The word Astar is Gaelic for journey, distance, momentum. Artes is Spanish for the arts.
We are a music production company working as a record label, publisher and management service. Plus we like creating projects for education and the community.
Built around long-time musical adventurer John Hollis, his family and friends, it’s all about fine music and the almighty groove.
Basically we just love making tunes that move the heart, feet and soul.
JOHN’S STORY …..
It all began at school in Sudbury, Suffolk in the late 70s, when he put on his first show with a local rock band. At University in Bristol, in the early 80s, he presented shows with Black Roots, Pig Bag and others. This led him to manage, and later perform with, a young reggae band called Restriction. For several years they toured the UK, recorded for BBC Radio 1 and then with the Mad Professor. The band started performing in Paris in 1985, before they all went their separate ways, and it was here John came into contact with Francophone Africa, discovering artists and albums from Senegal and Mali that were to lead him into an inspiring and strangely familiar world.
He tour managed Super Diamano de Dakar in Europe and was then approached by the Womad Festival who were keen to develop contacts with French speaking artists and make more of the enormous potential harboured in and via Paris. This led to a creative working relationship with Womad which went on for several years. John worked on festival programming and helped take the festival overseas, later organising tours for participating artists which brought him into contact with many musicians from different countries. He met Toumani Diabate in 1986 when he was performing in a group visiting London and they struck up an immediate friendship. John brought Toumani to the UK for his first solo performances in 1987, working on several projects together, and kick-started his international career. He also worked closely with Tanzanian star Remmy Ongala and Gambian kora maestro Amadou Bansang Jobarteh, arranged the first UK shows for Salif Keita and toured with Farafina, The Drummers of Burundi and Doudou N’Diaje Rose, whilst working with numerous other artists from Geoffey Oryema and Ali Farka Toure to Guo Yue and Joji Hirota.
In 1990 John left Womad and based himself in Senegal for a while soaking up mandinka, woolof and bambara music. During this period he freelanced as a tour manager, working with The Cambodian National Dance Company, The Jolly Boys and Totó la Momposina. Totó and family then invited him to Colombia and, on an exploratory visit in 1992, he accepted her proposition to be her manager and stayed there for two years – changing continents and immersing himself in the world of the cumbia, bullerenge and son. Since then he has managed Totó’s career and worked other artists, notably Cuban band Asere, Cuban troubador Adan Pedroso and Colombian group Cimarrón. For a time he worked with Congolese guitarist Papa Noel, Richard Blair (aka Sidestepper) and Seckou Keita. He also continued to tour manage, working with Ruben Gonzalez , Ibrahim Ferrer, Eliades Ochoa, La Familia Valera Miranda, The Sabri Brothers, Susana Baca, David Byrne and the Jaipur Kawa Brass Band.
Over the years, working closely with artists in rehearsals and on many studio sessions, John developed an interest in producing music. Albums he has produced include ‘Tambolero’, Totó la Momposina, ‘De Cuba y de Panama’, Billy Cobham and Asere, and ‘Clychau Dibon’, Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita.
In 2009 John returned to reggae and created the AMJ Collective - they have been releasing fresh, modern dub tracks over the last few years steadily building a solid reputation for an original sound. Their first album, Sky Blue Love, a collaboration with dub maestro Rob Smith, came out in 2016 to wide acclaim across the world.
On his first trip to Colombia in 1992 John fell in love with Euridice, Totó la Momposina’s daughter. They married, have six children and live in the UK.