Gondwana Records, a soul for jazz

IDOL recently started working with Gondwana Records, the Manchester-based label founded by trumpeter and composer Matthew Halsall. With Portico Quartet, Hania Rani, Mammal Hands...

Founded in 2008 by trumpeter and composer Matthew Halsall, Gondwana Records was born from a desire to highlight the talent of Manchester’s clubs. Since then, Gondwana has grown into a truly international label, with offices in Berlin, London and Manchester, and works with artists from all over the world.

The beginnings

In 2007, Matthew Halsall couldn’t find a record label that suited him. Although he was attracted to labels such as Erased Tapes, Ninja Tune and Warp Records, whose albums he had been collecting since he was 14, he wasn’t sure he would fit in. So he decided to start his own label, on a shoestring budget: “I started the record label with, I think, about £1,000 pounds I’d saved working at Ticketmaster.”

Once his first album Sending My Love was published, the label’s first releases were all dedicated to Mancunian artists: Nat Birchall, GoGo Penguin, John Ellis and Phil France.

"I'm a musician and composer that has a record label, both for my own releases, but to give other people a platform and a voice in the industry."
Matthew Halsall to Jazz Revelations

In 2012, Gondwana Records signed the band GoGo Penguin, and released their first 2 albums. Matthew Halsall had met Rob Turner, the trio’s drummer, via the Mancunian music scene, as they had played together in a cover band of Warp records tracks. It was then via Gogo Penguins that Gondwana signed Mammal Hands in 2014: bassist Nick Blacka had suggested them to Matthew Halsall after seeing the band at Birmingham’s Mostly Jazz Festival.

A strong aesthetic

The label’s motto can be summed up as “ambitious and playful”, especially in terms of artwork. To maintain this spirit, Matthew Halsall has relied on his own brother Daniel to handle the design, artwork and photography since the beginning.

The label has subsequently worked with Allysha Joy, Caoilfhionn Rose, Dwight Trible, Hania Rani, Noya Rao, Portico Quartet, and Sunda Arc, among others. In its fourteen years of existence, the label now has close to fifty releases, demonstrating an ability to attract the best young musicians in the contemporary jazz scene.

"They have a great aesthetic and take a lot of time and care over their projects. A perfect fit for IDOL."
Tom Billington, Label Manager at IDOL UK

Gondwana Records’ Priorities for 2022

  • Portico Quartet The London-based collective is specialized in instrumental music between jazz and electro. Their debut album, Knee-Deep in the North Sea, was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2008.
  • Matthew Halsall Composer, trumpeter, DJ and jazz producer, Mathew Halsall is the founder of the label. His style is inspired by the spiritual jazz heritage of Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, but also by world and electro music, for a unique sound.
  • Mammal Hands Hailing from Norwich, one of Britain’s most isolated cities, the improvisation-loving trio formed in 2012 around shared influences Pharoah Sanders, Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Sirishkumar Manji.
  • Hania Rani Pianist and composer from Gdansk (Poland), Hania Rani is considered a neo-classical hope. She likes to integrate jazz and electro into her compositions, recalling her inspirations: Nils Frahm, Radiohead and… Portico Quartet!
  • Caoilfhionn Rose Originally from Northern Ireland, Caoilfhionn Rose (pronounced Keelin) is a Mancunian singer-songwriter. She mixes folk, jazz and electronic with a subtle influence of psychedelia.

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