artists can build a strong foundation of fans and industry support."