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Celebrating 20 Years of Kasba Music

Celebrating 20 Years of Kasba Music

Since 2006, The Orchard has been working closely with Kasba Music, and this year we celebrate the label’s 20th anniversary! Founded by Joni Sahún Castet and Amparo Martin Gomez, Kasba Music is a Catalan independent label that works with the best of Catalan Punk, Rock, and Mestizo music. They have built a catalog of top artists such as La Petagina, Bongo Botrako, Lágrimas de Sangre, Ginestà, Fermín Muguruza, Che Sudaka, Manolo Kabezabolo, and more!

Co-Founder of Kasba Music, Joni Sahún Castet sat down with us to answer a few questions.

Celebrating 20 Years of Kasba Music

Tell us about yourself and the early days of Kasba Music.

There are two professionals working at Kasba, my partner Amparo and I. Both of us have been involved in Alternative music since our youth. I started singing in bands, making fanzines and organizing gigs when I was 14, in 1982, at the beginning of Punk in Barcelona; Amparo was a photographer of bands, mainly gigs, but then she started taking pictures for promotion and album covers. 

In 1996 we created a booking and communication agency, Hace Color, and we worked with the most important mestizo bands: Color Humano, Spook & the Guay, Joxe Ripiau, Fermin Muguruza, Manu Chao, La Kinky Beat.

Finally, in 2004, we created Kasba Music. It was really easy, I had worked at Tralla Records (one of the first independent labels in Barcelona) in the early 90’s, and at the end of the same decade we were in charge of communications in Catalonia for Esan Ozenki/Metak (an important independent label in the Basque Country), so we knew what we were doing.

Is there a story behind the name Kasba Music?

We worked with a lot of mestizo bands, one of them was Cheb Balowski, a band that played Mediterranean melodies and rhythms from Algeria to Barcelona with some Rock ingredients. In that environment someone said ‘Kasba Music’ and we fell in love with that name. 

Kasba is the nerve center of Arab cities, something like the Agora in the Roman world. Kasba Music is the center of music, where all musics find each other and mix, beautiful…The world we would like to live in.

How has the role of being a Catalan record label changed since you first launched Kasba Music 20 years ago?

We’ve learned a lot, and that’s important. We started with the label and we started to grow, but as a small label, a family label, we didn’t want to grow in this capitalist world. At one point we expanded our team but, now, 8 years ago, we are back to only 2 people working in what we love, what we have always loved: music. And we try to do it the best we can. It’s clear that this is our best time, we know what we want and we know how to do it, so we are going for it!

What do you look for when bringing artists onto your roster?

Wow!!! This is impossible to know, we don’t have a list of qualities and the only thing we look for is finding something which forces us to make an exclamation after talking to the artist, listening to their music, and seeing their gig. 

We work with artists because of their musical quality, their humanity, the necessity of their  expression, and/or for the lyrics. When we like a project, we ask ourselves, would any other label release the album of this artist? No? So we’ll do it. And it’s done!

Tell us about some of the artists who have released on Kasba Music in the past 20 years. 

One of our most memorable releases was when we released an album by Fermin Muguruza. He is the most important Basque singer and independent artist in the world. He has played all over the world and has his own record label (Esan Ozenki / Metak / Talka). Fermin and us have been working together for 21 years. So when we told him we wanted to work on his next album, he said: “Yes, now we can die”. 

Other notable mentions include Marinah (Ojos de Brujo singer) and Amparo Sanchez (Amparanoia). We also work heavily with discovering artists including the release of the three first albums by La Pegatina and by LDS (Lagrimas de Sangre) – these are bands with millions of streams!

As for musical styles, we’re open to almost anything. In these 20 years we’ve released World Music, Mestizo Music, Punk Rock, Hardcore, Rap, Trap, Songwriters, Flamenco, Hard Rock, New Age, Traditional, Reggae, Ska…We like music and we know that there is music for all moods and for all hours of the day, so no exclusions.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in recent years and how have you worked to overcome them?

Well, the biggest challenge is social media. We are not young people anymore, and both of us are over 55 years old, so it’s a new world and we don’t like it very much (yes, you could say we hate it!). But we live here, so we’ll do it…Changes?! We go for it! The great news is, vinyl is back!!!

What have been some of your proudest moments?

The beginning was great, Amparo and I released the albums of Cheb Balowski and La Kinky Beat, the bands we managed. Then the recognition, bands with a career (Mürfila, Amparo Sanchez, Canteca de Macao) came to us after working with a major. 

At this point, we discovered that we could do almost anything, so then came the crazy years, the happy ones! For example, the album Leon, a kind of electronic opera by an electronic band (The Pinker Tones) with a string quartet (Quartet Brossa), both singing the incredible story of Leon Theremin. Listen to it!!!! 

Another important moment is when a band from another country came to us to release their album all over the world. We’ve done it three times now and the last one was with Piñata Protest from Texas, this Tex-Mex Punk band is great! But the music is so exciting that it’s hard to pick out different moments.

What’s next for Kasba Music, and what releases should we be looking out for?

We’re supporting new artists from Barcelona like Aiala (young singer with three albums from Blues to Rap, including Soul and Electronic music, listen to her! You won’t forget her), Enoch DMK (Rap), and Lasta Sanco (a band with two boys and two girls who play a kind of Electronic music with African influences). 

At the same time, we’re releasing the new album by Rat-Zinger, a Punk Hardcore Metal band with seven studio albums, they’re beasts! And we’ll be releasing the new album by Santi Eizaguirre, who used to be Cheb Balowski’s guitarist and is now a songwriter. As you can see, all the releases are with different music. That’s life!

How are you celebrating Kasba Music’s 20th Anniversary?

Ha, ha, that’s the question!!!! We thought a lot about it, and everyone around us said we should organize a big gig or a festival, but we stopped the booking agency 10 years ago and we didn’t feel comfortable with that. 

One day we said “we have to pay tribute to the musicians we’ve released who have died in these years” and the next day we said “what better way to pay tribute than to do a vinyl? Not a tribute night, but a tribute vinyl, that’s forever!!!! And then we started thinking: “Hey, in January 2024 it will be 20 years since the live album of Fermin Muguruza that was recorded in Barcelona and we organized!” 

We decided to do a collection of vinyls to commemorate our 20 years to explain our musical life before Kasba Music, highlight the important contribution of Kasba to the culture in Barcelona/Catalonia/Spain/World, and to pay tribute to the musicians we have been lucky to work with. 

We’re going to release 11 records, one per month, except in August, including Fermin Muguruza live, tributes to Iñigo Muguruza (Kortatu, Negu Gorriak, Jozxe Ripiau), Jose Capel (Color Humano), Jesus Arias (TNT), an album of mestizo hits (La Pegatina, Bongo Botrako, Marinah, Amparo Sanchez, La Kiny Beat), a compilation of female voices (Aiala, Amparo Sanchez, Maruja Limón, Marinah), the last album I recorded as a musician!!!! I was the bass player in a Hardcore Punk band, Pixamandúrries. We recorded it in December 1994, so 30 years ago, but it was never released, so now we are doing it!

And the last thing I want to mention is that Kasba doesn’t live in the past and looks to the future, so we’ve released a new brand album, a Hardcore Punk compilation with 8 Catalan bands called Catalunya Explota, so this is the future, to explode!!!!

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