The music business is really different today than a decade ago. CDs and cassettes and vinyl discs are all but relics of the past. Downloads from iTunes, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, reverbnation.com, and a host of other music sites are the natural way that American youth and young adults acquire their music. Most statistics on illegal downloading average out to about 95% percent since at least 2008. Subsequently, online music streaming services started popping up, such as spotify.com, that offer subscribers a menu of music from a range of major and independent record labels at a nominal monthly fee (about $10 dollars in the US). Spotify was a Swedish start-up company in 2008, and by 2010 had 2.5 million paying subscribers. As of May 2012, there are more than 20 million monthly users on the Spotify platform, with between 15 – 17 million tracks and 500 – 700 million playlists to choose from.
Something about downloading CDs, singles, and streaming music from the Internet, though, doesn’t work well for radio shows (and DJs) so I went on a hunt for still-standing record stores that carry African music. I followed a path to Sterns Music–located, as I remembered–in central London, which used to be the #1 retailer for African music in the world. The English gentleman there explained that, unfortunately, they now only sell on-line. I’d also caught wind of a New Jersey branch of Sterns here in the US, and reached out to them, only to the same response. After a few more calls and conversations, I found my destination. First I would head to Los Angeles, California to Amoeba Music, probably the only mega-music store remaining in the US, and browse their African music section to see if they had anything of interest. Second, I would make plans to travel to Africa later in 2012 or early 2013 for recordings of local contemporary music. Sterns suggested a trip to South Africa, as the formidable Gallo Record Company still owns over 75% of recordings ever made in South Africa.
Fortuitously, I had already made arrangements to attend a friend’s wedding in San Diego, California when I learned about Amoeba Music, so I quickly changed my plans to include a short trip to Los Angeles. I just returned yesterday, and wanted to report my findings with a live video of my travels to the place, and a brief summary of what I discovered. You will hear and see more of the music I acquired there in due time, but for now let me share my journey in search of African music treasures.
Once I entered the store, I had to put my camera away and concentrate on the task at hand of checking out the African music. Most of the store is dedicated to rock . . .
But i found my way to African music under the “World Music EUROPE” category.
I met the lovely and informed Viola there, and she escorted me to the African section, popping in on me from time to time to suggest this or that. Several of the major stars in African music who are known to Americans were featured with a short biography hand-written on index cards.
I found a wonderful selection of old and new recordings on vinyl and CD and cannot wait to share them with you. Stay tuned and stay well.