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A LITTLE HISTORY

A comment on our blog prompted this post. We used to tell people a lot of different things when they asked what Luaka Bop meant:

  • A classic Charlie Parker tune that was never recorded.
  • A type of secret defensive move in an Indonesian martial art.
  • A sweet Polynesian delicacy with aphrodisiac properties.
  • The final position in Kama Sutra.
  • A mood drug developed in the Philippines.
  • A hacker euphemism for sex.
  • Scientist’s name for the “language” beetles use to communicate with one another.
  • A sort of bumping dance.
  • A record label.
  • A state of mind.

But in fact, truth be told it is a Sri Lankan orange pekoe tea that David Byrne bought in the UK.

As for our logo, here is what David said about it a few years after our inception:

Many times I have been asked about the symbolism of the Luaka Bop logo. It has been described variously as a leaf, a spade and a heart. None of these are strictly correct.


The logo, whose use is granted through an agreement that is subject to certain conditions, is a rather obscure Masonic symbol linked at various times to the Trinity of the Illuminati and to the Egyptian Knights of Templar. The Knights were guardians of the secrets of harmony. Hence the obvious and appropriate connection to music. But their concept of harmony was much greater and ranging than our own- not only encompassing the harmony of the spheres, of the heavens, but the harmony of inner fluids and dynamic forces- and in the case of the Egyptian Knights these were ruled by the dead. The Knights believed that the dead are the custodians of the present day, and that no harmony can be true and lasting without their assistance.


Today, the symbol exists as a vessel for music, text and image, through which it’s members communicate to the population at large, Alan Greenspan and occasionally Jaques Chirac.


The eye of the Luaka Bop log is the eye of Vilaç Trimegistes, the Balkan alchemist who gave his eyes to his work, and who was the first to uncover the secrets of the Egyptian Knights. The shape and purportion of the Eye of Vilaç is in a mathematical relationship to the vessel, or “heart”. The heart being considered a vessel not only for the blood, but for the dead. The rays, “thorns” or nails that line and protect the vessel were incorporated during the middle ages, an addition that was deemed necessary in leiu of the then power of the Papacy.


In the files when I started at Luaka in 1990 were these drawing David did when he was attempting to come up with a suitable logo:

Before David fully settled on our logo and in fact before there fully was a “Luaka Bop” the Talking Heads a had a label called Fly. In fact the first Luaka Bop album’s iteration was actually on Fly:

When Rei Momo came out he was still undecided about our logo though that album was on the Luaka label. Here is a photo of the logo he used on the Rei Momo tour T-shirt:

Tibor Kalman of M&Co did all of the early design work for Luaka Bop and most of the later Talking Heads covers as well. (Amazingly enough though we might not have used Tibor on many of the later album covers we did unkowingly end up using a pile of folks who worked for him at M&Co; Stefan Sagmeister, Stephen Doyle, Alexander Isley, Scott Stowell, and Emily Oberman of #17). Tibor had a three dimensional logo made up for one of our first label compilatons called “To Scratch That Itch.” Here is the box he sent it to us in:
Here is the item itself:

So it seems though I started writing about our history, this post is really about how seminal and important Tibor Kalman was…to all of us.

7 Responses to “A LITTLE HISTORY”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello, good post. Love a lot. cheers.

  2. HI!
    amazing post! I MUST confess – Luaka Bop logo is my definitely absolutely favourite one! in my daily life my general position is of a nologo kind, but your logo is the great and lovely exception. and why? hard to tell really. maybe a good answer can be – simply it WORKS for me!
    and one proof-photo plus additional (quite funny I hope) logo-story here: http://tinyurl.com/5rhpxu8 if you like ;-)

    Luaka, David and Yale – all the best for you!

    greetings to Everyone, from Skoczów / Poland!

    Wojciech

  3. Vaska says:

    Indeed!

  4. Jeffrey C says:

    Wow, I love that luaka bop heart container thing. Pretty cool!

  5. George says:

    I still think the Luka Bop is a dance. We were all doing in the clubs this weekend!

  6. Bob Parsons says:

    beautiful story of the logo evolution, in the best traditions of art :)

  7. Lasse says:

    Yes. Luaka bop heart, so cool :-)

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