Label Liaison: Kalita – Interview with Chris Webb

Great records can come and go without much notice. They’ll sit in dusty crates, dark basements, and wait for the right listener to get lucky enough to throw them on the turntable.

Kalita is a London based label that specializes in polishing up those forgotten records and breathing new life into them. Kalita is the result of some unique artists – and some particularly interesting records – finding themselves revived and in the hands of music lovers around the world. From disco hits to reggae, soul and boogie jams, Kalita is reissuing forgotten gems the right way.

We were able to chat with Chris Webb, Kalita’s founder, to talk about the roots of the label, what makes a record worthy of being reissued, how reissuing affects the prices of rare vinyl and the future of Kalita.

Can you tell us about your background and upbringing? How did it lead to Kalita getting started?

My interest in dance music began during my undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol, UK. Bristol has a fantastically vibrant music scene with tons of great record shops, and I fell in love with black music, in particular disco and boogie. My interest increasingly grew over the three years that I lived in Bristol, after which I then moved to London to study for a postgraduate degree. Soon after arriving, I began to work at the brilliant Love Vinyl record store in Hoxton almost every weekend, where I was able to learn from the four owners who were all extremely knowledgeable in their field. At the same time, I also realised that I also wanted to run my own business, and starting the record label seemed like a natural progression and fusing of my interests.

What’s your process for finding the records that you want to reissue? Are there certain checkpoints that a record, an artist or even a story must have to make you want to press it?

If it makes me want to dance then it’s a worthy contender. But of course, there has to be a market demand or the opportunity to create demand, so obscurity also helps to gain interest. And if I’m able to find out an interesting story about the record by talking to the artist or rightsholder (and there ALWAYS is a story!) which I can share, then that’s the icing on the cake!

Can you tell us about your most recent reissue – the re-release of Michael Paul’s 1984 reggae boogie single ‘Reggae Music’?

Michael Paul’s ‘Reggae Music’ had been on the want list to re-release for a long while. It’s a fantastic example of crossover music, where reggae has been fused perfectly with synths to a glorious boogie result. Luckily I was able to track down the rightsholder and we went from there! We just hope that everyone enjoys the music as much as us!

Does repressing rare vinyl decrease the value of the original pressings? Is part of your mission with Kalita to solve some of the high price disparities for rare records on sites like Discogs?

Sometimes it can, but other times it can do the opposite, actually raising prices due to increased interest in the reissued record. My mission with Kalita isn’t really related to solving high prices, it’s just about getting great, lost music back out there to be heard and do it properly and officially.

What are the Kalita milestones or projects that you are most proud of?

I’m proud of everything we’ve released, however, it’s always nice to get music out there that has never been heard before. Therefore, the release of Emerson’s 1988 unreleased album ‘If You Need Me, Call Me’ was a great personal win. I’d always been a massive fan of his 7” single ‘Sending All My Love Out’ and the words ‘From the LP ‘If You Need Me, Call Me’ felt almost taunting – where was this album, and why did it never come out? Luckily we were able to get in touch with Emerson and his wife/label partner Leora and fix that wrong, getting this fantastic album out into the wild 40 years after its recording.

I’ve noticed more reissuing labels popping up and sharing some awesome hidden gems. What do you think the state of the repressing business will be like 5 or 10 years from now?

Yep, the reissue world is getting busier and busier! I honestly don’t know what it’ll look like, but I’m looking forward to finding out. I think genre focuses might alter slightly, and also a lot of larger labels are now releasing new music too to help diversify, which is great. Sometimes you get to a stage where you think everything has been discovered, but then along comes a new record that hardly anyone knew about and the search is on once again!

What other reissuing labels do you admire?

Strut, Soundway, Analog Africa are a few of my favourite labels. They don’t just release great music but also tell the story behind the music, which is equally important.

The story of Rudy Mills and Muchos Plus for the Nassau’s Discos record was really interesting (and it’s one of my favourites on the label). Can you tell us how you were able to track Rudy down and start that project?

Yes, that’s a great record! It was a joy to be able to work with Rudy and finally get that one out back into the world. Rudy runs an occasional radio station in New Orleans, and I also knew that he leads a band himself. With that info, a bit of google delving was enough to be able to get a contact for a lead, which after a bit more searching got us in contact with Rudy.

If you could reissue any record in the world, what would it be?

One great record I’d love to reissue is Oneness’ ‘Watching You’. But after so many attempts, all of the leads go to dead ends, sadly. Hopefully, someone will be successful one day!

Any new projects coming up in the near future for Kalita?

So many. It’s going to be a hectic next couple of years, that’s for sure. Lots of great reggae boogie, US soul, boogie and Ghanaian burger highlife (including compilations!) to come, so watch this space!

Check out Kalita’s discography

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