I have to confess that the first I heard of Sol Power Sound was late last year. When they lined Bosq up with a set of Orchestre Poly Rythmo De Cotonou masters. Creating an E.P. that updated the legendary Benin group`s Voodoo Funk. Bolstering their bass-lines, and dropping their horns and wah-wah guitars into Dubwise, for 21st Century dance floors. But Sol Power Sound have been around a lot longer than that. Their latest vinyl outing reworks music from the Antillean archipelago. The Tambours de Martinique E.P. harnessing the breakneck percussion of Max Ransay and Eugene Mona to House 4 / 4s. To tie into its release I asked the collective a few questions.
Who are the Sol Power All-Stars, and how, when, where did you get together?
The core members of the Sol Power All-Stars are Marc Meistro and DJ Stylus. The extended Sol Power family includes Deep Sang and percussionist Hermon Farahi. The project originally began as a one-off party in Washington, DC in summer of 2009 with Marc Meistro, DJ Stylus and Deep Sang. By the fall of that year, the party evolved into a monthly event and we quickly enlisted Hermon Farahi – aka the most interesting man in the world – to join as the resident percussionist. By 2012 both Hermon and Deep Sang had relocated, but Marc Meistro and DJ Stylus kept Sol Power going in DC. Hermon and Deep Sang join when they can make it to town. The label, Sol Power Sound, launched in 2015 and is run by Marc and Stylus.
Where are you from, and where are you based?
Washington, DC. It’s more soulful and funky than you think.
Where are your favourite places to dance, chill and buy records?
In DC, the Eighteenth Street Lounge is a unique, world-class venue with top-notch programming. Ten Tigers Parlour has the best combination of lounge, dance floor and sound system in the city. There is also a party called Ritmos Raros with a very dedicated and enthusiastic following that is truly something special. It`s run by Sir Ramases, one of the premier diggers and collectors of vintage African, Latin, and Caribbean sounds. We love that party. Both as fans, and when we get the chance to DJ there.
Eighteenth Street Lounge
Ten Tigers Parlour
For chilling, there are many beautiful parks and soooo many wonderful – and free – museums. It’s hard to pick a favourite but the East Wing of the National Gallery, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Bonsai Museum at the National Arboretum, and the Museum of American Art are a few.
Museum of American Art
For records, Som Records, Joint Custody, and Joe’s Record Paradise are reliable favourites for digging. For newer dance music sounds, Bump n Grind is the go to spot.
Joe’s Record Paradise
Bump n Grind
Are you DJs? Musicians?
We are DJs and producers. I don’t think either of us would call ourselves “musicians” per se, in that we don’t play any instruments, but we do write and produce original music. When we have an idea that we can`t execute ourselves, we reach out to folks that can do it far better than we can for help.
What inspired you to start DJing, and make music?
Marc Meistro: For me, as the indy Hip Hop scene began emerging in the late 90s, a lot of the music I was discovering was only available on wax. I definitely needed those records, so in turn, I needed a turntable to play them on. The whole scratch DJ scene was pretty much beginning to blow up in parallel, and I was also getting into Jungle music as well. Between these three interests, it just made sense to get a set up and start learning what DJing was all about. By the early 2000s I was in college and regularly playing house parties – with future Sol Power member Deep Sang – lots of Dancehall, Hip Hop, and Funk and Disco party jams. By the mid 2000s I was back in DC playing in clubs. After DJing for a while I think there is an inherent desire to begin making music, so I finally bit the bullet and learned some producing basics. It was a little intimidating at first, but in hindsight I really wish I started a few years earlier.
DJ Stylus: I was a Hip Hop fiend all through my youth and settled into DJing after making my way through the dancing, and then rapping elements of the culture. I started DJing nightclubs in high school when I lived abroad, and then dove heavily into the DC scene when I returned to the area for college. That was a very fertile era, revitalising an underground urban arts scene that was analogous to the Black Broadway of DC in the early 20th century. That scene shaped me and propelled me to what I do now some twenty-five years later. Working on projects with the Soul /Jazz / Hip Hop community at that time is also where I started the natural addition of production to my DJing skillset.
Do you have any residencies? Regular parties? Radio shows? Do you play live?
Marc Meistro: I have a residency at the Eighteenth Street Lounge. Sol Power doesn’t currently have an active party, but we do get booked to play pretty regularly around DC and elsewhere.
