An Interview with El Palmas: Digging into Venezuelan Music Gems

Maurice Aymard (a.k.a El Palmas) lives in Barcelona but was born in Venezuela. Music represents an important part of his life both as a fan but also as a record shop and label owner, DJ, and industry professional. His first step in the business was opening a store in Caracas called Galaktika Records that soon became a label with a sub-label, too (this last one called Apersonal Music).

At a young age, he was obsessed with electronic music but is now coming back to his roots and rediscovering the amazing music of his motherland, Venezuela. This is why he founded El Palmas Music, his newest adventure in music. Aymard is digging deep into the contemporary music history of his country and exploring amazing records from Daniel Grau and Rada, which he has compiled and re-released. But there’s more — he has also signed a couple of new artists like Contento and Acid Coco, who reclaim the Afro-Caribbean heritage and mix it with current club influences.

We invite you to dig in no matter where you are listening to these beautiful records. Below is a brief breakdown of Aymard’s entire catalog with a small review of each one of the records he has been releasing since the label launched later last year. The latest release is an amazing compilation of songs by El Dragón Criollo that perfectly summarize Venezuelan heritage.

You can find more records from El Palmas on Discogs here.

Discogs: Who you are and what’s your background with music and record collecting?

Maurice Aymard: My Name is Maurice Aymard, also known as El Palmas. I was born in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela, and have been around the music industry since 1999. It all started in Caracas, where I had my first record shop called Galaktika Records. I also had an online music website dedicated to events and music called Caracas y Qué? and afterward I became a DJ and a booking agent. Those magical times were the beginning of the modern electronic music scene in Venezuela (raves became popular) and I was kind of part of that scene. In 2003, I moved to Barcelona, where I’m still living, and moved the record store with me which, later on, became a label with more than 100 releases and a booking agency. I became a producer, too, releasing my debut album in 2013. I started my second record label, Apersonal Music, around 2010, which I don’t run anymore. I am now into this new adventure called El Palmas Music, which is about the knowledge I have been acquiring over the years. Besides this, I became a record collector many years ago.

D: What’s your first memory related to music? Which was the first record you remember to buy with your money?

MA: When I was young (around 16 years old) I remember I had my first job. I was a tennis teacher; we use to get paid every 15 days. Every time we got the salary, my best friend and I were going to a legendary record shop in Caracas called Esperanto. It was a magical place where you could connect with artists, journalists, and music lovers. Every time I went there, I came out with a few CDs in my hand. I remember the singer of Los Amigos Invisibles was working there and he was very good with music advising. By that time, I was into Faith No More, Nine Inch Nails, and local bands like Sentimiento Muerto. The mixture of industrial and rock madness stole my heart. I also remember that my dad was into music; he had a small but lovely record collection and his family, in the city of Merida, had the first record shop of the city. So somehow, we were all connected. In 1992, I moved to the U.S. for a few years and got really into hip-hop and bought tons of cassettes of 2 Live Crew, Dr Dre, MC Hammer, and Vanilla Ice.

Maurice Aymard El Palmas

Photo by  Georgina Maldera.

D: As a record shop owner and a label owner, you have been involved in the music industry for a very long time. Tell us about your experience.

MA: My first record shop opened in 2000 in Caraca. We specialized in dance music. We brought in lots of vinyl and CDs from the U.S. and the United Kingdom. We were supporting the local scene a lot, too. I remember the store as a magical, small place. Everybody was coming every day to buy records and to have a chat with us. It was crazy; we were buying music every week and the business was running pretty well until the Chavez “decadence” appeared. I have really good memories of that time. I lived during the birth of the rave scene. The vibe in the city was very spiritual and magical. I made a lot of friends and played in very nice venues with amazing dance floors, so the experience around this time was more than great.

Then I decided to move to Barcelona and open a second shop, but things here were totally different here. There was lots of competition and the sound was completely different. So I had to change my taste a bit to understand both the Catalan and European scene. I also had no friends here and knew no one, so I felt pretty lonely sometimes. Also, moving to a new country is one of the hardest things a person can do, but I had no choice because Venezuela was starting to evolve into communism. I was also very far away from my family.

I opened the second record shop in 2004. I was there from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Mondays to Saturday — lots of work and fighting to survive, but slowly things were picking up and the word was finally out there. We started to connect with local artists like Pablo Bolivar and Iñaqui Marin. We also met Brazilian producer Gui Boratto and Swedish electronic music producer Martinez (who had a Trentemøller sound that I was loving at that time).

The next step was opening my first record label called Galaktika Records, same as the shop. Those years were amazing. We sold around 1,500 units of each release and created a nice artist family with people like Paulo Olarte, Garnica, and Oriol Benedet. We all traveled around the world, from Japan to Ecuador, and played in all the clubs from the Barcelona scene. Those times were amazing.

D: Why did you close down your record store?

MA: I decided to close the shop in 2008. Vinyl was not selling anymore. These were the years of the digital transformation (and all the DJs were downloading music in general). I continued with the record label, producing and DJing, but with the store closed. It was even harder to survive as an artist. The electronic music scene was very saturated at that time. DJs weren’t playing vinyl anymore and there was no space for many new artists. You were either big or you were dead. So, I changed my direction a bit into fashion and created my own shoe and clothing brand called La Veintinueve. Despite this change of direction in my life, I never stopped DJing, buying records, traveling, and signing new artists into the label.

D: How important are record stores for you nowadays? How do you think the Internet can help them to make the business grow? How did Discogs help develop your business?

