Our story starts with 2Funky Records. This music store started life in 1997, as the brainchild of music fan and businessman Vijay Mistry. In the years that followed, it become one of the UK’s top urban retailers, while also generating events, projects, record labels, a loyal cult following and a sweet scent of international acclaim. 2Funky Records’ history of serving big-name radio DJ’s was also strong, with previous customers from 1Xtra, Kiss FM and Galaxy. Artists and industry figures that passed through the shop were similarly impressive – think Fat Man Scoop, Tim Westwood and DJ Jazzy Jeff! The success of their live music events included happenings such as ILUVLIVE, and many a high-calibre DJ worked for 2Funky.
Originally sited on Narborough Road, in student-territory, 2Funky sold a broader range of music styles from hip hop through to rock. However, Vijay’s passion for Black and urban music soon prevailed and when the shop relocated to Belgrave Gate, a year later, it started dealing exclusively in the genres he knew best. 2Funky became a mean marketing machine when it comes to selling tickets and from day one, punters could buy entry to some of the slickest events in town.
In 2000, Vijay set up 2Funky’s own record label, Café De Soul. It was soon voted 2nd best soul label in the UK by Blues & Soul Music Magazine. The label released twenty albums in its five-year life span and specialised in US acts, with the Café De Soul compilations being by far the most popular.
Following the success of Café De Soul, the entrepreneur’s next move was a similar label venture trading under the name 2Funky. The achievements of this fledgling label included UK Fix – a compilation of some of the best R&B artists in the UK, selected by G Child of 1Xtra. Around this time 2Funky also began managing an efficient worldwide mail order service, as well as distribution serving UK, Europe and Japan.
In 2002, 2Funky began providing educational workshops for young people – in DJing, MCing, music production, street dance, break dance and lyric writing. Partnerships with local schools and youth centres allowed young people to work with industry standard practitioners.
In 2007, the evolution of 2Funky’s community work gave rise to social enterprise 2Funky Arts. It was around this time that Vijay was joined by marketing and fundraising specialist Rebecca Wooster. Early achievements for the team included BASS Festival East Midlands, young people’s music programmeSurround Sounds and Tha Lo’Down – a compilation of Leicestershire’s hottest urban artists. 2Funky Arts also Project Managed The Lyric Lounge, in 2009, as part of the cultural programme for theSpecial Olympics.
The decline of the music retail industry resulted in the closure of 2Funky Records in 2012. However, 2Funky Arts took over the events management, marketing and ticketing aspect of the business, to add to its thriving community work. Since then, the arts organisation has made great strides. Recent achievements include becoming a Curve (Theatre) Affiliate Scheme community partner, as one of only a handful of local organisations, with their urban dance groups. Their annual urban ‘Leicester’s Best’ and ‘Midlands Best Dance Crew’ shows always sell out at this landmark venue. Coming into its second year, their Festival2Funky event, celebrating Black music styles, is fast becoming an important part of the city’s cultural calendar. Successful community projects have included Words Without Weapons, Danceabetic and ILUVLYRICS. In 2013 they also set up radio2funky.co.uk Leicester’s first dedicated black music internet radio station.
Lastly, without 2Funky Arts, this important heritage project would not exist and the history of Leicester’s Black music scene may have remained undiscovered.