International Colour: Sofrito Talk
In times of disparity, trouble and strife it can be difficult to seek the light. However, colour and charisma has always been at home amidst the carnivalesque soul and spirit of Sofrito. Originally founded amongst the spiralling chaos of the East London warehouse party scene, the tropical discotheque has come a long way since its early roots. Years later, now a flourishing label, they have become a symbolic entity of a crossover which has inspired club culture, pushing it upwards in unity with progressive forward thinking music and integrity.
Now based in Paris, Hugo describes those extravagant parties which took place in the sprawling maze of Hackney in the days of pre-gentrification.
“Sofrito started as a series of events in London ten odd years ago. We realised there wasn’t anywhere playing that kind of music in the kind of place we wanted to hear it. I grew up in London in the nineties, it was garage, it was drum n’ bass, reggae, pirate radio and all of that stuff. We were obviously big fans of other kinds of music, Latin and African etc. We wanted to present that in a warehouse type setting, taking the idea of being young and into going clubbing and playing world music. The atmosphere was charmingly shambolic, there was a nice mix of men and women, it was very inclusive.”
The origins of the label lie very much in these early experiences. In fact, the first release could be said to have happened almost by accident as Hugo explains.
“Frank is a cutting engineer, he runs a mastering studio called Carvery. We would cut dubplates of tracks to play at the party, because although we are not purist about format, we play a lot of old vinyl and a lot of the quality of that stuff is not so great if you are playing on a big rig. For example a seventies record from Ghana, some of them work but some of them don’t really kick, so we’d cut them. We thought we’d stick out a white label and see if people would buy it because there wasn’t that much stuff at the time like that. It went modestly well so we did another one.”
The Sofrito catalogue has evolved extensively in recent years as they continue to bring what they describe as “crossover, tried and tested dancefloor killers” to the bags of disc jockeys the world over. As well as editing and reissuing undiscovered music there has also been a focus on releasing music from new artists and groups that have found a place in the hearts of the duo, Alma Negra being a recent example.
However, Hugo is keen to enforce the belief that whilst the duo might be known as diggers, he does take offence to the exploitation and cultural appropriation of seeking out world music without paying tribute to its roots and background.
“You can find stuff anywhere, but for me, I find the discourse of English people going to foreign countries and finding black gold a bit dodgy. For me the most important experience I have of that was meeting a guy in Dominica who had a record shop in the seventies which shut down. He used to run a sound system in the seventies and we went back to hang out with him, bought records off him but he was also explaining what was played where. Records that maybe I was looking for a certain track from for a London dance floor, he would have that record but would never have played that track. All the records were circled with which track they’d used to play on the sound system, which rhythms were popular at the time and why they went out of fashion.”
With the duo now split between Paris and London, the opportunity for them to play together regularly has lessened, despite them still pulling in a large volume of bookings across the world. This afternoon they will play at Hyde Park in London which has been described as a “fantastic opportunity”. Hugo explains their selection in parties and gigs.
“The guys who do the Casa Bacardi thing, they’ve got a very interesting line up and they’ve been pulling in some interesting acts which come from an African background, a Cuban background, electronic and retro. It’s great to see them at a major festival, pulling in acts like that, which maybe wouldn’t of happened a few years ago.”
Colour is refreshing, Sofrito continue to remain responsible for expanding upon the limitations of club culture as they seek to include through musical diversity. Their party remains a melting pot of taste and musical creativity.
Follow Sofrito on Facebook HERE. Catch them at Casa Bacardi HERE.