Sondela Recordings' Louie Dunmore on celebrating Afro-influenced house music and nurturing emerging talent

We dive into the origins and evolution of Sondela Recordings, a dynamic record label with a passion for promoting Afro influenced house and tech music on a global scale.

Sondela Recordings is a dynamic record label that emerged from an event brand in 2020. Their mission? to increase global awareness of Afro influenced house music, nurture emerging talent, and celebrate these sounds on a globel scale. With a focus on genre diversity, Sondela operates mainly within Afro-House and Afro-Tech but also incorporates neighbouring genres. As an independent label, Sondela plans to continue releasing diverse music, collaborating with other brands, and giving back to the community through releases, compilations, and workshops.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the origins of Sondela Recordings with founder Louie Dunmore who discusses their commitment to promoting Afro influenced house music, nurturing emerging talent, and their vision for the future of the label, all ahead of their room takeover on 23rd June here at the club.

How did Sondela first come about?

Sondela initially launched as an event brand in 2020 while I was studying at Newcastle University. Due to the pandemic, we could only host one live event before my university experience was interrupted. During the subsequent lockdown, I evolved Sondela into a record label and enlisted Sef Kombo, the headliner at our first and last event in Newcastle, to join me in overseeing the label's A&R activities. Once restrictions were lifted, we were able to progress with organising events and further developing the label.

Can you tell us about the vision and mission of Sondela Recordings?

Sondela’s main goal is to increase awareness of Afro Influenced house music globally. We're passionate about nurturing emerging talent and giving them a platform to express their unique artistry. Our goal ultimately is to bring people together, break down cultural barriers, and inspire creativity in electronic music, all while celebrating the richness of African heritage.

How do you discover and select new talent to sign and support?

There are multiple channels of discovery within music. Sometimes we discover new artists in our demos email, other times it may be via instagram or social media. However attending other parties and events is an amazing way to discover new artists and talent. The importance of a good warm-up DJ set never goes unnoticed.

In today's digital landscape, how do you as a label adapt and navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by streaming platforms and online distribution?

With exceptions of a few, the majority of our DJ’s and producers are based outside of the UK, even Europe. Therefore as a London based label, first and foremost streaming platforms and online distribution give us the opportunity to be able to operate in our chosen market. With increased opportunity to market and distribute music worldwide, this can only be seen as a positive.

What support and resources do Sondela Recordings provide to its signed artists? How do you foster artist development and help them grow their careers?

Currently, Sondela has a specific focus on signing singles and EPs rather than exclusively signing artists. This approach provides artists with the freedom to progress and explore their musical journey without being tied down to a single label. We see ourselves as a platform that not only distributes music to the trailblazers within the scene but also to a dedicated fanbase of house and electronic music enthusiasts. We also strive to book those talented DJs who trust us with their music for live shows, whenever the opportunity presents itself. We believe that this combination of impactful releases and live shows plays a vital role in the holistic development of artists.

"We see ourselves as a platform that not only distributes music to the trailblazers within the scene but also to a dedicated fanbase of house and electronic music enthusiasts..."

Sondela Recordings has released a diverse range of music across different genres. Can you tell us about the label's approach to genre diversity and how it impacts your roster and audience?

Sondela mainly operates within the Afro-House and Afro-Tech space, however there are neighboring genres which take influence from each other; Deep House and Melodic Techno in particular. We aim to be as diverse as possible with the music we choose to release, as long as it can be seen to take influence from Afro.

Can you talk a little bit about the artists playing your room takeover at fabric - what will they be bringing to the table this month?

On June 23rd, we're thrilled to have Karyendasoul headlining our room. In my eyes, Karyendasoul is an incredibly exciting young talent, both as a DJ and producer. He is just 27 years old and made a huge impact with his track 'Imali,' one of the most influential house tracks in 2022. Recently he released his debut album, 'We Live 4 Our Music' which has received critical acclaim. Karyendasoul's performance will offer a diverse range of sounds, from deep and emotive tracks to thumping Afro-Tech beats.

We're also excited to introduce CLEIDO, our newest addition to the Sondela family. The 24-year-old has earned his stripes within the London scene, serving as the creative director and resident DJ for the renowned Reunion London brand. CLEIDO’s sets span across various genres, from Deep House, Afro-Tech and Melodic Techno sounds. That's what makes his performances so exciting - you never know what you’re going to get!

When you first launched, part of your mission was to give back to the scene and support not-for-profits in developing countries - is this still part of Sondela?

“with all profits going to Bridges For Music, a non-profit organisation based in South Africa, gathering key players of the music industry to support responsible progress in developing countries, making a positive impact in disadvantaged communities and helping to raise global awareness about local issues through music….”

When we first embarked on this journey, we were incredibly fortunate to have the backing of Defected, our parent company at the time. Their support allowed us to contribute to the scene in a financial manner. Now, as an independent entity, we remain committed to giving back to the community and supporting non-profit organizations in developing countries. However, we're taking a slightly different approach. We're focusing on making a positive impact through releases, compilations, and workshops. This way, we can continue to nurture the scene, empower artists, and provide valuable opportunities for growth and collaboration.

How is the clubbing scene developing in Africa? How is the experience of playing there different?

DJing in South Africa was a mind-blowing experience. The level of music appreciation there is simply off the charts! The crowd's reaction when a bassline kicks in, or when those chords and vocals fill the air, is something else entirely. What's remarkable is that there's a lot less reliance on big build-ups and predictable drops to get a reaction. It's all about the pure love for the music and the way it moves your soul.

Do you think the electronic music industry and club scene could be doing more to promote Afro-house and Afro-influenced artists and this new wave of sounds coming out of both Africa and South Africa?

Personally, I feel the support for Afro influenced house music is on level with the current demand in the market. However, the exciting thing is that demand for African influenced music has increased and is increasing significantly, with the likes of Black Coffee & Shimza leading the charge. Therefore, as demand grows, we should also hope to expect increased support from the electronic music industry and club scene.

What’s next for the label? Any exciting plans or releases on the horizon? What benefits do you see in being independent now?

With ourselves still establishing, I won’t give away too much at the moment! However, in-house we are very excited with the quality and diversity of releases we have coming, from both established and establishing artists! The move to independence ultimately will give us more freedom overall, with the potential opportunity to also look to other brands for collaboration. We are excited for the journey to come!

Sondela takeover Room 3 on 23rd June. Tickets below.

Words & Interview: Izzy Trott