Monday, June 14, 2010

A Voice for the People: 70 years of Topic Records

world music cd cover

Three Score & Ten - A Voice to the People recounts the story of 70 Years of the Oldest Independent Record Label in Great Britain, and the origins of Topic Records are particularly fascinating. Initially, the organization from which Topic would take root was the Workers' Music Association (WMA), founded in 1936 as "an educational offshoot of the British Marxist Party." The Workers' Music Association was created to aid in the struggle against the fascism and totalitarianism that had arisen in the 1930s, and also to provide an outlet for workers to express themselves through music. From the beginning, intellectuals and artists joined together in this effort, under the organizing influence of the composer Alan Bush. In 1939, the first record released by the Workers' Music Association was a 10" 78rpm disc entitled "The Man Who Watered The Worker's Beer" attributed to Paddy Ryan, backed by a performance of "The Internationale." This record was issued under the Topic imprint as TRC1, indicating the 'Topic Record Club,' a subscription method of distribution for the music to be issued by the WMA. The message is clear: from the beginning, what would become Topic Records was a label committed to social justice, and to the sounds of indigenous folk forms...
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