Home Lifestyle Legendary SA music label Gallo celebrates 95 years with podcast series

Legendary SA music label Gallo celebrates 95 years with podcast series


South Africa’s largest and oldest independent music label chose to celebrate 95 years of music by launching a podcast series.

Zara Julius is the producer and researcher behind the podcast series. Picture: Supplied

GALLO is South Africa’s largest and oldest independent music label and is intricately woven into the country’s music industry.

Celebrating 95 years in business, the company has released a podcast series that delves to the industry’s colourful and dark past, including censorship and racial dynamics.

Gallo Vault Sessions is a six-part podcast series that explores the biggest catalogue of African music in the world.

In collaboration with Konjo, a creative research and cultural storytelling agency, Gallo Vault Sessions unpacks the rich and complex musical history throughout the last nine decades.

While looking at the backstories and overlooked tapes, the podcast also reflects on how music shapes culture and how culture has shaped music.

Listeners can expect interviews with artists, label executives, radio veterans and thought leaders.

Sipho ’Hotstix’ Mabuse was one of the famed artists to have come from Gallo over the years. Picture: Supplied

Gallo has represented music legends like Lucky Dube, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sipho ‘hotstix’ Mabuse and many more.

The first episode was released recently and the remaining five will be released on the last Thursday of the next five months.

The pilot episode, An introduction to Gallo Record Co, looked at how the first music label was created on South African soil.

Series producer, researcher and founder of Konjo, Zara Julius, said they paid special attention to difficult difficult subjects like radio censorship and race.

“We wanted to take Gallo’s history and legacy seriously and take ownership of the complexities as Gallo is a 95-year-old company,” she said.

“If you were to meet a 95-year-old person, they would be complex, with a lot of blind spots and oversights. A 95-year-organisation is not any different,” she added.

Julius was responsible for researching and navigating the brand’s story.

“There were many conversations to be had and many narratives, we had to pull together. We went for an audio-documentary feel,” she said.

She added: “There’s so much we don’t understand about South Africa’s musical history which is why we started with the foundation. Music and history of this sort deserves more than what we give it as consumers of culture.”

The producer described the curation as a deep dive into a rich and complex history.

“I had preliminary interviews with lots of people and had to spend a lot of time in the Gallo vault to understand what is in its catalogue,” she said.

“From there, I chose the themes that made the most sense. I also chose topics we don’t speak about with enough depth,” she continued.

Some of the titles in episodes include “Radio, Race & Genre in South Africa”, “Talent scouts & in-house producers” and “The cultural project of Whiteness & Afrikanerdom”.

Julius said she’s learnt so much in creating the project.

“It is difficult content. There was a lot to unpack and the content could have been triggering,” she said.

“At Konjo, we insist on not patronising our audience. So much of what exists on national channels is that we don’t challenge our audiences,” she added.

“That’s why we wanted to unpack the stories in a way that was meaningful.”

The takeaway for Julius was that so much was misunderstood.

“There’s always the same top-layer of conversations that are regurgitated so people are tired. Once you start digging into stories, it’s inspiring to see how people navigate it,” she said.

She added: “I hope people feel the excitement and inspiration when they hear how some of the music was created and the frameworks surrounding it.

“We often lift particular figures and forget about others. There were a lot of people working towards where we are today and what we hear in music.”

Music historian and archivist at Gallo, Rob Allingham, has been with the company for more than 40 years.

Allingham described being with a company that’s done this much over so many years has been “pretty miraculous”.

“The music history of South Africa spans so many years. Gallo has been a centre point of my life for the last 40 years,” he said.

He added: “It’s incredibly important that we keep the legacy of music alive. The musical legacy is not paid enough attention to.”

Sales and product manager at Gallo Records, Goodwill Nkuna, said the podcast was an opportunity to share the incredible history of the iconic music label, its artists, producers and songwriters.

“It’s significant in that Gallo’s story is relevant for the entire world. It provides context to the origins of the modern music we love today and the influence it’s drawn from this rich 95-year catalogue through the generations.”

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