DJ Stylus: I bounce between one-offs here and in other cities, occasionally, and team up with partners here in DC to curate specific themed events.
Who or what would be your key musical influences?
Marc Meistro: Dub and Reggae are a huge influence on my production. Specifically the engineering and production techniques utilised by Scientist. I think you can hear it in everything I do. Masters at Work, Roy Ayers, Michel Cleis, Glenn Underground, and obviously the sounds from West Africa and the Caribbean all find their way into my production. I could go on forever.
DJ Stylus: Classic Soul, Old school Hip Hop, Run-DMC and earlier, golden era Hip Hop, Go-Go, Jazz Fusion, Afro-Cuban… It would be easier to list my musical blind spots than everything that influences me, because the journey has been long and is still going. Marc and I share production influences though. The Nuyorican Soul album changed my life.
Can you give me any current favourite pieces of music?
DJ Stylus: Everything that 2000 Black, Dego and associates, put out. All the Jazz Re:freshed 5ive E.P.s. Every beat that Georgia Anne Muldrow posts on her Instagram.
Marc Meistro: I really like Detroit Swindle’s new LP, Highlife. Their compositions are always powerful and interesting, but their production is just soooo on point. I am also really feeling the new Bosq LP, Love and Resistance, Arp Frique’s LP, and the soon to be released E.P. by Blair French on Rock Steady Disco….oh, and one more, Applejac’s Adinkra E.P. on Shadeleaf is very very nice.
What made you decide to start the record label?
Honestly, we had a finished E.P. that we believed in but we could not find a label that wanted to put it out. So we looked into creating an imprint of our own. It did pretty well, so we started reaching out to our peers and began putting out their music. We try to be very thoughtful about each release and the vision has evolved a bit since its inception, but here we are today.
How did you hook up with T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, and Bosq? Will there be more releases from either of them on Sol Power Sound?
DJ Stylus has known Orchestre Poly Rythmo’s manager for a while. He reached out to us through Stylus and asked us to do a couple of remixes off of their last album on Because Music. Our remixes have not yet seen the light of day, but in return for our work for them, the band agreed to license some tunes to us for a remix E.P. We are HUGE fans so it was an incredible honour. We`ve known Bosq for many years – back since he was a Whiskey Baron and before he had the name “Bosq.” Whiskey Barons used to DJ at Eighteenth Street Lounge pretty regularly. We are huge fans of his production and his subtle approach to remixing and we knew Orchestre Poly Rythmo is one of his very favourite bands. So, while we originally were thinking of enlisting multiple remixers for the project, it was a very easy decision to go for a “Bosq meets Poly-Rythmo” E.P. when we finally landed on it. Fortunately, he was also into the idea. No plans for anything else from either of them, but you never know!
How did the connection with Hibiscus Records come about? Where did you first hear / discover those tunes by Max Ransay and Eugene Mona? Do you plan to reissue any more music from the label?
Marc Meistro: I’ve had the Max Ransay LP that Ti Kanno comes from for several years and had actually been playing an edit I did of that tune since about 2016. Earlier this year, we were struggling a bit to figure out our next release and I was on the Discogs page for the Max Ransay release. I was entering a late-night Discogs rabbit hole – which happens a lot – and clicked on the Hibiscus Records page. Their page had a website link which is unusual for a vintage label. I clicked on it and saw it had a link to their Facebook page which looked somewhat active. I shot them a short message and they replied in a matter of minutes. Once we learned that the Max Ransay tune was licensable, we started looking through their catalogue and very quickly, but somewhat serendipitously. found Lizo – the amazing Eugene Mona track. It all happened quickly and relatively easily and before we knew it, we had an E.P. ready to go. We did have to do all the negotiating in French – thankfully DJ Stylus is conversational – but that was really the only difficult part. I`m not sure if we will do more with them, but it is definitely a possibility.
DJ Stylus: I used my rusty French, that`s a bit more human and natural than Google Translate to facilitate the licensing arrangement with the nice lady who runs Hibiscus.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2018?
We have a couple of things in the air and in development at the moment, but nothing we can really speak about just yet. We are trying to finish an E.P. of our own that is getting very close. We just need to finish up one track and it’ll be set. Not sure if that will come out on Sol Power Sound or another label…we shall see!
The Tambours de Martinique E.P. is out now on Sol Power Sound.