Since co-founding Tribe Records in 2008, London-based DJ/producer Zepherin Saint (pictured above) has been sketching the label’s soulful, globally informed blueprint. He’s done so by meticulously developing new and established talent as well as promoting events for like-minded party people. While musical trends have come and gone since Tribe’s birth, he’s stayed true to his initial vision at every twist and turn.
Boasting a catalogue overflowing with releases by Manoo, Bucie, Nathan Adams, Mr. V, Souldynamic, Timmy Regisford, Liquideep and Peven Everett, Saint chose to celebrate Tribe’s 100th release in a big way by issuing a brilliant cover of Sounds of Blackness’ 1991 gospel-dance classic “Optimistic,” featuring none other than original vocalist Ann Nesby. With so many experiences and lots of irons in the fire, we asked Saint to share his favorite moments from the label’s first seven years.
Zepherin Saint feat. Ann Nesby & G3’s “Optimistic” is out now on Tribe Records.
1. Releasing our first-ever release, “Circles” by Nathan Adams and Zepherin Saint, and it reaching number one on Traxsource
I needed to release this great track that I had created after a hiatus from the industry with my young neighbor, then 17-year-old Nathan Adams, and this formed part of the inspiration to start Tribe Records. I never thought Tribe was going to turn into such a respected label as I just wanted to put out music that I love and respect. Nathan is still an integral part of the label, and we are currently working on his second album.
2. Getting our second number 1 with Manoo’s remix of Sister Pearl’s “Bang the Drum”
Sister Pearl had delivered me a vocal with a Jamaican slang, which I was in love with but felt there was a harder mix to be done. Manoo was the man for the job. Manoo is one of the humblest people I have met, and I remember him calling me to check if the direction was cool. I was like, “Manoo, are you serious?”” He had created such an original beat and vibe that rocked clubs all over the world. This was our fourth release and we had already scored second number one on Traxsource.
3. Signing Peven Everett for an album deal
Peven Everett was already a legend and genius so this was an ambitious move on our part as a young label. Spurred on by Timmy Regisford who was a fan of what I was doing and co-producer of the record, he encouraged me to go for it, stating if I really want to build a label that’s here to stay I have to release albums. Peven believed in what we were capable of and we got a home run as the album was a hit and went on to become a number one. We also launched the album with two London shows that were sold-out and still talked about today.
4. Launch of Tribe Records at the National Hotel in Miami at WMC
It was all about taking risks to reach the next level and this was another ambitious move. We hired the National Hotel in South Beach and proceeded to launch Tribe Records to North America. We were nervous about this event even after it had opened as we were unsure how many people would attend and had made a big investment to make it happen. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere the venue was packed and the event was a success. It was then I realized how much support we had gained from the house community and DJs around the world. I remember DJing at the event and next to me stood Louie Vega, Timmy Regisford, Joe Clausell and Ian Friday. Not much pressure then!
5. Black Coffee and Bucie debut London performance at Tribe
“Superman” was a hit and we were supporting, releasing and playing a lot of music from South Africa at this time such as Black Motion, Black Coffee, Sai and Ribatone, Culoe De Song, Bucie, Zakes and Liquid Deep. So it made sense to celebrate our Tribe Anniversary by bringing over Black Coffee and Bucie together in London for the first time. We were not ready for what happened next. The venue was a 400-capacity space and we had a roadblock outside of over 1,000 people. I recall walking up with Black Coffee and Bucie and we looked at each other in amazement and laughed; they were in shock at the amount of fans that turned up from all over the UK.
7. Signing Timmy Regisford for a multi-album deal and all albums reaching number one
With hits like “At the Club,” “Sometimes,” “Shining” and Thank You,” these albums were landmarks for the label and we were able gain new fans for the label in places like Japan. We went on to release “At the Club” and many others as singles remixed to different genres and crossed Tribe and Timmy over to new audiences.
8. Starting our Can You Dance to My Beat festival in Kefalonia, Greece
Now in its third year, we started this festival to assist in taking the soulful and Afro music scene to the next level. It turned into a magical occasion and has featured DJs such as Gilles Peterson, Joe Clausell, Mr. Raoul, Boddhi Satva & Djeff, Afrozilla, Louie Vega, Anané and many more
9. Releasing Nathan Adams’ debut album, Audio Therapy, that reached number one
This was a major landmark for us. I set out to A&R an album that could include the top house producers, and we achieved just that with productions from Josh Milan, Louie Vega, DJ Spinna Quentin Harris, Black Coffee and Sean McCabe.
9.5 Release Djeff Afrozilla’s debut album
I had heard a few singles Djeff had released along with a single he had already released on Tribe, and I knew this young producer had an album in him. I called him up and offered him an album deal. He was hesitant at first because he was unsure if he was able to do it, but he set out to achieve it and it all came together in a short space of time with ease. Some things are just meant to be.
10. Reaching 100 releases with the legendary Ann Nasby and G3
I wanted to have a song represent our 100th release, one that epitomizes what it took to reach 100. There was only one song for this. We were blessed to have had the fortunate coincidence that put us in contact with the original vocalist Ann Nesby. I recorded the choir in Atlanta and it just so happened that a couple of the original members of Sounds of Blackness were hired to perform. They were like, Ann needs to hear this! The next day I talked with her management and the deal was done.