TRIBAL America


House label founded in 1991 by Rob Di Stefano that pioneered the darker, progressive house sounds that were popular in New York clubs in the 1990s. Di Stefano was a manager in I.R.S. Records' New York City office when he founded the label as Tribe Records (4)) but renamed it to TRIBAL to avoid confusion with another label called Tribe.

TRIBAL handled US distribution of UK-based Guerilla Records, founded by I.R.S. artist William Orbit and his manager Dick O'Dell. A UK subsidiary, TRIBAL United Kingdom, was opened in December 1993 to release and market the label in Europe and was managed by Richard Breeden. Though not an official outpost of the label, Tribal Portugal was one of Di Stefano's many efforts to promote the Portuguese House music scene after his first visit to the country in 1994 and the connections he made with Rui Da Silva, DJ Vibe and António Cunha.

I.R.S. West Coast sales rep Mark Davenport joined Di Stefano in 1993 to form the core team behind TRIBAL.

The famous logo was created by Di Stefano with assistance from Marts Andrups. Graphic designer Steven Newman arrived at Tribal in 1993 when he was signed to the label as Ofunwa.

When I.R.S.'s owner EMI closed I.R.S. in mid-1996, Di Stefano and Davenport reformed TRIBAL as Twisted America Records.

Parent Label:Twisted America Records
Sublabels:Tribal Portugal, TRIBAL United Kingdom, Tribe Records (4)
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  • linearnorth's avatar
    In 93 I began my DJ aspirations; and though I wanted to spin hardcore techno, it was nowhere to be found in the shops in GA. But Tribal America was there, and that began my love of Tribal and House Music. The first time I spun for a large crowd (300, big for me) and three songs into the mix 'Stretch My Hand' had the crowd mesmerized! It was a pivotal moment for me that I could move a crowd with the music. 'Storm,' 'The Dream,' and 'Bottom Heavy' were also huge. And the Deep Dish releases! Massive! A bit biased but I believe Tribal had the highest percent of dance floor fillers of any label, with King Street being a close second!
    • drakula1975's avatar
      I'm a big fan of Tribal Records releases, I wish they reissue mastered versions on vynil. Is it me or all the records sound very poor? All the records I have sound the same bad quality. What do you think? do you agree?
      • LoversRecords's avatar
        For me, the sound that epitomised Tribal Records was first heard on Danny Tenaglia's mix compilation for DJ Magazine in 1995. This was a promotion done on Pioner CDJs, which were new at the time. It mixed all the best tribal had to offer and is totally timeless. What a label. What a mix. What a sound straigvht from the clubs.

        The Cd by the way is well worth getting hold of as it also features a coldcut mix of early ninja tune stuff.
        • ThrowingShade's avatar
          I remember moving to Miami Beach in 1999 and walking into a record store (can't recall the name) FILLED to the ceiling in the back with promotional material from Tribal America. I grabbed one of everything I could find. I wish I would have gotten all of it, it seems to be quite rare and valuable now. I was like a kid in a candy store that day! I've always liked this label, they did have a lock on all the underground sound back then.
          • telwin5000's avatar
            Have to agree with as said above. For me, Tribal America definitely had its own sound and its realises are a must for anybody who is serious about their house music collection. You can pick up a lot of the back issues quite cheaply in the UK (London) which i think has more to do with large manufacturing runs rather than poor quality. Tribal lives on to a small degree in Twisted America records although the sound has of course moved on to something else. Of as now (may 2009) house music, with its many ups and downs, is on an upward course, its gaining popularity in clubs again, new records continue to come out and older stuff, eg- Tribal gains a new generation of fans who where young children when Tribal first came about.
            • BS.Dos.'s avatar
              Edited 19 years ago
              When I think back to the time I first got into Tribal records I can remember at the time House music was really beginning to kick off as far as the masses were concerned and was becoming (increasingly) more and more mainstream, which for me spelt the end of a two or three year period of House music being still relatively 'underground' Artist's were crossing over into the (UK) charts with increased regularity, which for me just seemed to sanitize the House scene in general as most of the people who were now hearing House music for the first time were experiencing, what I considered to be, a waterdown version of the real thing. If you wanted the real thing deep, stripped down minimal grooves with an evil bottom end but without all the screaming 'higher! higher!' divas which were punctuated by ludicrously long breakdowns every five minutes then Tribal offered the perfect vinyl sanctuary.

              With hindsight it would be easy to knock the label as being, perhaps, a little to 'camp' but at the time the Gay scene was still very much a dominant force in cutting edge underground House music. Personally, I still consider Tribal USA Records to be one of the most important, groundbreaking and devilishly entertainingly House labels to date. Their output always seemed to be touched by the (production) hand of God in some way and was always of a consistantly high quality. The demise of the label was a sad day but I still cheerish the momories and the vinyl.