Gondwana Records: New Minimalism, or How Jazz Continues Its Transformation Through Time and Space Text by Serhiy Balabukha

Меттью Голсол

In our time, jazz has much more in common, let’s say, with the project of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s Gorillaz, or with the creative explorations of minimalist composers. Contemporary jazz today is not about solos, improvisations, and the search for new compositional approaches/practices. Nowadays, jazz is very different from what the average listener might imagine under this name: no more swing, jazz grooves, big orchestras, loud brass instruments, tweed jackets, and so on. The entire history of jazz is about transformation and the search for the new; it’s about capturing the spirit of the time, about experiments. By shedding certain important markers, jazz remains itself, preserving the essence of a somewhat elite, contemporary, non-trivial, undeniably intriguing, and experimental music.

In the modern world, you can find music to suit any taste. Even in 2023, big bands and chamber ensembles that play in the style of the mid-1950s continue to exist. Artists blending hip-hop and jazz[1] are gaining popularity. Electronics and jazz experiments have become synonymous with the work of artists like Flying Lotus, and more. However, in my opinion, a very important niche is occupied by the label of British musician and producer Matthew Halsall — Gondwana Records.

The impact of this label on music trends is not very often discussed, its artists aren’t filling stadiums (as for now), and they haven’t been nominated for Grammy awards (yet). However, within the jazz community, there’s an understanding of the significance of the direction chosen by Halsall. So, our task is to “draw back the curtain” and introduce the reader to the label that has been steadily gaining momentum and influencing the contemporary music landscape for over 10 years.

Matthew Halsall
Matthew Halsall

Matthew Halsall is a musician, a trumpeter from Manchester, UK. In 2007, he founded Gondwana Records, with the goal of releasing music by Manchester musicians and contributing to the development of the local music community. Over the last 15-16 years, this local, one could say niche, initiative has become a platform for musicians from different corners of the world. We arranged to speak with Matthew to understand what exactly unites all these people; what concepts and ideas are common among such diverse artists being represented by Gondwana Records.

To start with, you’ve got a brand-new album coming out soon called “An Ever Changing View”. Honestly, I planned to start our conversation about your work as a label runner, but I just want to know how do you feel about it? 

— I feel really good! It’s always nice to put out new music and I think it’s originally was the reason I set up a record label – to release music by myself but featuring musicians that I really like the sound of. So yeah, it’s great to have something new out and to have a tour coming up in the UK and Europe as well.

I’ve listened to your three new singles on Spotify and the music already sounds massive at the same time dynamic-wise it sounds really interesting. In one of your posts on social media you said that a music piece off the album [quote] “Mountains, Trees and Seas is inspired by my visits to a 1950s Modernist house in Bridlington and my many trips to the magical Isle of Anglesey”. Could you please tell more about these places and maybe what exact things inspired you? 

— Yeah, with this album I wanted to create all of the music away from my home in Manchester. It’s a busy industrial city and I needed to be in a more peaceful and inspiring location. So I found this house in Bridlington, which is in the northeast of England. It’s an incredible house. And it’s just really beautiful. Big, big windows overlooking the North Sea, and wooden floors and walls, and kind of a floating staircase, lots of natural light and a nice garden surrounding the house. I love architecture and interior design and this house had both of those things perfect, basically. So it felt like a really, really good place to make music and to relax and be inspired. So that was the first location. And then I also composed music in North Wales in a place called Penmaenmawr, which is sort of maybe an hour and a half away from Manchester. And that was a house, again, owned by an architect who’d redesigned the house.

