Label Mates: Atish & Mark Slee / Manjumasi

Since back in 2016, North American DJ’s Atish and Mark Slee have been pushing an impressive calibre of electronic music via their own Manjumasi imprint – with names like Tim Engelhardt and Fabian Krooss amongst their roster.

The latest release to come through the label is a brand new remix pack for Polo & Atish’s ‘Nostalgia del Presente’ EP, which features new edits from Danny Howells, Jim Rivers, YokoO, and Edmondson.

We spoke to the two label founders to chat all things Manjumasi, where we got to ask them about the early days of the imprint, how they’ve went about curating the different releases, and what advice they might give to any aspiring label owners in 2024. Read the full discussion below.

You first launched Manjumasi back in 2016 – what made you want to start your own label?

Mark: Atish and I had been DJing together for many years at this point, and starting a label was an idea that we’d had on the back burner for a while. What really catalysed it was my ‘Nocturne Belle’ EP, I had shopped the track around a bit but hadn’t found a good home for it. Atish felt it was strong as well, so we thought “well, okay why don’t we just do it ourselves?” Approaching a decade now and we’re still at it.

Atish: In addition to everything Mark said, 2015 was the year I quit my day job to pursue a career in dance music. I had a lot of creative energy and newfound time to channel it, so starting a label felt like a great outlet for my curatorial interests. Plus, Mark and I had been collaborating on creative projects since 1999, so firing up Manjumasi together just felt right.

And what were some of the biggest hurdles you faced in the very beginning?

Mark: Honestly I think it’s really just finding the activation energy to get going. But we were fortunate to have a lot of good industry contacts and realistic expectations. I think we have both always viewed the label as a “labor of love” rather than a “return on investment”. It was also very helpful that I’ve been good friends with Jason who runs Proton distribution for many years, he deeply understands all the ins and outs of digital distribution and was able to very rapidly get us up to speed.

Since then you’ve released music from names like Tim Engelhardt, Fabian Krooss, Silat Beksi, and Birds ov Paradise, what is your typical approach to signing new music?

Mark: We really just try to follow our musical interests, wherever that takes us. Atish and I have discussed this many times – we understand that the fact we don’t commit to a particular genre or sound may to a degree inhibit the label’s success. It’s hard to pin down exactly what the Manjumasi sound is, but this is also what keeps it interesting and rewarding for us.

We’re able to work with artists whose music we are passionate about in a deeper way than just including their tracks in a DJ mix. Some of our signings come from reaching out to artists whose work we have been loving, but we do also listen to all the inbound demos we receive (which is how we connected with Fabian, for instance).

Your next release is a remix pack for the ‘Nostalgia del Presente’ EP, with edits from Danny Howells, Jim Rivers, Edmondson, and YokoO, how did you decide who to approach for remixes? And what can people expect from the tracks?

Mark: This was a really fun package to put together. When thinking about remixers, it’s a balancing act of finding artists who the original music will resonate with, but who can also bring range to the package. We’ll often try to have remixes span more than one genre.

A lot of our original signings are from up and coming artists, so another thing we think about is finding remixers with more established notoriety, which can help bring some attention to a talented younger artist. All of those things apply in this case – Danny Howells and Jim Rivers have put together brilliant modern progressive house, whereas YokoO and Edmonson put together really tasty groove-forward house mixes.

What’s your favourite label?

Mark: Oooff, that’s too tough, there are just so many. Lately I’m enjoying labels releasing stuff with a bit of an occasional “song structure” to it, e.g. Laut & Luise, Amselcom, Atomnation, Erased Tapes. Lots of great stuff on all my thoughts (highly recommend Edmondson’s recent ‘Vanaramabar’ EP). Pablo Bolivar’s Seven Villas has always been a mainstay for deepness. YokoO’s Satya imprint has been really nice for groove-forward stuff. Honestly I hate even starting to make a list, it will always leave out far too much.

Atish: Kompakt has always been top of my list as a label with a storied history, consistent high quality, and they seem to be disinterested in genre constraints – in many ways they’re an aspirational template for Manjumasi. Beyond that, Aniara, Aus Music, and Mule Musiq.

And a bucket list artist you would love to sign one day?

Mark: That’s really hard to say, our wishlist is always changing with the times as we both discover new things – I actually don’t think I have an answer to this!

Atish: One of my favorite things about running the label is having a chance to work with my favorite artists, and many of the artists on my list have already released with us: Dorisburg, Acid Pauli, Lusine, Danny Howells, Rodriguez Jr, and Silat Beksi, to name a few. But I’d absolutely love to work with Koze or Stimming one day!

What advice would you give to anyone that wants to launch their own label in 2024?

Mark: Realistic expectations are key. It’s an absolutely over-saturated market, labels are less visible in the streaming landscape, AI-generated music is coming down the pipe fast, the world really does not *need* a larger quantity of dance music to begin with. And yet, there’s still so much beautiful and inspiring music being created that really deserves to be heard and shared. Almost none of it will “make business sense”, but if the process of connecting with artists and working on that feels intrinsically appealing, then go for it.

Is there anything else you want to mention before we go?

Mark: Hype time, Atish has a vinyl exclusive coming out on the label this summer called ‘Birdland’. We’re just now at the test pressings phase, so assuming all is good we’ll hopefully be announcing the details soon – follow us to stay in the loop!

Polo & atish – Nostalgia del Presente Remixed EP is out June 14th on Manjumasi.