Story behind creation of the first Café del Mar compilations

“It was the only place, the beginning of something new, a great crowd, a magical time of unique circumstances”, — said Jose Padilla about his first impressions of the Spanish bar Café del Mar in Ibiza, San Antonio. He became a resident in 1991 and, before that, he played as a guest in different places of the island. In 1986, at his 10th anniversary on the island, he and his partners opened their own bar Museum in the South-West with a view of the cliffed island Es Vedrà. In the summer, things were going fine, but after an unprofitable year and one of cofounder’s suicide, Padilla got out of the business.

Jose Padilla

After having paid the debts, Jose went to San Antonio. The club Nitos (now Nightlife) sheltered him but, even though they paid him well, he didn’t manage to ‘burn’ the club as he himself was burnt inside. “I was drinking every night. So I stopped and started to sell tapes on the hippie market. I was doing my own tapes, at home, reggae, soul, whatever. Different styles. I made 20 or 30 of them with nice cover from a painter friend of mine. First day I went I sell all of them. Next day I did double. I sold them all again. F**ck! I buy another tape machine. Then I speak Alfredo, Pippi, Cesar de Molero, I say, ‘Look I got this business in the market, if you make me a master, I will give you percentage or pay you for the master.’ Every week, I’d go to them and say here’s your money. I still have all the masters. So I came home with £3,000! I was sitting on my sofa, with eight machines — boom boom [mimics punching several record buttons] — when I was tired my girlfriend would take over. This was 1989.

Then people start to copy me. They’d actually buy the tapes from me and make copies of my tapes! It’s a big market. That year there was about ten of them. Then the police start to come. I did that for two years. Then the Café Del Mar guys, who I knew, because I used to live behind it, they said, ‘Look if you want to DJ here…’ I start to sell tapes. I was selling 100 tapes a day. The wages were like £500 a month. I was working six days a week. I thought I have to do this legally.”

The first Cafe del Mar tape

At the time, Jose’s compilations were already made under the name of the bar. A few years ago, one of those rare cassettes from 1991–1992, saved by an audiophile, was digitilised. The sleeve for the local market only had a sunset and the usual logo, but no track list — Internet audiophiles quickly recreated it J It turned out that it wasn’t early electronic music but instrumental jazzy funk, with wordless piano parts and slow warm things with Asian tunes + some soundtracks and orchestral things.

“I came to London and offered it to all the big companies, so I forgot about it for a few years and I saw a friend from Logic, Ceela, he said, ‘I got these friends from React and they are interested’. That’s how I did it. First one came out in 1992, I think. When I start to do the CDs I came here for the winter, living in London for three years and two years in Nottingham, and DJing around the country […] First one sold 8,000, second one 30,000, dah dah. The fifth one sold half a million. The best of did over a million. We’ve done between 3 and 4 million worldwide now.”

After having released three annual complications on the independent label React, Jose signed a contract with the giant Mercury, which led to a law suit with the first label over the right to use the name of the bar for the compilation. There was something to sue for — by this time Café del Mar had become a recognisable global brand. Еasy listening, ambient, downtempo, lounge, acid jazz — many listeners united all these genres in one: Café del Mar music. Jose’s cooperation with Mercury lasted for three years, after which a law suit with the bar founders started. Padilla retired, but managed to release his first album Souvenir with Mercury. What happened later to the compilation didn’t satisfy some listeners.

“Just playing the big tunes is boring. I am looking for a more progressive underground sound.” Here is the essential of Café del Mar music. Diamonds from Padilla’s compilations. 1995–1998. Listen:
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