Label Spotlight: Habibi Funk
March 27, 2023
On a trip to Morocco, in 2010, Berlin producer Jannis Sturtz struck vinyl gold. While crate digging, Sturtz stumbled upon an abundance of regional 70s and 80s music, weathered from the years. Obsessed with the unique regional style, Sturtz immersed himself in the seemingly endless stacks of dusty records. “The quality of the music was really strong” said Sturtz to The Independent “I felt like there was a discrepancy between the availability of the music and the interest it created.” And so the record label, Habibi Funk, was born.
You’ve never heard a sound like this. Birthed in an era of cultural shifts from traditional ideology mixed with the emergence of Western music influence in the region, synth, disco, and retro bass lines reigned supreme. The mustard yellow tint Hollywood applies to the Arab world fades away as this genre breathes vivid colors through stereos.
From his Berlin studio, assisted by his two dogs, Sturtz attempts to show the Western world what they have been missing. These overlooked tracks of unique soul, funk, and jazz are remastered by Sturtz, giving them a second chance at international fame. Sturtz is on a mission trying to promote a “legacy that has never been explored..” said Sturtz in an interview with The National. “I’m trying to shed light on these artists and their contribution to the musical landscape.” and shed a light he does.
Songs like “Games” provide an 80’s, Duran Duran like feel that could fill dance floors. Other tracks, like standout, summer day nostalgia anthem, “Ayonha” transport you to a convertible’s driver seat, cruising down the sunny Egyptian coast. While the track is masterfully mixed by Sturtz, the vocals flow like poetry, highlighting its original creator’s talent, who Sturtz is dead set on honoring.
Another standout, “Maktoub Aleina”, perfectly blends the 70s electric piano with traditional elements. Tambourine and Tabla, combined with sawtooth synth hit the essence of not just Sturtz’s artistic vision, but the original artists as well.
With 22 released albums and a documentary, Habibi Funk has become an internationally recognized label. While no major awards have been taken home yet, the mere ability to shine through the frenzy of noise in Berlin is well worth note.
At its core Habibi Funk is a cultural exchange. While the music itself is a crash between East and West, the relationship between artists is a cross-pollination all in itself. Sturtz often expresses his concerns to make sure artists get a fair deal and that all cultural traditions and heritage is respected. “We want to make sure we are aware of what we’re doing and the historic continuations that come out of it.” said Sturtz, fixated on not perpetuating stereotypes in his music or his marketing. “You’ll never see a camel, pyramid, or belly dancer on our covers,” Sturtz continued.
Sturtz has also listed all albums and tracks under the original artists names, placing them directly in the spotlight. In a 2018 interview he goes into detail about the nature of the relationship he strikes with artists saying they “split the profits fifty-fifty” and all travel costs come out of his end.
Sturtz’s work has never been without its disapproval. Some in the Arab world object to him rereleasing the music, saying that Sturtz white washes the albums. Others disapprove of Sturtz’s work saying he unfairly declared discovery of the genre.
Sturtz has been open to conversations about him and his label’s work, saying “People already knew it was there”; he only wanted to fill the accessibility gap. Sturtz also feels he has generally been received well saying “There are very few people that I have had discussions with that reject me doing the work I do just because I’m a European man.”.
While he seemingly has no problem with critiques, his disapproval is apparent with outright rejection of his label, commenting “there is no real basis for discussion because [it’s] not about how we can improve what we are doing in order to be aware of potential issues, but it’s [about] being rejected in general…”.