MA: Record stores are the water for the music business. I still love to go and to connect with owners. They always have something new to show you. Here in Barcelona, I love to go to Barcelona City Records; they always treat you well and they have an amazing inventory of Latin, African, and jazz. Discogs is one of the few sources where I can find those hidden gems, which has helped my new record label, El Palmas, to grow.

D: Tell us the story of El Palmas and why you created it.

MA: I start losing interest in electronic music; I was not passionate about it anymore. The scene became empty, in my opinion. So many artists copying each other. It lost its creativity and everything sounded pretty much the same to me. Record labels were always putting out releases from the same artists while there were so many new artists producing music that was void. Also, promoters had no criteria, and I was feeling I needed a change.

So, I started to buy records from my home country, Venezuela, from the 1960s and ’70s. I investigated the African and Colombian scene and got connected with my roots. It took me a few years to realize that I was finally into something new: the connection with my Latin American roots.

When you are in Venezuela, you can feel the salsa and merengue everywhere. When you get on a bus, that’s the only music you will hear, which means that you are basically born with these sounds in your veins. I remember going to this historic place called El Maní Es Así where local bands played live tropical music every Wednesday. I recall going there a lot with my friends to have our Cuba Libres and get ready for a clubbing night. Some magical memories — and they were always on a Wednesday night [laughs], which means that Wednesdays were the beginning of the weekend for us.

A close friend of mine and a very good artist, Paulo Olarte, was already connecting with his tropical roots as he from Colombia. He saw it very clear since the very beginning and wanted to get away from the electronic music scene, too, pivoting to release more tropical music. We were talking for almost two years about doing something together and new. He was finishing his musical project and I was building up the structure of the label, so the combination of both ideas and the power of music became what is my third record label, El Palmas Music. Also, my main source of inspiration is Georgina Maldera, who is one of the designers from the label. Without her, none of this would be possible.

D: What kind of music do you release on El Palmas Music?

MA: The first two releases were more disco and Balearic and raw ’80s electronic music, but we are now more into latin, salsa, cumbia, champeta, and Merengue. But I must say, I also want to release some reggae, Arabic, hip-hop, and French music. So, El Palmas Music is — and will be — a tropical musical experience connected with all these genres, but somehow with the same concept. Maybe it sounds weird, but everything is possible with music.

D: Does the label only produce new releases or re-releases?

MA: It is always about new music but it is also super fun to discover hidden gems.

D: Will you be only reissuing old Venezuelan records?

MA: We will keep releasing Venezuelan reissues but we are working right now on a Colombian and a French reissue. And, of course, lots of new music.

El Palmas Music Catalog

El Mágico Mundo de Daniel Grau (2019)

Daniel Grau‘s legacy will last forever. He released so many great albums in the 1970s and he is such a great human being. I am so in love with his work. For me, he is the Venezuelan’s Giorgio Moroder. It was such a beautiful experience to work with him as he is so humble and talented.

It was also a great honor to release his first album in more than 30 years and, unfortunately, his last one as he is very sick at the moment. He is struggling with cancer. He has a Gofundme campaign running at the moment to help him (please, donate!).

The great work of our designer, Georgina Maldera, made the album complete. My favorite track from the album is, without a doubt, “Freedom.”

Angel Rada ‎– Tropical Cosmic Sounds From Space (2020)

The experience with Angel Rada was totally different, as he is a very hard artist to deal with. A lot of patience was required here. Also, he had no masters, which means that it was complicated to compile all of his 1980s discographies.

We encountered lots of obstacles, but I must say that to bring electronic music into a tropical environment requires a lot of talent. He is a visionary and a pioneer. This is why I thought his work had to be shown to the world. There are so many of his tracks that I love, but “La Danza de Kali” is one of my favorites.

El Drágon Criollo, La Jungla Music ‎– Je Pense à Toi / La Cumbia Del Desierto (2020)

This was our first 7-inch release. It’s also my first one, so a personal challenge for me. The album can show the world what’s coming up from the tropical world and what it means to us. It can also show what Paulo Olarte is capable of doing.

My favorite song here is “La Cumbia del Desierto,” but I must admit that people liked “Je Pense à Toi” more.

Acid Coco – Mucho Gusto (2020)

This is our main project, it is where Pop and Latin vibes collide. The music from Paulo and the voice from Andrea are a great combination. This album is complete in so many ways, from the artwork from Daria Meckhart to the mastering and cut from The Carvery Studio.

I love the whole album, so it is impossible for me to choose one song. I am sorry; I can’t decide on one. But if you want to get hooked up, this is the one above.

Contento – Lo Bueno Está Aquí (2020)

The dirtiness and rawness of this Salsa-Punk album are what makes me love it. It’s so difficult to me finding something nowadays that could sound like that.

My favourite track here is “Dale Melón”, I can’t stop listening to it and it is one of those tracks that makes me feel good or, that simply makes me dance. But there is also another track that I’m sure you will love, “Paso Palante”.

El Dragón Criollo – Color De Trópico (2020)

Venezuelan musical heritage is unknown for everyone, this is why I decided to dig into it. There was so much good music made in Venezuela in the 6’0s and ’70s and this art need to be shown. There are also so many hidden gems from our country that were lost. Was very difficult to find this music and to find the owners of the tracks, also there were so many records not available in the market so it was very difficult to make the compilation. My favorite track is “Guajira Con Arpa” from Hugo Blanco.

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