As STOF is a big supporter of anything that has been overlooked or anything that (initially) didn’t receive enough attention, we felt like Radio Martiko would be apt to kick off with musically.
Radio Martiko is a DJ and record label from Ghent, Belgium specialized in reviving and reissuing forgotten or unknown music from the past. To discover these musical treasures, Radio Martiko travels around the world to search for records, master tapes and to get in touch with the right holders of the music. We asked Mechiel some questions about his approach and how Radio Martiko evolved into what it is today.
Ten swirling and euphonic Afro-Latin gems from the Congolose band Ry-co Jazz, recorded between 1961 and 1966 for the Disques Vogue series “Dansons avec…” 4 different picture sleeve artworks based on the design of the original Ry-co Jazz Disques Vogues EP series.
This LP brings you 10 highlights out of the 100 songs from the Dansons avec le Ry-Co Jazz series. Available via Radio Martiko’s Bandcamp.
How did you roll into music?
Since I was a kid I was always very ‘hungry’ to get to know new music. If somebody had some records, I wanted to know everything about each record they owned. I was constantly listening to music, making cassettes and spending my first savings on music. So I guess I’m a natural born music nerd. Things only got worse over the years.
Your label is especially focused on reviving and (re-)releasing overlooked music from places like Colombia, Morocco and Greece to name only a few. Could you tell us a bit more about how this love for music grew into a fulltime job?
Most of the serious record collectors become record sellers too. Buying records is quite expensive, so if you were not born rich, you need to find a way to finance your never ending appetite for vinyl.
There are 2 types of record collectors: the ones who keep everything for themselves and the ones who want to share their collection with an audience. I’m the second type. I started to DJ and teamed up with some friends. After a while, I found out that I was playing music that no other DJ’s were playing, so the idea to reissue records started to grow because I felt like there was another story to tell.
Right now I’m the only person who’s working full time on Radio Martiko, but it goes without saying that I get a lot of help from other people as well with things such as: graphic design, copywriting and so on.
What kind of music do you look for nowadays?
There are no boundaries to the music I’m looking for. All these discoveries lead to ideas for reissues on my label. When the idea is there, I start to explore music by a certain artist or from a certain region. If I really want to explore a catalogue from a certain country, I’ll have to go to this country several times. It’s simply necessary.
The first time I go to a country to find out more about the music, I don’t come back with a lot of results. It takes time to build up a network, so the more you go to a country, the more results you’ll get. So, next time I’ll choose a region to explore for future Radio Martiko releases, I’ll have to choose wisely. A warm climate and an excellent cuisine might be worth considering if I have to go to a country more often. South-East Asia might fit the description.
How do you feel about reissuing those dusty gems during a time when new music is being released at such a high speed tempo?
Although Radio Martiko is about music from the past, it’s still ‘new’ music in a certain way. I don’t think that a lot of people are familiar with Moroccan psych, Egyptian exotica or Greek laika and epirotika. Every day I’m surprised by the new sounds from the past that I’m discovering.
It takes a lifetime to really get to know 1 musical genre and I’m digging into all these different styles from all over the world. My life will simply be way too short to get bored with music from the past.
When you want to reissue an LP, you go to the original country of the artist. If possible you try to get in touch with the family of the artist (in case that the artist has deceased) to get the the bigger picture. How does this work? What do you discuss together?
Most of the record deals are done with the record label, so it’s often not necessary to get in touch with the artists or their family. However, if we get the chance, we’ll try to meet them.
First of all, it’s nice for the musicians or the family to know that people living in another part of the world are still interested in their music after all these years.
Apart from that, we can also get them to help on the creation of the records. They can give us valuable background information for liner notes or share original pictures to use for the sleeve.
How did experiencing all these visits to different countries, cultures & families impact your relationship to music and worldview in general?
Visiting the place where music is made, makes you listen to it in another way. There is a certain universal understanding of emotions, but music is always created in a certain context. So going to the place where the music came from, gives you a better understanding of what it’s all about.
Traveling to work on music projects is really nice. It’s not hard to connect with people and a lot of doors will open quite easily. When you visit a country as a tourist, these doors will often stay closed. You get to know a country in a different way when you’re there for the music.
All these visits changed my world view for sure. I have to deal with people from different cultures and from all layers of society: poor street vendors, label bosses, musicians who are stars in their country, etc. Meeting and working with people with a different background is something really positive. It gives you a broader perspective on the world.
What would you change about the music industry if you could?
I could go on for quite a while about everything that’s wrong with the music industry, but I think that the biggest problem is that hardly anybody is paying for music although most people are consuming music on a daily basis. We wake up and we listen to the radio or Spotify, in the afternoon we listen to some mixes or live streams, in the evening we go to a bar where a DJ is playing and in the summer we go to festivals, and everything is for free. Not the best business model. ‘For free’ doesn’t really exist. Somebody always has to pay the bill. Unfortunately, it’s the ones who are entertaining the people who often don’t get what they deserve. How to solve this? I’m getting a headache just thinking about all the things that would need to change. Next question please.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
After the summer, we’ll release a double LP by Lucho Bermudez. He’s not very famous here, but in Latin America he was a big star. For many, his music is seen as the sound that represents Colombia as a nation. He was a pioneer in modernizing the folk music of the Caribbean coast to a big band jazz format.
After that, we have another double LP coming up, by Ahl Nana or l’Orchestre National de Mauritanie. The records will contain some of the first studio recordings of Mauritanian music from the Moroccan ‘Boussiphone’ label. We got in touch with the owners of this label and found some ultra rare, ungooglable records from the label archives.
… and I really can’t wait to play records for an actual crowd again after months of being locked up.
Epirótika! Greek psych folk as a soul medicine. The moment you fall in love with Epirote music, a new musical universe will open up to you. This ancient psychedelic folk with jazzy improvisations from the North West of Greece is unique and will touch your soul so deeply that epirotika aficionados always remember the place and the moment when they got to know this hypnotic and mesmerising music.
More on Radio Martiko via https://radiomartiko.bandcamp.com/
Listen to some of our favorites by Radio Martiko below. Enjoy!
Mechiel in a record store in Casablanca.
Many thanks @ Radio Martiko!