The Barely Breaking Even movement began in 1993 when Peter Adarkwah and Ben Jolly were discussing music and discovered a shared interest in diverse, eclectic sounds covering all genres – from old scratchy Brazilian grooves, through 70’s funk, via jazz fusion, hip – hop and soul to newer garage, disco and techno music.
Pete had been DJ’ing at friend’s parties for several years and had just graduated to his first gig on the club scene. First and foremost a music lover and collector Pete had discovered a previously unknown aptitude when he started spinning the tunes. They decided to promote a night where the music that was played would not be restricted as it was in other clubs – the new night would be across styles and freestyle.
The first club promotion took place at a tiny club in Chinatown under the name ‘Shake It Loose.’ The club was a resounding success, but unwittingly another promoter had already employed the name used. A change was necessary and so it became Barely Breaking Even – taken from the seminal track by The Universal Robot Band (re -issued on Dimitri’s ‘Disco Forever’ album in Oct 2000 and true of the state of finances of most promoters/labels)
With the change of name came a change of venue. BBE moved onwards and upwards – promoting at different venues and on different nights but with a fresh attitude and an already distinct style, the nights became more and more popular. Ben & Pete also began to appear as guest DJs elsewhere across Europe thus DJing and promoting became a full time occupation.
Despite being busy with club activities, Ben & Pete decided to move in to the record industry, founding a label named after the Promotion Company. BBE Records began with releasing the acclaimed ‘Stop and Listen’ series late in 1996, a series that included compilers such as the legendary Masters At Work. The ball has rolled on and on since then.
Since early 2000, Pete has continued to develop the label, taking it to new heights. BBE model’s itself on the motto of ‘real music for real people’ and this is clearly seen by the fact that there are now over 180 compilations and artist albums released, profiling a variety of sounds and styles from funk and soul to disco and Latin as well as house and hip hop and beyond. Compilers from home and abroad have been brought in to add their expertise and in turn the label has aligned itself with many artists as well as genres of music.
This association with artists has been strongly built upon by the introduction of the Beat Generation; a series of beat based albums from a number of exceptional and pivotal hip -hop producers. The ethos behind this series was to allow these producers to create albums that drew from all their influences and all the sounds that had in some way contributed to the music they had made and continue to make. The series kicked off to a fantastic start with Jay Dee’s ‘Welcome to Detroit’ (shortlisted for the American Award for Artistic Achievement) and this was shortly followed by Pete Rock, will.i.am (of the Black Eyed Peas) and Marley Marl. Each album is an individual experiment but also enabled the series to flourish in its aims and the music it exhibited.
Several compilers and artist joined the fold – Roy Ayers – (2 albums of previously unreleased gems from the 70’s) Paul Weller, 4Hero, Dj Spinna, Keb Darge, Mr Thing, DJ Shadow, Dimitri from Paris, Kon and Amir, Gilles Peterson, Al Kent and a whole host of newcomers.
BBE club promotions has taken a back seat but continue to put on quite sporadic special events.
BBE celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2011 with a a double cd mix from Chris Read – a fantastic journey by DJ through so many of the highlights
So stay tuned and watch this space for more