Awesome Tapes From Africa

by Kate Burgess

Awesome Tapes From Africa is ethno-musicology-researcher-turned-DJ Brian Shimkovitz’s project unearthing and showcasing music from Africa (with a particular focus on the West coast). He takes to Colston Hall’s Lantern venue in October to present, alongside Qu Junktions, Ata Kak and DJ Katapila.

Initially producing some 50 demo tapes twenty or so years ago, of which only a couple sold, Ata Kak’s infectious Ghanaian hip-house has been doing the rounds in Europe after its rediscovery. Indeed Ata Kak’s obscure producer/rapper output inspired Shimkovitz’s archiving project. Last year saw the re-release of his short LP Obaa Sim which performed live gains astounding energy. Backed with a live band and amazing vocals the album becomes richer, less fragmentary and more soulful. Having seen him in June in Amsterdam, I can vouch for a super fun audience experience, involving participation and an abundance of energy; it was difficult not to, when front man Yaw Atta-Owusu had a grin plastered over his face.

DJ Katapila aka Ishamel Abbey. , from Accra, Ghana, verges more towards an acid-house palette. Tracks from Trotro such as Lalokat use cowbell flecks incessantly – the effect being annoyingly fun. His sound, more recently created than Ata Kak’s, uses more familiar tropes with its drum programming and the production quirks are interesting but in my opinion sometimes verge on repetitive. Perhaps, though, beyond a recorded setting it will have a breath of life that situates the ‘dud’ notes beyond what can sometimes feel like lazy noise creation. I am interested to see how it will sit alongside the arguably more infectious music of Ata Kak, and ATFA’s opening set.

A guaranteed joyful night of dancing, this is not one to miss. Awesome Tapes’ nights are always enjoyable and serve their purpose of compelling a wider delving into the musical output of African, and on the 12th in Bristol specifically Ghanaian, music.