Malimba Records: 30 years! Congratulations!

Profiles > Work / Play

Shastro writes about how his music label started, and on the heyday of the CD era

Shastro CD composite

WOW! I just realized that it has been almost 30 years since I started my own record label. What a great adventure it has been!

If you’re an artist, there’s something very freeing and empowering about being able to publish your own music – anytime you want, in whatever way you want.

But how did I even get the idea of starting a record label?

The short story goes:

The year after Osho left his body, I moved from Pune to Hawaii. I was not even dreaming of becoming a professional musician then, but I had a burning desire in my heart to record some music.

I suppose that my very very first recording was the music which Sirus and I had recorded in Germany, a piece which then happened to became the official music for the No Dimension Meditation (I told my story in The Four Dimensions) – and this must have fueled that fire.

I borrowed some money to buy my first ADAT – the very first 8-track digital recording system on the market, which was using VHS tape (the same format as the first rental movies were made on)  – and started recording what I thought would become another piece of music for meditation.

To my surprise, what came out instead was a very upbeat Latin / island-style album. I had no idea where it came from (well, from inside of me for sure, but still…). Once the album was finished – I gave it the title Bandolè! – I followed my friend Govi’s suggestion (that’s the Govindas who used to play the sitar in Pune One). He was already signed up to a quite large New Age music label, called Real Music, and he sent them my demo to listen to. At first they seemed interested, and told me they were seriously considering it. I was sooo excited to hear that! But after a week or two, Terence, the CEO of the company, called me up and told me that they had decided not to take it.

Of course I fell into a bit of a depression; all my dreams seemed to disappear on the horizon. But I sat down and started making my brain work. “There must be another way,” I kept thinking. And then the thought came: “What if I printed and duplicated the CD myself, with graphics and everything, and give Real Music exclusive distribution rights worldwide? In this way they would have no risk and would not need to invest a single penny. I called Terence and made him my proposal. He promised to call me back in a few days’ time. Already the next day he was on the phone, and told me they agreed to my offer. Bingo!

I ran to borrow some more money to manufacture the first 500 CDs. However, after I’d fulfilled Real Music’s first order of 100 CDs, weeks and then months passed and the fax machine remained absolutely quiet. No new orders came…

“Mmmmh, this way it’s not going to work,” I thought. “They have exclusive rights, and now I cannot sell the album to anybody else!” I got on the phone with Terence, and told him that because their logo was printed on my CD I couldn’t sell it to anybody else – and that they needed to do better than that!

After a week he called me and was happy to announce the good news, “Shastro, we have cracked the nut!” They had had a meeting with a buyer from a large US chain of stores, The Nature’s Company, and this buyer had decided to carry Bandolè – one among only 20 or so CDs they had on their shelves – and sell it in all 250 of their stores in America!

Everyone in those days was riding on the wave of the Nouveau Flamenco style heralded by Ottmar Liebert (a guitar-based style with a very Latino feel to it, resembling a very simple and light flamenco). Because Bandolè had a lot of Latin-style guitar (as well as vocals and flutes), Real Music – and The Nature’s Company – managed to make my album surf on that wave.

Three days after Terence’s call, the fax machine finally came alive again with a surprising order for 5,000 CDs! I couldn’t believe my eyes!

I ran around to borrow more money in order to fulfill this huge order. But that was the last time I had to borrow money. This kind of order kept coming in for the following two years. I could not only pay all my debts but even purchase new equipment for my growing recording studio, and complete the recording of my follow-up album. Once it was completed, I was happy with my new Malimba Moon. I felt it was even better than its predecessor.

I presented my new creation to Real Music, certain that they would agree to the same deal, as they’d sold so many copies of my first album – over 100,000! To my surprise they turned it down, saying that they were reducing their roster because the CD market – which had been constantly growing for years as everyone was suddenly replacing their vinyl and cassette collections with the newer digital CD format – was now waning. Furthermore, downloads were starting to pick up, and these took a lot of business away from the CDs.

Back to almost square one: I had a good product but without anyone who could sell it for me. After again a few days of intense thinking, I finally said to myself, “Fuck it! I am going to sell Malimba Moon by myself!”

Malimba Moon – the name stuck – and my record label became Malimba Records.

Malimba Records artists

After a few more albums I was joined in this adventure by my friend Nadama, a virtuoso pianist and composer, who wanted me to sell his music as well. After that, one at a time, other musician friends came on board; some of them had been in the Ashram in India with me.

At a certain point Malimba Records was representing more than 12 artists. We had over 70 albums in our catalog. We became well known in the USA as a small independent label that was producing ‘quality’ New Age / World music, covering the spectrum of music for the Healing Arts, massage and bodywork, Yoga, Tantra, relaxation and more. Several of our titles won Music Awards in the US.

It has been quite a ride… For the first few years it demanded my whole time and energy, but the fruits I could then enjoy made it well worth it. Today I pause to feel into things as I write this post… I am feeling quite proud of having taken this not-very-well-trodden path for an artist, and of having succeeded in helping so much good music to get to so many people’s ears and hearts.

With the new digital platforms and the streaming that has become one of the major sources of income for musicians and their producers, many things have changed, our catalog has been reduced and so has the roster of artists. But I recall with a lot of fondness the years we were riding the wave of publishing our music in CD format.

If you are curious about us you can visit our website, just search for “Malimba Records”.

I want to conclude with what is now my perception about the music that came out of me and out of all the artists on my label: it was love that came out from our hearts in that form. And so is true listening: love.

Yes, between the musician and the listener a love relationship is established – love is given and love is received in both directions.


Shastro is a meditation teacher, photographer, multi-instrumentalist and founder of Malimba Records.

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