Luaka Bop is a world music-oriented record label established by musician and record producer David Byrne, former lead singer and guitarist for the art rock–new wave band Talking Heads. Originally established in 1988, the label has been wholly independent since leaving V2 Records in 2006. Previously the label had distribution relationships with Warner Bros. Records and Narada/Virgin/EMI Records.
Luaka Bop has released compilations representing sounds from around the world, as well as full-length albums, EPs, and singles from individual artists, including Byrne himself. Brazil Classics, the label's first compilation series, consists of seven albums surveying genres ranging from Samba to Tropicália, as well as individual artists. Cuba Classics and Asia Classics followed a similar pattern. The label branched out into Afro-Peruvian and "Afropean" music with albums by Susana Baca and Zap Mama, respectively. World Psychedelic Classics is a series of five albums including artists such as Shuggie Otis, Os Mutantes, and various West African musicians of the late 1960s.
Name and branding
Byrne took the phrase "Luaka Bop" from the inner packaging of a specialty tea which is sold in England. Luaka is the name of a tea importer. Their "Broken Orange Pekoe" is packaged in a silver foil block; when the sleeve is removed, it reveals a white label that reads "Luaka BOP".
In 1989 Byrne hired Yale Evelev as president of the record label.
The Luaka Bop logo design was conceived by David Byrne and illustrated by Tibor Kalman.
Kalman also designed the first two Brazil Classics albums and began the tradition of the split-color spine, which was altered with every change in distribution.} Other designers from Kalman's M & Co., including Stefan Sagmeister, Scott Stowell and Stephen Doyle, have provided the label with distinctive album art. On this topic Byrne said, "We don't do covers that look like folkloric records or like academic records of obscure material of interest only to musicologists and a few weird fringe types… we work with the designers to come up with a graphic statement that says 'this music is relevant to your life…'"