You could see the sea and some islands nearby and the house was on the side of a mountain, so you could get a really nice view of many different things. Out of the window, the view changed, the light changed, the sun sets and sun rises and also the clouds and there were also rainbows and all sorts of things happened. That’s where I came up with the title for the album, “An Ever Changing View”, because every time I sat and composed and looked out the window, something different happened in that space. And I found it really, really nice to compose and kind of look out the window whilst making music. And then the third location was in Anglesey. Anglesey is like an island just off the kind of Welsh, kind of untouched island. There’s a place in particular called Newborough Beach and Forest that I spend a lot of time making music and I stayed in a really nice log cabin with panoramic of mountains and the sea and nature. So all the music was composed and inspired by these views and locations and yeah that’s pretty much it.

Earlier I’ve read from you that this album is hugely inspired by nature. Is there some kind of a concept? Do you have a message with this release?

— So I think for me, the idea was that if I create music that is how I’m feeling in these beautiful locations, and try to create music with my eyes as well, so the music has a sort of landscape feel to it, and a kind of earthy nature feel to it. Then when the listener puts their headphones on, closing your eyes and kind of feeling like you’ve escaped reality. And I think music’s really powerful for that. It can take you to different places. Like, just shut your eyes, listen with the headphones on, the rest of the world disappears for me. And that’s the idea, really.

For sure. I, as a person from Zaporizhzhia, a huge factory center in the south-east of Ukraine, I kind of understand you and this perception when you can escape the world just putting the headphones on. It’s really interesting to know about your work process: how do you usually come up with ideas. And most important: how is the work on this album different from your other works?

— So I guess the starting point was quite different on this album in the sense that I spent a lot of time before I met the musicians to have their creative input, I spent lots of layers of percussion and kalimbas and marimbas and vibraphones and celestes and all sorts of things. So I spent a lot of time doing a lot of percussive layers, which I’d never really done before. I’d always had someone else who was a great percussionist. I decided I wanted to create my own rhythmic energy, which I hadn’t been able to do before. Because I play drums a little bit and other percussive instruments, but it’s took me maybe five years of learning and really playing, practicing different percussive instruments to get a feel for what I want to do with those instruments myself.

And on this record I play, I actually play a lot of different instruments and sounds. Like on “Water Street” as an example I play the Celeste, Glockenspiel, some shakers and some bottle top, big clumps of percussion that I kind of shaking a record in different ways and kalimba and trumpet. So it’s been an album where there’s lots of individual layers and ideas and things and then I would take it into the studio and the musicians would play over it, but I would always leave an improvised open section within the music because I really love hearing the individual musicians and their kind of reactions to the music and atmospheres that I’ve created.

You’re a musician and in my personal opinion you’ve got wonderful music in your catalog. At the same time, you’re the founder and the runner of Gondwana Records label. When you talked to Tim Wilson of The Ransom Note he asked you «were there any British or English trumpet players who influenced you». You answered [quote] «<…> it didn’t matter who it was at the time, as long as they were good at what they did». Gondwana Records started as pretty small Manchester label and now it is a successful international project. So, if I understand correctly, you use the same approach when choosing musicians for the label. Not community but quality. But at the same time community stands. Please, tell me how it works and tell how the communication between artists and the label is going.

— I guess, there’s no set formula or straight answer to the way I work as an A&R for the record label. Some of the artists would be musicians that I would perform with in my own projects and then they would show me music that they made that was really beautiful. And I said, yes, let’s work together and put this out. And an example of that would be Chip Wickham. And then, you know, also, early on, GoGo Penguin were a very successful band on the record label. And I was working with the drummer Rob Turner on another musical project of mine and he started sharing music that was demos of GoGo Penguin tracks.

The track I remember the most is «Last Words» off the «Fanfares» album. He wrote that one and shared it with me and I said we’ve got to put this out, this is beautiful music. You know, there’s lots of musicians who share stuff and it’s not been right for the record label, but, you know, I still really respect them and I’m friends with them and stuff. But I think if there’s something where I feel a deep connection and an emotional kind of engagement with the music, then yeah, I would definitely put it out and support it.

