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Uncovering the Soul of Oneness Records


If you're anything like me—constantly crate digging and always ready for that next great find—you'll appreciate the story of Oneness Records. Co-founded by two DJs tired of trekking to Paris for their vinyl fix, Oneness Records has been the local go-to for Afro, Reggae, and Jazz vinyl lovers since 1998.

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Abu, since starting Oneness Records back in 1998, what initially inspired you to open this store? How do these inspirations reflect in the unique selection of genres like Afro, Reggae, and Jazz that your store specializes in?

At first, there were two of us, Sylvain (DJ Pharoah) and I, both DJs; we decided to open a record shop because we could not find the music we were looking for in Nantes. We had to go to Paris or London and we were getting frustrated by this situation.

Sylvain specialized in Soul, Funk, and Hip-Hop, and as a sound system selector, I was in charge of the Reggae section (some LPs but mostly 7", 10" and 12"). We also had a Jazz, Latin, and Afro selection.

It's evident that Oneness Records is more than just a store; it's a community hub. Can you describe some memorable interactions or events that highlight the community spirit fostered here? How do these gatherings influence the atmosphere of the store?

When we started the shop, I was influenced by Reggae shops in England with loudspeakers and a focus on playing the tunes for the people to listen to before buying. We played the music our customers were asking to listen to but also what we thought could be of interest. After a while, we started to know the people who were coming on a regular basis so we could suggest some selections to them. At the end of the '90s, the beginning of the 2000s, we had lots of DJs and selectors coming to the shop, especially on the weekend.

It was before Serato took over and DJs back then were playing mostly vinyl. We also would have DJs sampling records on Saturday, like members of the well-known crew C2C who are from Nantes. And then we would have all the flyers for dances and concerts; remember it was before the internet was widely used.

Visitors often praise the immersive listening experience at your store, especially with the pre-amp setup for live sound enhancements. Could you explain how integrating elements like these transform a simple store visit into a memorable musical journey?

Well, actually what we call a pre-amp in the Reggae sound system scene is something you cannot buy in a shop; you have to know a builder and be patient... It's not similar to what people usually call a pre-amp. It's a mix of a rotary mixer, a crossover with specific devices like a delay unit and a siren. You see, we only use a single turntable in sound systems; the pre-amp allows you to cut the bass, add some delay, and play the siren for the transition between records. In the Reggae scene, the DJ is called a selector and the MC DJ...

Sometimes when we held a dance in town or some other organizers brought artists; they would eventually drop by the shop and we would improvise a small session.

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Drawing from your extensive experience, what advice would you give someone just starting their vinyl collection? Are there specific genres or records in your store that you recommend as a good starting point?

I would suggest keeping an open mind; if you have no interest in some music styles today, it doesn't mean it will be the same tomorrow. Discovering music is a lifetime project, and there are always bridges that allow you to step aside and find out you might like something you never heard about. Any new artist you discover prepares you for the next one; it's a long trip. The question is not about finding the best music in the world, it's about learning to appreciate what you're listening to; if you do, then it's the best music in the world at the moment.

Time and place, you know... Wanting to compare two records together is vain and meaningless; you better learn to love both of them. Anyway, you may have two ears, but you cannot listen to both records at the same time!

You’ve likely encountered countless records over the years. Do you have any personal favorites or hidden gems in the store right now that you think are must-haves for any collector?

I would suggest Black Slavery Days by the Skulls on Jack Ruby's Fox label on 7", also a double LP of Belenou Chimen Tala, which is Bélè music from Martinique (my father was from there) that I love so much that I started a label, Léritaj, with a friend to make it available again. And then I also love the WaJazz series from Nantes's label 180g, which is Japanese jazz from the '70s at its best.

Looking ahead, how do you envision the future of Oneness Records? Are there new music genres or community events you’re excited to introduce?

Well, to be honest, the future doesn't look too bright with lots of music lovers deserting shops and buying from the internet with their mobile phones. This taken apart; I love the new UK jazz scene which blends Jazz, Afro, and Hip Hop.

Lastly, maintaining the quality of a diverse vinyl collection must be challenging. How do you ensure the quality of the records, and how has customer feedback helped you refine the store’s offerings?

Well, I'm very curious by nature and I listen to a lot of music. I mostly chose music that I like because I'm limited moneywise and because I find it easier to sell that way. When somebody is looking for something I will try to find it if it's possible.

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