Grigri Discs, LLC was launched in 2008 by Michael Shereikis and Robert Fox with the release of Chopteeth, the debut recording by Washington DC’s Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band. The two friends had spent years building their 12-piece afrofunk orchestra into a local institution, with Robert on bass and Michael on guitar and vocals. The band followed two years later with Chopteeth Live, recorded at clubs around DC.
Both albums won critical acclaim, and Chopteeth has become a fixture at top venues and festivals in DC, Maryland and Virginia. They have been honored to share a stage with groups like Ozomatli, Aaron Neville, Gov't Mule, Chuck Brown, War, Grupo Fantasma, Konono No. 1, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, Derek Trucks Band, Soulive, Greyboy Allstars, Toubab Krewe, The Iguanas and more.
Chopteeth’s success encouraged Michael and Robert to expand their vision for Grigri Discs to the broader DC-area African musical community.
In the true melting pot that is Washington DC, world-class African musicians can be found delivering pizzas and working as security guards just to scrape by. They come to the states to make it as musicians, but most find that path completely overgrown with the high cost of living and realities of life in a US city.
Those who keep playing music in DC often find work in one of the dozens of African churches scattered around its sprawling suburbs (where Sunday services are rocking!). Sometimes a small cabaret will open for a time, and maybe there’ll be a band playing to a small compatriot crowd every weekend, until something happens and the place closes.
Among those who keep playing, it is only a tiny percentage that take things one step further and put their musical vision into a recording. That journey -- expensive studios, language and cultural barriers, and the pitfalls of distribution and promotion – is not embarked upon lightly, and is completed by precious few.
The mission of Grigri Discs is to provide a place where African musicians in the DC-area can develop their artistic vision in a relaxed atmosphere, and get help with distribution and promotion.
Rootstock Studios, a small project space built into Michael's garage, serves as incubator for artists like Chopteeth, Cheick Hamala Diabate, Zieti, Elikeh, Tosin Aribisala and others. It’s not a fancy space, but it allows total freedom of thought and the flexibility to try, fail and try again.
Cheick Hamala recorded his latest album Ake Doni Doni entirely at Rootstock Studios. He brought his neice from Mali to sing, plus some of the finest Malian balafon, djembe and kora players on the east coast, members of Chopteeth and even a tabla player. Celebrated bluesman and cultural ambassador Corey Harris came through for a session. The resulting album is like nothing else on the Malian scene.
Now with the release of Zemelewa by Ivoiro-American group Zieti, Grigri Discs has taken their mission global. Tracks were passed back and forth across the ocean and up and down the American east coast to create an entirely fresh take on the whole concept of “world music.”
Michael and Robert are currently developing the next Grigri Discs project with members of the African musical community around Washington DC.