I’m not really a person that cares about financial success or kind of all these things. I’ve been very happy to go at a very slow, mellow pace with all the work that we’ve done, both as a record label and me as an artist. I’m not in a rush to do anything specific, I’m just happy to work with nice musicians who are talented and creative. So things have happened organically like those musicians and then other bands and artists we’ve worked with, some of them have come through the demo section of the Gondwana website, like Hania Rani sends us incredible demos from Poland.

Hanakiv, the artist Johanna, she sent music from Estonia and if the music was right and I really enjoyed it, I didn’t see a reason why we shouldn’t support it. So it was always a case of music first, and I’ve never really cared whether an artist is very established or unknown or anything, I think it has to just be about the music for me, and if I like the music and the team likes the music, then we figure out how we’re going to develop it. So yeah.

What gets your attention when you decide to sign the artist? In other words, what the artist has to have in his or her music so that you would want to release it?

— Yeah. I think it’s one of those things where I think the music has to have personality and originality and the artist has to be someone that can articulate and create. Hania Rani is a good example. She went away and wrote her debut album in Iceland. And when I listen to that album, «Esja» (2019), I can really feel the energy and the kind of landscape of Iceland within it, the kind of mountains and the kind of barren but beautiful landscape and the kind of different energies of the location and environment. And Hania is a really interesting artist like that where she can capture this intense energy and this emotion and take you on a real journey when you listen to her music that is exciting but also intimate and unique in many ways.

And that’s a good example, I guess, when I’ve signed other artists like GoGo Penguin or Mammal Hands, they’ve all got something slightly unique that makes them stand out from other bands. Like with GoGo Penguin, they were a sort of jazz trio that was also really influenced by Apex Twin and Squarepusher and Massive Attack and electronica. Mammal Hands is a trio with no bass player but managed to create this amazing intense really beautiful music with lots of melody, like really influenced by folk and world music and electronic music as well.

I always look for artists that have a good crossover of genres and influences that are clearly people that listen to a lot of music and are very conscious of creating something fresh and unique and exciting. And that’s always been the way. I think Svaneborg Kardyb, who we signed a couple of years ago, their music is so fresh and simple but beautiful, really melodic, lots of energy, real fun personality to it. I think it has to have that interesting combinations of instrumentation or recording production, interesting kind of emotional depth and kind of all sorts of character quirks are really important.

Speaking of you, what gets your attention when you listen to music as a whole? Are these things changed through the years? If they did – how?

— Yeah, I mean, I remember being very, very young and loving music, 60s kind of rock and roll and pop music, like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix and stuff. And I think I’ve always been obsessed with quite unique recording and production techniques. So The Beatles’ «Sgt. Pepper» and Jimi Hendrix’s «Electric Ladyland» records and things always had really interesting recording production ideas. In later years I was obsessed with jazz and big-band music. Buddy Rich, Count Basey. Later, I was more into modal jazz and more small ensembles of like four or five musicians like Miles Davis’s quintets and sextets and all that. And then I got really into contemporary music in my teens, I was really into trip-hop and hip-hop and all sorts of sample-based music that I didn’t really understand at the time what was sampled or how this music was made but I love the idea of music being like this repetitive, beautiful, fat beat, like a hip-hop beat or something. But then having things like orchestral soundtrack strings, or kind of jazz samples of saxophone or trumpet, and all sorts of other piano samples and stuff. And I became obsessed with sample culture without knowing it was sample culture at the time. It was just labeled trip-hop, hip-hop, whatever. And then I realized that half the stuff that I was really into that was sample music was influenced by John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane and things like that. Producers like DJ Cam, The Cinematic Orchestra, they were all kind of bringing these beautiful spiritual jazz records in with contemporary trip-hop, hip-hop.

