We’ve asked Mr Bongo some questions about their store & their experience running a record store during lockdown. Read what they had to say below and check out their website here.

1. Who are you? Tell us a bit about Mr Bongo.

Mr Bongo started life in 1989 as a small record shop underneath Daddy Kool’s Reggae Store on Berwick Street in London. We were the first shop to sell vinyl releases from independent hip hop labels such as Def Jam, Rawkus, Nervous and Big Beat outside of the USA. We also became an established bearer for hard-to-find, classic Latin music, particularly Brazilian, outside of the Americas.

Over the following years we moved three times within Soho and also opened a Mr Bongo shop in Shibuya, Japan. We moved our office to Brighton in 1999 and closed all the shops in 2003. The physical music business got hit hard by digital at the time and we needed to focus on the label to keep things viable. Fourteen years on and with a reputation as one of the most respected and prolific purveyors of Brazilian, Latin, and African music around, we opened a new shop in Brighton. The time felt right and we were hungry to get back into running our own shop again. The new shop carries much of the ethos of the original stores, but it is different – things move on. Our new shop reflects the location, different styles of music sold, the buyers that visit us regularly and the city itself. It’s been a great success and a privilege to be connecting with our customers once again on a face to face level in the city that’s been our home for 22 years now.

photo features band Flamingods.

2. What styles of music do you sell in store?
We release and sell music from all over the world and from all different periods of time – reissues and brand new. We are best known for our Brazilian, African, funk, jazz, soul and hip-hop selections.
3.  What is it you love about working in music?
If you love music then there aren’t many better ways to spend your time than being immersed in it. We love to connect with those that share the same mindset towards the music that we have.
4. How are you running the store during lockdown / are you available online? 

When the situation started to get very serious in respect of minimising the virus spread, we took time to review all our safety precautions. This was to protect our staff, our customers, those who play a vital role in getting records out to people, and of course the wider public. We closed the shop and the online shop whilst we carried out our review. Once we were satisfied with our processes we reopened the online store. There are plenty of challenges in keeping things going in this strange period of time. Like everyone else, we have had to adapt to the new ways of working and the physical shop has had to remain closed for now.

Our online store is a very important part of our business and we reach a global customer base through it. The support from our customers throughout has been amazing. They have been understanding of the actions we have taken and they keep buying music! Online sales have been healthy and running that side of the business has kept us all extremely busy. We know that this music is a vital respite for many people and we feel we have a duty to keep it coming.

5. What are you most looking forward to in the future & when things go back to normal (e.g. any specific releases / instores that you’re doing)? 
Being able to chat with the customers in the shop environment is something we are missing immensely. A record shop is a social hub and through the interactions with customers we learn a lot about what they want from us and we get great pleasure from seeing the people who are buying the records. We are using social media to stay in touch with customers and that is working well, but as soon as we can safely open up again we can’t wait to welcome people back through our doors. We will restart our in-store events where we get DJs and labels we respect to come by and play some records for 4/5 hours – we get a good crowd and when the sun is out it is glorious (being located next to two good pubs helps too!).
6. Anything else you’d like our followers to know?

The last year has been tough for many. As an industry we all need to pull together and support one another as best we can. Change can be positive too and I think we will see better ways of working that needed to be evolved anyway. Successful enterprises adapt, and here at Mr Bongo we want to be part of positive change.
We have a very exciting release schedule for 2021, packed with new releases and choice reissues – we can’t wait to share these with the world.