Photo Credit: Greg Middleton
Many moons ago, over 40 years ago to be exact, Eboni Band dropped their self-titled LP. Come June 2021, it was decided that they needed to reintroduce the world to their fusion of soul and funk, and thus a remastered version was dropped for a whole new generation. We talked to Abdoulaye Soumare about the decision to re-release, how the industry has changed, and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: When ‘Eboni Band’ initially dropped, Kim Kardashian was far from dominating the world. In fact, she was just born. Who’s idea was it to remaster this record over four decades after its debut?
Abdoulaye Soumare: Eric Warner at We Are Busy Bodies approached Greg Middleton and Art Stewart, and after discovering about each other the decision was made to go with Eric.
Kendra: When Noah Mintz stepped up to the plate on this, what was the game plan for remastering? Was it to just enhance what was there or were there parts that he wanted to fully redo?
Abdoulaye Soumare: Noah worked with Art to keep the sound as true to the original as art intended. It was a vinyl to vinyl remastering that was focused on keeping all of the levels balanced. It was less about enhancing and more about creating a solid remaster to press vinyl from and to have digital versions of.
Kendra: MTV was a year from launching when ‘Eboni Band’ dropped back in 1980, and since then the music landscape… has been through some changes. From then to now, what has been the most fascinating and most devastating thing to happen to music and the industry?
Abdoulaye Soumare: Well a lot has happened. First, when MTV launched they did not want to play Black music until Michael Jackson’s popularity reached a level they could not fight. Then hip hop hit the world. On the African side, hip hop motivated young African artists to combine hip hop and Afrobeat which is now the music that took over Africa and its Diaspora and is now entering the world scene.
The growth in Africa’s music and movie scene motivated major international players (media and entertainment) to expand in Africa; Live Nation is now operating in South Africa only, Sony Music is now operating in South, East & West Africa, Universal Music is now operating in South, East & West Africa, Def Jam Africa is now in Johannesburg and Lagos, Viacom International is operating under MTV in Africa, Roc Nation’s Tidal Music Streaming is now operating in Africa, Netflix is now operating in Africa, Warner Brother is now operating in Nigeria, and Apple Music expands services to seventeen new African countries up from thirteen;
The sad thing is that Africa still does not have a record company that can distribute a record the same day all over the continent and also does not have a touring company that can take an act to perform from one region to the other. Live Nation, the world’s number one live event company, is only operating in South Africa today. But for us African professionals, there is space for an African-owned live entertainment company and we are fishing to launch it.
Kendra: The first single the world got a taste of from this remastered album is “Sing a Happy Song (Shake It Down).” It’s one of those songs that instantly puts people in a better mood. Given the past year we’ve all had – was this an intentional single release?
Abdoulaye Soumare: For sure, releasing that song now will most likely bring people to the dance floor to shake it down, especially with the summer parties and clubs opening up.
Kendra: This record is deeply rooted in soul and funk, genres that aren’t always on top of the charts but have greatly influenced what is there. Do you feel any current artists are keeping these styles alive and well and doing them with the same grace and dignity that musicians that made up Eboni Band did back in the day?
Abdoulaye Soumare: The one artist I can think of is Bruno Mars, the hottest one.