So, I then sort of merged the two worlds together as much as I could in my own music. So I would think of it like I was sampling bits of my own ideas. So that was how it evolved in terms of listening. And now I still listen to really broad genres of music. I love electronic music, Warp Records, Ninja Tune, Erased Tapes.  I like a lot of ambient music and still I love jazz music: contemporary and old jazz records. I like a lot of West African music. I seem to listen to more and more of that and I have quite a big reggae and dub collection actually. I collect records still. I like DJing with actual records, not MP3s or whatever. But, so yeah, it’s slowly collecting all sorts of things from around the world.

Yeah, that’s cool! Earlier you mentioned Aphex Twin, and that you like electronic music, and I wanted to ask, did you listen to his latest release, the late mini-album? What do you have to say about it?

— Yeah, I did. It’s okay. It’s not my favorite thing he’s done, but it’s not a bad thing either. I genuinely think that Apex Twin is one of the most important figure in contemporary music. He’s like a Mozart of… I don’t actually like Mozart, but you know, in terms of someone that has made history, I think the diversity of his releases and his catalog and how playful and how his ability to create immense energy and personality within his music, but using electronics software is quite incredible. And I always get excited every time he releases something and sometimes I’m blown away by it. I actually really like the EP, the Collapse EP, the one before this release and I liked «Syro» (2014) as well. But I would say my favourite Aphex records are on «…I Care Because You Do» (1995) and «Richard D. James Аlbum» (1996). I really like «Selected Ambient Works 85-92» and «Selected Ambient Works Volume II». I really love them.


All of those came out in 1990s. Like, his Golden period.

— Yeah, he’s definitely, even though he’s not a jazz musician, he’s someone that I think anyone that’s into music should definitely just give a listen to his catalogue. It’s so incredible.

Yeah, I completely agree with you, Matthew, he’s so important. I just feel this connection between like Aphex Twin, Arca and Björk. To me these are three artists that just define all the nature of modern world, like in music landscape.

What have been some of the most challenging aspects of running a record label? What were the experiences or situations that taught you the most?

— I guess I’ve been lucky that in general it’s been a nice, relaxing and slow build, we didn’t rush signing any artists, we didn’t feel that we needed to have a certain amount of artists or a certain amount of releases per year to be in a particular place. So, it’s been really nice to be mellow and just let the music happen when it’s ready. I think that some of the highlights are obviously when we celebrate as a record label things like our 10th anniversary was really special.

We did a big day festival in London and we had at the time all the artists that were on the record label, so Hania Rani came, Portico Quarter and Mammal Hands, me and Phil France, John Ellis, it was everyone on the record label came and played. And for everyone to be in the same space, space in the hangout and have a drink together and talk together and just be in the same room was really important. And for the fans to be able to see everyone together was amazing. So I think that’s one of my highlights. I don’t really have that many bad experiences because I’m quite careful about who we work with. And I would say that the only thing that is hardest when… The record label is a collaboration and everyone’s input is really important and valuable. Sometimes some artists decide that they want to control more things than just the music and that gets hard maybe when someone wants to take control of artwork or videos or you know we normally work with a team of people some of them create the artwork, some of them help with the videos and when someone changes that it becomes difficult because it’s less of a collaboration.

I think the worst thing that can happen with a record label is you become like a bank that lends musicians money and you have no involvement in anything other than giving people money to spend on their records, because I think that’s not a collaboration. They may as well go and get a loan from a bank and make the record themselves if they don’t value the team that is there to support them and to help them to add quality to the release. That’s probably the only thing that I would say is difficult. I really believe in a saying which is that things are greater than the sum of the best things are normally greater than the sum of its parts. So that means that, you know, when you collaborate and everyone’s input is, has value, you can achieve something far more unique and beautiful than one individual can create. And that’s been a really important ethos for us as a record label, to be a team that can evolve and develop and help each other.

When the label just started, did you have a vision what music would the label release and vision-wise, how the album covers would look like? Did you from the start had a perception of the label’s aesthetics as a whole? I mean, it definitely has one.

