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Q&A: Jannis Stürtz of Habibi Funk, New Label For Old Arabic Tunes

Jannis Stürtz and Malte Kraus run the Berlin- and Cologne-based label Jakarta Records, which boasts an eclectic roster of hip-hop, jazz, bass; whatever they’re into that has a groove. While Jakarta remains home to new releases, it just gave birth to its first reissue sub-label, the excellently named Habibi Funk. We shared a mix that Stürtz put together from records he came across while hunting through the dusty musical corners—both metaphorically and literally—of the Arabic-speaking world. The mix was so good we decided we had to reach out to Stürtz, who told us about record hunting in Germany and beyond, and how both labels mirror his own aesthetic sensibilities.

Ben Richmond: So, first question–Why is your label called Jakarta Records? I was describing the label to someone, and he didn’t understand what a German label that just released a mix of Arabic funk had to do with Indonesia.

Jannis Stürtz: Honestly, not much. When we started the label years ago we were about to go on a trip, traveling to Indonesia and Malaysia. The first city we flew into was Jakarta, we didn’t know what to call the label and there it was. So, not much of a connection with Indonesia, though the name gets us some following by Indonesians on social media outlets.

What’s the connection between the new stuff being released on Jakarta, and the Habibi Funk world?

We have an artist on our label called Blitz the Ambassador who used to get some gigs in Morocco. Around the same time I was the project manager for a German NGO that did a music project in Tunisia [the Sawtuha album] so I got to see some of North Africa. While I was there I started digging, found some incredible stuff, did the first mix. Around that time the idea to do some reissues was formed, so we started to try to find those artists from back then, which can be a challenge at times.

Did you collect these records yourself in North Africa or more locally? Where did you find good record stores? Were you even looking for records in record stores?

No, most of the stuff I find locally, some online. Honestly, up until last year you could find crazy stuff in stores, e.g., in Morocco, at least if you found the stores. These days it’s harder and you rather have to go to markets, remoter areas, smaller towns.

While you were traveling in North Africa, did people know what you were looking for? How well known are these artists in their homelands?

It really depends. Some are virtually unknown, even in their home countries, while others are major stars. In general the whole concept of looking for music on vinyl has been widely forgotten, though. The format is extinct and I didn’t really meet an active local digger, unlike, let’s say, in Turkey where you also have a lot of Turkish people looking for old Anadolu rock.

What’s the record-store scene like in Cologne and Berlin?

It’s OK, some great stores for new stuff. I don’t really buy too much in either city these days, not because the stores are not cool, more so ’cause I’m focused on that very specific niche of which not much made it to Germany so it’s nearly impossible to find good Arabic stuff here.

Let’s talk about Habibi Funk 003 Mix: Lot of variety in the music itself—some of it more synthesizer-heavy, some of it fairly acoustic sounding. How did you decide what went on it?

Honestly, whatever I like. I guess there is this combining element that it is music by Arabic musicians that, one way or another, got inspired by music that was popular in Europe and North America around the time but there is no real strategy behind the selection. It’s really just what I find and like.

Any favorite tracks?

Definitely the tracks by Dalton [Such as “Alech,” the opener–Ed] but I guess I have a special relation to them as those two are the first that we officially re-released.

What do we have to look forward to from Jakarta?

The up-and-coming releases by Ivan Ave, FloFilz, Suff Daddy, JuJu Rogers and a bunch of other talented people. For Habibi the next re-release will be eight tracks from Fadoul, Morocco’s answer to James Brown—my absolute fave discovery from the region.

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