Virtual crate digging through diverse music from Africa with PMG
January 30, 2017 8:47 PM   Subscribe

On the "virtual crate-digging" aspect, PMG doesn't provide any description of their newer titles, so all you go by is the album art, which is half the fun. And then if you find some music you might like, it might be sold out, but you could be in luck and find it's available elsewhere. For instance, Adele Sebastian, an Afro American jazz flutist and singer who died at 27, released a single album, Desert Fairy Princess. It's sold out via PMG, but it's digitally available on Nimbus West, which can send you down another rabbit hole.

Also, PMG has more than re-issues of fantastic music from around Africa, they also have Fata Morgana, Nico's last concert, and the newest addition to the label is a limited edition LP of remixes of Pilots on Dope's Udopeia, which came out in 2014.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:04 PM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, this is just fine.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:53 PM on January 30, 2017

DJ Sasquatch pulls through again with incredible music I need in my life. Thanks FLT.
posted by sleeping bear at 10:47 PM on January 30, 2017

These Andy Kershaw travel/music documentaries might make some nice complementary listening. Andy visits Mali, South Africa, Ethiopia and many other countries, meeting people and collecting field recordings of their music all the way. The resulting programmes are heartwarming and hugely enjoyable - just what we need in these dark, Trumpian days.
posted by Paul Slade at 1:27 AM on January 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

A vinyl forum I frequent turned up the interesting story that PMG Audio is probably a semi-bootleg label with a power electronics connection.

One of the members got an email from the founder (Markus Presch) asking if they could send a .wav of this extremely fine Nigerian album, as they were planning to reissue it but had found out their copy had "non-repairable background noise". Most labels do not reissue albums from audio strangers on the internet might give them!

It then turned up Markus Presch is a member of Rasthof Dachau, an industrial duo with a very strong penchant for right-wing Nazi imagery. While this is a storied tradition all the way back to Throbbing Gristle to try and shock people, it's not a very good look nowadays as it often holds actual neo-nazis under a thin veneer of art. He responded, stating yes he repudiates that music now as an angry young man who wanted to shock, but has since seen the error of his ways and turned to Jesus (!).

Further statements from a couple of Nigerian musicians in support of PMG (real or fake? I'm not sure, and it's difficult to verify) suggest he is probably licensing a lot of music directly from the artists, paying them something, and skirting label rights. I suggest the sheer amount of music released by the label in a couple of years supports this - it is not that easy to resolve rights issues, and can take years. Who is really getting paid remains unclear. Most of these people would not have been well serviced with album royalties in the first place, so any money flowing back to them will be good, but there's still exploitation potential.

For a slightly shady label, the audio quality is apparently quite high as well - something that does not occur so often with bootlegs.

I would not entirely recommend buying from them but I don't think it's the worst thing you could do either. I recommend purchasing from more established reissue labels like Finders Keepers, Now-Again, Honest Jon's, Superfly if the album is available from them. If not, stream it on the bandcamp.

Keep enjoying the music - the sound of Disco Africa is truly wonderful.
posted by solarion at 6:10 AM on January 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

solarion, thanks for the context. Looking at their "back" catalog (farther down the Bandcamp page), it's a weird mix of releases that doesn't have the same cohesion in theme as the established re-issue labels you listed.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:19 AM on January 31, 2017

For what it's worth, I came away from the discussions about whether PMG was exploitative or not feeling like I would never buy from them. Presch was not only a member of an edgy harsh noise band that employed Nazi imagery but also ran a label that released that kind of crypto-fascist music. For instance, in a live recording of a festival named after the label, one of his main acts performs the Nazi national anthem. Perhaps his change of heart is genuine, but his personal history is troubling, especially in the context of reports about his business practices.

Criticism of PMG originated with Frank Gossner, a prominent collector of African music with many contacts among musicians on the continent. Gossner reported that some of the music is licensed and some isn't. Presch has claimed to have licensed music directly from someone who had been dead for years, for instance. His contracts explicitly disinclude royalties from CD sales, claiming falsely that they're used only for promotional purposes. It seems as if Presch makes a superficial effort to license music that would not satisfy most people who want to see African artists treated fairly.
posted by vathek at 9:30 AM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

vathek and iamck, thank you both for the additional information and thoughts. I'm sorry I didn't do more digging before making this post, because I might have not made it at all, or at least provide context.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:15 AM on January 31, 2017

This rules, thank you!
posted by Capricorn13 at 11:49 AM on January 31, 2017

I'm sorry I didn't do more digging before making this post, because I might have not made it at all, or at least provide context.

If nothing else, it's a fine space to note that not all reissue labels are created equal. The internet has awakened new interests in a lot of this music - it's not just available to trainspotters anymore - and commensurately new bootleg labels have sprung up to take advantage.

Do a little research when buying. If a label has a suddenly very large discography but little if any info about the music, shady rights issues are likely. One example - 30 or so reissues in the space of a year (and no compilations or bonus tracks either - just straight-up albums) is instantly suspicious for a new label.
posted by solarion at 4:48 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Too true.

It's worth pointing out that even labels that start bad can turn good, though. Early Mississippi records were bootlegs, but after getting a lot of criticism (especially about various African reissues), they started licensing. At least that is my understanding.
posted by OmieWise at 10:59 AM on February 2, 2017

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