— Yeah, I would say that I always wanted my brother to be involved in the graphic design and he still is now for 15 years. Daniel has been working on graphic design and we were both massive fans of Warp Records and Ninja Tune and Erased Tapes. So, and even earlier in Manchester there was Factory Records, it was a really important record label. So we had an idea that we wanted the covers to have certain graphic design quality levels and kind of layouts. But we also loved things like the early releases that were influenced by Blue Note and Impulse and labels like that, jazz record labels. So there was definitely a lot of research done on cover art and the direction and how to be unique but also kind of show respect and references to our favourite covers of the past. And musically, I think the only thing that I really had in mind was that I wanted to support, originally, people in the north of England… London is the capital city and is, you know, everything seems to happen in London. And if you’re not in London, then you don’t exist. And I love London and I’ve been really happy to go there and play gigs, but…

There’s no decentralization.

— Yeah, a lot of musicians everyone outside of London seems to get forgotten. The artists that we’ve signed and supported and worked with are people that are from Manchester or Leeds or even Mammal Hands were from Norwich, which was another place that’s not very well known for music. So yeah, we just wanted to work with people that needed the support and that helps make the music unique. In London if you listen to a lot of the music, it follows genres and trends and movements a lot more than in Manchester [where] people just make music without really caring about the kind of whatever’s hip or popular at the moment, they just make music. Some musicians in London are unique and make a… like Portico Quartet are based in London and make music that doesn’t sound like anyone else but they’re a rare kind of artist. But in general, yeah, that’s what we wanted to do.

Lately they started to put more electronic stuff in their music and it just sounds beautiful. I have no words to describe it but that’s just huge experiment that I just love.

Yeah, they’re brilliant.

Yeah! Coming back to my earlier question, you know, my take is that a person who goes on Gondwana’s YouTube, Bandcamp, site etc. sees those stylistic and minimalistic album covers to pretty different music records. I just want to say that the label’s aesthetics, its’ visual component glues quite different releases as it would make a statement that music on your label may be very different stylistic-wise, but at certain point it has similar concepts and approaches in it. Do you think that Gondwana Records has its’ own “sound”? If it has, how would you describe it?

— I think it has its own visuals and sound, but it’s not exclusive sounds in some ways. I think the key thing is that it’s influenced by multiple genres. It has crossover in everything. So even the jazz we make has a lot of spiritual and meditative sounds and eastern sounds in it, not traditional jazz instrumentation, like things like the harp and the tanpura. Different instruments tend to be used. And with the more contemporary, I guess, sounding stuff like GoGo Penguin, Mammal Hands, Portico Quartet, they all have this beautiful crossover with the influence from electronica and also mixing in things like the Portico Quartet and Mammal Hands.

Things like the hang drum in Portico Quartet is very distinctive and unique. It’s like an instrument that is very rare nowadays. I don’t even think you can buy the one. The maker stopped making them. And with Mammal Hans having no bass player, but also having the drummer, he’s actually trained in Indian classical music to play. He can play tablas and everything, and has an Indian guru. So a lot of his rhythms and his kind of percussive elements in his music make Mammal Hans very different to anyone else because there’re these Indian patterns and rhythms ingrained in him as a musician. And I think that all of the musicians have this and that makes it sound like a style and a genre of its own. So yeah.

Please, tell me how the album covers are done. You earlier mentioned your brother. How goes the conversation when you and musicians choose one? As I can tell, many of them have references to the 1910s, 1920s’ art. Like suprematism of Kazimir Malevich. How the process of making an album cover looks like?

— It’s really a question for my brother, but I can answer it to whatever level I am aware of. My brother likes to make the album covers whilst listening to the music. So, he gets music in advance and he spends a long time drawing and listening and creating different ideas on his sketch pads and then scans them, ideas and turns them into digital shapes if they feel like they need to be more contemporary looking. We have some references. Sometimes some of the artists are like: «We trust your brother to do whatever he wants».

