Few record labels can look back on a lifetime of 50 years, even less can look on the past and and find very unusual history. Trikont, the oldest German independent music label, and actually the oldest independent label worldwide, now has reached that age. Those 50 years were worth a long documentary in the shape of a 450+ page book to authors Christof Meueler and Franz Dobler.
Trikont’s first „production“ was a record named „Wir befreien uns selbst“ (We liberate ourselves) quickly done in 1972 to be sold and distributed among factory strike waves in Munich; the label founders and office workers recorded the songs themselves. Trikont originally started out as a publisher of books and mostly printed matter, always with a radical leftist world view. Founded in Cologne, the founders were members of the Socialist student circle, with strong Anti-American tendencies, against the war in Vietnam and so-called „imperialist“ actions of the country. Typical for the many left-wing organizations and protesters of the late 1960s in Germany, they founded their publishing house mostly out of a political urge.
With this background the label – or rather the publisher – Trikont (an allusion to the 1966 Solidarity Conference of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, also called Tricontinental Conference) was founded in 1967; the house, now located in Munich, also distributed the Germany issue of the socialist magazine Tricontinental.
Then, leftist circles were extremely popular in the larger cities and political demonstrations, sit-ins as well as violence were not unusual; somewhat later the country was the target of left-wing German terrorist group RAF that was responsible for a number of dead policemen and civilians.
What in Germany at that time became known as the „Mao Bibel“ (The Maoist Bible), namely the writings of Mao Tstung that were proudly presented and quoted by leftist protesters, for some time paid Trikont‘s bills, since they printed the German edition, and it sold in high numbers. (This publication was probably the most hated book in post-war Western Germany, since the mostly conservative voting, war-weary Germans were shocked by violent left-wing activity in their own country. WWII had only ended some twenty years ago, the socialist GDR just built a wall separating Germany and people were fed up with destruction, violence and terror).
As a result of publications like this one, as well as political newspapers and magazine produced or distributed by the house, police forces raided the publisher more than once, often confiscating entire editions, thousands of books and printed matter; Trikont for a while was under surveillance.
However…. Those were the 1960s.
In the years to come, Trikont would earn a terrific international reputation for marvelous record productions, that still – sometimes – had the emphasis on Third-World countries, but would now focus on their respective musics. The label, apart from publishing party political speeches and German punk bands (e.g. Ton Steine Scherben), in the 1970s also quickly developed a certain expertise for regional music such as the songs of immigrants who brought their music to Germany, as well as Italian songwriters who recorded strike songs, ballads of German squatters and the like. Many popular artists – all connected more or less to a leftist “cause” and worker’s rights – were published, such as Dominique Grange, Pete Seeger, Brigid Corey, Barbara Dane, so were recordings of Native American Indians.
In the 1980s, Trikont would distribute punk bands, Rembetico artists, regional (strange) Bavarian folklore acts and exotic styles, also samplers with incredibly rare German Shellac recordings of early cabaret, folklore and comedians, and several volumes with interpretations of “La Paloma,” Tango from Finland and German cabaret genius Karl Valentin. Entire series of recordings of American country, blues, cajun, waltz, cowboy and yodel songs would follow. Trikont, mostly run by founder Achim Bergmann († 2018) and his wife Eva Mair-Holmes, would later produce samplers devoted to certain instruments, black country music, obscure drug songs, American war songs, white gospels songs, klezmer music and Jewish artists from the 1930s, African rap, Mexican Boleros, samplers from exotic geographic regions or with songs by gay and lesbian artist exclusively.
With the help of music collector Christoph Wagner and others, the label was now held in highest esteem by music collectors worldwide; also for their excellent CD booklets (in German and English) and music research texts.
Even though no more than 500 records were produced so far, this small German independent music label deserves the reputation as it has produced styles, bands and exotic artist who otherwise would never have (re)surfaced, would be expelled from the history of pop and folklore (and would not sit on my shelf). The entire Trikont story, together with many interviews (artists, editors, staff members) and lots of pictures is now available. (The text of this edition is in German).
Review by Dr. A. Ebert (2018)
Christof Meueler and Franz Dobler. Die Trikont-Story: Musik, Krawall & andere schöne Künste. Heyne, 2017, 464 p.