Counter Intelligence

Cosmos Records

60 minsFirst aired 3 Mar 2017
Jeff Mao

Join us on a trip through Cosmos – the Toronto record shop boasting the rarest in soul/funk/jazz and other top-shelf sounds of the universe.

Since 1998, Toronto’s Cosmos Records has been synonymous with world-class vintage vinyl, offering the finest in in-demand soul, funk, disco, jazz, Latin and Brazilian titles. Soft-spoken co-owner Aki Abe is one of the foremost authorities on this amalgamation of genres often referred to as “rare groove” – something of an unexpected career development given his early professional roots in accounting. When crunching numbers proved too mind-numbing an occupation, Aki pursued his passion for music – DJing on Toronto’s underground warehouse party scene in the late ’80s and fervently digging for vinyl gems on US road trips. Cosmos began as a modest Queen West storefront with a few crates that sold out within a week. Now the business can claim two locations in the T.Dot, a sister locale in London and one of the most sophisticated buying operations of its kind (not to mention an Instagram account of exemplary and informative “record porn”). To hear Aki tell it, however, Cosmos’ climb to celebrated record haven status is all a happy accident. It’s a story he recounts here through a selection of the shop’s representative tracks – private press drum machine disco, Jamaican soul, funky gospel, Japanese modal jazz, even an early Kerri Chandler production. This vinyl lover’s space is definitely the place.


According to Cosmos founder Aki Abe, legend has it that New Jersey deep house innovator Kerri Chandler’s first release on Express Records was financed or released by his grandmother. Truth or fiction, it’s clear that Chandler’s grandparents had a big impact on his musical career.


In Then And Now: Toronto Nightlife History, music journalist and DJ Denise Benson chronicles Toronto’s after hours scene from the ’70s through the ’00s.


You’re listening to a rare cut of reggae songstress Myrna Hague’s Terry Callier cover “What Color Is Love.”


Watch Aki Abe browse through records in Cosmos Record’s Queen West outpost.

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