He can make something amazing, something really fresh, different. And other artists have some ideas of what they want. And I think it depends on the confidence and trust between the artist and my brother. But the ones recently, the Chip Wickham, Phi Psonics, Vega Trails, there’s a whole load of album covers that my brother did that the artist, Svaneborg Kardyb, they all just let my brother just do his thing and he made something really fresh and unique that they all really loved. And that is the best possible way to do it, is to have this really nice organic creative process.

What strategies or approaches have you found most effective in promoting the label and its artists?

—  I think one of the big platforms for us is a record label, and we didn’t actually realize this until about three or four years ago, is YouTube has become a huge platform for us. It’s actually our highest subscription platform. So we’ve been working a lot, we love being creative, basically. And if there’s an excuse to make beautiful videos, we have now got a perfect excuse, because the platform YouTube is really video-heavy content. So we would make a lot of music videos and live performance videos. Instagram is really important for the visual aesthetic. So we spend a lot of time getting photos and videos made for promotional purposes. And also to show artistic.

All the musicians we work with are incredible live, so it’s nice to be able to show someone who has lived in a different country what that artist can do live, so they can get a feel for it and enjoy that. I think things like, other than that, doing lots of interviews and podcast things and touring as much as possible is really important. The more energy the artist has and is prepared to go and promote the music and play it live and interact with the world, the more the world interacts with the artist. It’s like the artists who are successful to the highest level on the record label are the ones that go out and play live all the time.

There are many like social medias to put you into a conversation with your listeners. And you personally have these Spotify playlists and you sometimes mention them on your Instagram. So that people besides listening to your newer stuff can come back to your earlier catalogue or Gondwana Records label stuff and just dive into deeply. Have there been any artists that have significantly changed or influenced the course of Gondwana Records? You said that it was a pretty soft run but was there the moment when somebody entered your group and things started to change?

—  I listen to music so much, like all day, every day. If I’m not making music I’m probably listening to it. You immediately, you find music and sounds of musicians that completely like, it’s like an immediate emotional connection. And I think it’s the same if you’re an artist and you go and look at enough artwork or graphic design, you know, Miles Davis in particular, because obviously he’s a trumpet player, but he’s a trumpet player that isn’t necessarily a flashy explosive trumpet player. He’s more considered and kind of…


—  Yeah. And I love his records because every record is different, like the sound of every record. He never made the same record, really. He’s the obvious one. There’s Don Cherry, I really love the trumpet player. Alice Coltrane, really important, Pharoah Sanders… I could name a load of 60s ones, but then people like the Cinematic Orchestra, the early records, not what they’re releasing now, but ones like «Motion» and «Everyday», were really important to me.

I like listening to a lot of stuff that isn’t obvious like Boards of Canada, I love Boards of Canada, in particular again the first two or three albums, the way they joined the dots with electronica and nature and kind of and environmental things. And even structurally and production wise, there’s things I really like about artists like that, and Aphex, and you start to have a bunch of playlists just of one artist that I find interesting and kind of influential. You know, like Bonobo, another artist that I would say that his early catalog, the first two or three albums, there’s some really beautiful collages of samples and ideas of how to put things together.

And the nice thing is that you often find inspiration not in the genre that you necessarily are as an artist, but by listening to music outside of that and then going «How can I use that?», and you know: instrumentation, the combinations. Bonobo is an example, when he sampled on his «Dial ‘M’ for Monkey» album that has lots of really interesting sounds of like glockenspiels and kind of exotic Tibetan instruments and also things like the use of the guitar and the melodies and there’s bits of trumpet and clarinet and things in there that I find the way that they combine.

The way sample producers combine sounds often gives you really good ideas to make music not from samples, but working with musicians. So I’ll suddenly go: «I love the sound of the bass clarinet or the clarinet on this record. Why don’t I go and make some tracks featuring a clarinet player?». So that tends to happen a lot, where I’m suddenly like, I’m into something that isn’t jazz. And the way that the musician is playing is like snippets of beautiful melodies and stuff. And that then gives you an idea.

