Music Portrait | posted 10.06.2021
BBE Records
The influencer's influencer
Peter Adarkwah is the reason why some lives have been changed by J Dilla, why Roy Ayers experienced a second spring and why Japanese jazz albums are reviewed by Pitchfork. In other words: BBE Music turns 25 years this year.
Text Fionn Birr , Translation Sebastian Hinz
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Please find the Vinyl releases of BBE Records in the HHV Records webshop.


Peter Adarkwah seems to be kind of stressed out as he stumbles on the phone this monday morning as we start out the interview 30 minutes later than arrangend. On today of all days, one oft the first real spring days this year, he lost his bank card during rush hour in London an needed to block it before. Even if he dosen’t say it the worn-out phrase time is money would proper fit in this situation. Because Peter Adarkwah’s Label BBE Music, which the ghanaian DJ and promoter started out of nowhere with his partner Ben Jolly in 1995 as BBE Records, turns 25 this year. Not only an occasion to look back but also to congratulate and so the first thing this humble Britain is saying is: »Thank you«.

» Success is relative«

»Well, some people get more calmer, but not necessarily smarter«, says Peter as he talks about the lessons learned after being a quarter century in the music industry. »I try not to set myself unrealstic targets, I used be a bit more over-optimistic.« As a founder of a company namend after the post disco joint Joint »Barely Breaking Even«_ this is a polite restraint on 25 years of excisting. Even before making a noise in the world with japanese jazz or setting off this instrumental HipHop thing right around an then unknown producer called Jay Dee and his album »Welcome 2 Detroit« via their »Beat Generation« series Peter and Ben had already made a name for putting out tasteful compilations. »It was just easier. It costs a lot of money from the making of the record to the marketing of a record to the selling of the record. Having only licensing 12 songs was just easier for me,« says Adarkwah form a today’s point of view in a british bald way, especially if you consider him talkling about legendary releases like »Disco Forever« by Dimitri From Paris or »Hip Hop Forever« by Kenny Dope.

»I’m still not doing pop music.« – Peter Adarkwah, BBE Music.

With the start of releasing more original albums, especially those by Jay Dee or Roy Ayers, the London indie imprint finally developes into a connoisseur favorite at the early 2000s. At times there a tons of world-class musicians like Masters At Work, Madlib or even Mark Ronson. »Success is relative«_, Peter is saying though,_»Sales of 100.000 euros is a halway clear success to me. But this dosen’t happen this often in my niche.« Today there is also a record store in Hackney, London in addition to the label and booking business under the broader belt of BBE Music. »After 25 I can tell that the music industry is a game where the field is always shifting and you have to deal with that.«Peter adds: » I’m still not doing pop music.«

Music worldwide

It’s a recurring phrase that Peter is also saying while talking about the latetst gains of the »J Jazz« series. »Without Kensuke Hidaka this wouldn’t have happend«, says he as he tells the journey of tough networking and months of searching for legal owners in the land of the rising sun. With the quite successful compilations by Tony Higgs and Mike Peden from forgotten great jazz deeds from Japan in the sixties, seventies and eighties, BBE have not only been building on their roots as a sampler label since 2018, but have also identified themselves as influencers of the influencers once again. J Jazz is experiencing a boom among jazz lovers, what Peter is still amazed about: »It’s an enigma that a lots of music that came out in japan always stayed in japan, I was a bit anxious putting it out.« Just because something is limited doesn’t mean it’s going to sell, Peter says. »For me an for music like that it’s quite incredible to have that happen. Again, not crazy numbers, but accross all of them I’m guessing we sold about 10.000 copies on vinly. We you look at it as a sum, there not many people able to sell that many records in this day and age.«

It is his optimistic realism that has probably not left him in despair in the last two decades, even if the native Ghanaian describes the efforts to bring old and new music from the African continent into the world as »still tough.« Other than a small, but fair rant on the non existing prejudice genre of »world music« (»an horrible name«) Peter Adarkwah says a sentence in his résumé on the state of BBE Africa, which is probably overheard by colleagues, fans and himself too often and whose weight is not emphasized enough 25 years after being founded having a catalog of 800 releases at least: »We are still an independent label.« Happy Birthday, BBE!


Please find the Vinyl releases of BBE Records in the HHV Records webshop.

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