Awesome Tapes From Africa Showcase @ Colston Hall, Bristol, 12/10/2016

ata kakAwesome Tapes From Africa has an amazing back story. Brian Shimkovitz, the founding member, was living in Ghana when he began to collect cassette tapes he found. When he came across Ata Kak’s tape Obaa Sima in 2002, he began a 13 year long quest to find him. Finally successful last year, they re-released his album together under newly formed record label and aptly titled, Awesome Tapes From Africa.

Casting light on some of the unheard musical genres from West Africa, Brian has brought African disco, soul and pop to the UK. His blog-come-record-label has since grown, taking a whole host of Ghanaian and West African artists under his wing, reproducing and releasing seemingly lost tapes from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Ata Kak has been touring since he re-found fame and musical success with the second release of Obaa Sima, with Colston Hall lined up for this evening.

Accompanying Ata Kak is DJ Katapila, from Accra in Ghana. He opens the evening in full swing with his unique combination of traditional Ghanaian dance music with old school house and techno, creating a club-like setting in the Lantern. His Ga heritage, while nodding to old school house, combines modern influences with the sound of Accra including dance genres gome, kpanlogo and gyama.

He plays tracks from his album, Trotro including “Sakawa” and the more unusual “Cocoawra” which features sampling from "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". Dj Katapila even begins a conga line within the crowd, steeping away from his decks every now and again to dance around the stage. He ends his set list by ripping his jacket open to reveal a Ghana shirt underneath and asks the crowd to, “Keep on charging yourself with beers or whatever you’ve taken."

Ata Kak is next and sure now looks very different to the front of his cassette tape cover. The 13 years have changed his appearance but his spirit remains the same, dancing around the stage. Obaa Sima, now being over 20 years old fills the Lantern with the highlife genre, Ghanaian dance with American hip hop and rap as well as soul and jazz. But the self-released album really is unique, developing on genres from the 90s in an unusual and captivating way, acting like a snapshot from the past. In a live setting, the album appears to have only got better with age, as a full band joins him for his set, developing the bass layers of the tracks.

Ata Kak slows right down during title track “Obaa Sima”, which means ‘ideal woman’, prompting the crowd to speak Ghanaian and sing along with him. He doesn’t stop moving, seeming genuinely humbled by the huge turn out this evening, ending his show with a proud introduction to his band members and a modest thank you.

Awesome Tapes From Africa is bringing the previously unknown musicality of Ghana and West Africa to the UK, and Bristol sure loved it. The sheer blend of genres and sounds is fascinating, while keeping dance and fun at its epicentre. Plus, the gratitude of Ata Kak and Dj Katapila is truly soul-pleasing. Awesome Tapes From Africa is a showcase to watch.

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