Yeah, I understand you. I’ve got so many friends that are professional sax, trumpet players, and they in their free time listen mostly to post-metal, to ambient and classical music, and that’s just okay. This is the way people live now. They’re just listening to everything that connects to them, and they feel right with this. But I can give you a perspective like how it was 20 years ago in Ukraine. There were some camps, like if you listen hip-hop – you’re in a hip-hop camp, if you’re a metal kind of person you cannot have this mutual experience without going out of group style of life. And now it has changed and that’s just cool.

—  Yeah, I think the way people listen to music now is different and I think it’s opened up a lot more possibilities in a positive way because of platforms like Spotify and Bandcamp and Apple Music and there’s an endless amount of different platforms where playlists have become really important and radio has become less important.

I say that in a way where I actually care a lot about radio and I wouldn’t be doing lots of interviews and podcasts and different things if I didn’t care about it, but I think that radio has reached a point where there’s so many age groups and so many different genres and periods of successful music that radio has become really trapped. Does it move forward or does it play the classic greatest hits? And there’s not that many contemporary radio stations that are kind of on big scales. And I think that that’s meant that the younger generations are now not really listening to radio, but they’re very influenced by playlisting and curations of playlists. And the playlists are multiple genres and much more open.

And the way that the algorithms work and they generate other things that you might be influenced. «If you like this music, you might want to listen to this music». That kind of idea is really, really important in the growth and the kind of openness of music and creativity, I think. And it’s one of the positives of a strange era of streaming and kind of low-paid musicians, but it’s also a very liberating and free point.

Yes, sure! I’ve got two more questions. How do you see the future of Gondwana Records? Are there any specific goals or milestones you’re aiming for?

—  I’m really looking forward to it. I think our 20th anniversary in five years will be special. I think we’re going to do lots of amazing things. We’ve already had discussions and plans with that. I don’t think there’s anything dramatic that’s going to happen in terms of we’re not suddenly going to change style or become something different. We’re just going to keep celebrating the music and artists that we love and be community-based record label. So that may be not the best way of saying it (Laughs).

We’re kind of in a happy, chilled and positive place where the team has grown, we have a big, we have 7 members of staff paid on to work on the record label. The structure and success of all the releases is very stable, so I think that there will be like a good positive growth, but at the same time we know how hard this industry is, so we are not one of those record labels that will suddenly change and become something bigger or kind of overnight. It’ll be maybe when the 20th anniversary hits, you’ll see a real nice, steady, positive growth.

How do you feel what has been your biggest achievement with Gondwana Records thus far, and what is your greatest aspiration for its future?

—  I would say it’s the same what I said earlier about my favorite achievements and has been when sharing and celebrating the creative success when we do events together, so we have one in Belgium coming up in Wales, myself, Hania Rani, Jasmin…

(Air alert begins. Sounds of sirens.)

I’m sorry, russians are trying to bomb us, I will close the door. We’ve got, rockets alert. Sorry, I stopped you.

—  It’s OK. So, I would say that the events where we come together is my favourite thing. And when we look back at how many beautiful releases we put out, I feel really proud. I think working with musicians from different places has been really positive, like Poland and Estonia and Denmark and America, all of the places. I would love to work with a Ukrainian musician at some point, you know.

You know, we’ve got such a good community of jazz musicians and they’re hugely inspired by your label. I’ve got a friend, he is a professional pianist, Yevhenii Dubovyk, and he’s got the release this year, «Resistance», about Ukrainian resistance against Russian military aggression, and stylistic-wise it kind of reminds me of Mammal Hands and Portico Quartet. They have this mutual feel, but it’s unique at the same time.

—  I’m very always really interested to see different cities and cultures and kind of how people make music in their environments and stuff. And so I think, yeah, I’d love to hear those things. And if it feels good, it’s always nice because it’s something we can do together, if it feels like we can’t help, that’s not that we don’t necessarily like the music, it’s just that we don’t feel like we’re the right people to push it in the right direction.

