"I've been so lucky," says Bob Haddad. "Every job that I've had in my life I've loved, and the few jobs that I haven't loved, I've quit. Everybody has it within their power to do it, but they're afraid."
Take a look around Haddad's gorgeous Orange County homestead and you'll see what he means by lucky. His office and home are situated near each other on a huge, secluded lot. The interior of the office, which he's currently having remodeled, is decorated with beautiful and rare crafts and artwork from around the world. Haddad has been able to acquire these things due to the success of his world-music record label, the straightforwardly named Music of the World.
And lately, just as the tedium of the business was beginning to outweigh the joy of bringing traditional music from around the world to Western audiences, he was able to quit. In January an online group called Emusic.com acquired the Grammy-nominated company and put its music online, but also kept Haddad on as a consultant. Now, instead of dealing with things like payroll and distribution, he'll be able to concentrate on what he loves most: working with artists, producing music and educating Westerners for whom Ricky Martin is world music.
Haddad and many of his musicians will celebrate the label's new incarnation with an international jam session this Saturday, Aug. 26, at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. Among the participants are some of the top traditional musicians from around the globe, including percussionist Glen Velez, Iranian sitar player Soheil Zolfonun and local musical jack-of-all-trades Robbie Link. A percussionist himself, Haddad will likely sit in during the performance, after which the musicians and friends of the label will meet at Chapel Hill's Silk Road Tea House to continue jamming into the wee hours. Bob Haddad is lucky indeed.
Music of the World began under humble circumstances 18 years ago in Brooklyn when Haddad, a high-school Spanish teacher who sidelined as a jazz singer, became enamored of world music. Of Syrian and Sicilian descent, Haddad had traveled extensively during his college years and had become something of an expert on Latin American culture. But his life changed when he heard Indian music for the first time.
"India just blew my mind," he says. "In western classical music they don't improvise, they don't in the middle of the orchestra say, 'OK, cello, you go ahead and do a solo.' Everything is on paper and if you deviate one iota from what's written you're bad."
He began getting to know some of the traditional musicians living in and traveling through New York City. Wanting to help them out (few were able to survive on their music alone), Haddad recorded their music with his home cassette deck, making duplications the artists could sell at shows.
"They'd come over, and we'd cook some Indian food, light some incense and make a recording," he says. After a year, he had recorded at least five such tapes, and the demand was such that he began using a professional cassette duplicator. Looking to escape the city, Haddad and his former partner, Martha Lorantos, settled in Chapel Hill in 1989, the year the label released its first CDs. By 1995, the label had racked up a Grammy nomination for the Indian violinist Shankar's release Raga Aberi.
Eventually, though, the music-business grind wore thin.
"I don't multitask as well as I used to," he says. "And wearing all those different hats on any given day was really getting to me. But the only way to get around it was to continue to grow the company. More employees, which would have meant moving our location, and I didn't want to give up my lifestyle for that. Sure I could have had a little bit more money, but I would have had more aggravation."
The solution was Emusic.com, which is offering Music of the World's entire catalog for download from its site. Haddad is currently searching for another label to agree to release Music of the World's products on CD, but until that happens, the music will only be available online. Considering Haddad's distrust of free trading sources such as Napster--which he openly refers to as "criminals"--forming an alliance with Emusic was obviously a difficult decision for him.
"They were pretty much the first of the digital download companies to come up with a model that was legal and ethically sound, and they continue to operate in that fashion," he says.
"I've spent 18, 20 years of my life doing this, to be told, 'Well, it should be public domain. It should belong to the people.' Well, go make your own music. You make music and give it away to the people. I want to sell my music, and I need to sell my music. I need to pay royalties to the artists, manufacturing costs, heating bills, utility bills. That's my living."
Since turning over Music of the World to Emusic.com, Haddad has devoted himself to compiling a CD of world music to be included in an 11th-grade geography textbook. And, of course, he's producing records.
"There's a little bit of me in each recording. I've always liked that part of my business, and I will continue to do that," he says. "I can turn over the masters and copyrights to Emusic and see where they go--see how they grow.
"Now I feel like I'm in a position where I can concentrate on my creative stuff, which is where this all started from anyway."
An informal jam session will take place at Silk Road Tea House on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill following the ArtsCenter show. Proceeds from the concert will go to disadvantaged musicians from Peru, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Romania and the United States.