We only can do what we can do. We have 16 artists at the moment and it’s crazy. But there will be someone at some point from Ukraine that will send us something and they will just feel amazing, we’ll just be blown away. Because there’s always great artists and we believe that we’ll find them in each place, someone that connects with us.

I mean, that’s not a problem. I can write down the list of our artists and if you would like to listen to our music, you would check out and maybe…

—  I would love to!

Yeah, I can make it for sure. No problem! (Laughs)

—  I think we’re just really happy to have done what we’ve done, really excited about all the events that we have come up with and coming with multiple musicians on the same bill. We did some gigs in Hamburg. And the last one we had Mammal Hands, Svaneborg, Kardyb, and Jasmine Myra all played in the Elbphilharmonie, which is this incredible venue. And I just went over just to celebrate with them this amazing concert that was sold out. And those memories are the ones that I cherish, were not necessarily when I’m playing my own music, or when there’s lots of people together hanging out and having drinks and making music and performing music. It’s great.

[1] “The «relationship» between hip-hop and jazz is a highly important and relevant topic for understanding the current musical landscape. I’ll mention the following markers: Miles Davis – ‘Doo-Wop’ (1992) (jazz meets hip-hop rhythms); A Tribe Called Quest – the album ‘Low End Theory’ (1991) (hip-hop artists create instrumental accompaniment with samples of jazz musicians); the rhythmic experiments of beatmaker J Dilla – his creation of a ‘drunken’ hip-hop groove, now used by thousands of (jazz) drummers worldwide; the crazy popularity of mixtapes on YouTube like ‘lo-fi hip-hop beats’ – also a result of blurring the boundaries between jazz and hip-hop; finally, Kendrick Lamar’s album ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ (2015) (a hip-hop artist collaborates with a huge number of jazz musicians, creating his magnum opus about the history of African Americans in the United States with numerous references to African culture. The result: 7 Grammy nominations and one win in the ‘Best Rap Album’ category).

About the Author

The Claquers is a Ukrainian online magazine devoted to classical music that unites a group of music critics with the mission to foster a critical conversation about art music in Ukraine and beyond. The Claquers organization was founded in June 2020 by musicologist Stas Nevmerzhytskyi and three colleagues: musicologist Dzvenyslava Safian, music theorist Liza Sirenko, and cultural critic Oleksandr Ostrovskyi.

The publication’s provocative name suggests the context in which The Claquers was conceived. After two previous generations of proactive critics who had careers in education and cultural promotion, classical music criticism was limited to either positive reviews or no reviews at all. A fresh and uncensored eye on events in classical music life in Ukraine was needed to shake up the musical community and complete the country’s classical music ecosystem.

Unlike in western Europe and North America, art music audiences in Ukraine are much younger. The collective of writers with The Claquers is also young, and has taken on the task of explaining to these new listeners why a long tradition of classical music in Ukraine exists, and how it became a part of today’s cultural life. As a group The Claquers considers its main goals: to educate about contemporary classical Ukrainian music, to build bridges with popular culture by publishing about diverse musical genres and other arts (such as music in literature or in film), to expand the critical tools of music criticism with audio podcasts, and to cultivate audiences abroad via an English version of the website.

The Claquers was made possible by generous funding that enabled its establishment and is sustained by the generosity of donors on Patreon. This singular and engaged Ukrainian online hub devoted to classical music continues to engage people in this music and invite new authors.

Stas Nevmerzhytskyi (ФОП Станіслав Невмержицький), individual proprietor

The registration number of the taxpayer's registration card, or the series and number of the passport:

Location of a individual proprietor:
Ukraine, 04212, Kyiv city, TYMOSHENKA STREET, building 2K, room 302

Date and number of entry in the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, individual proprietor and public organizations:
10/16/2020, 2000690010002052048


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