Music from Brian Shimkovitz’s cassette deck: Awesome Tapes From Africa
Music from all over Africa has increasingly become inspiration for house producers around the world. I’ve noticed a real trend over the past five years specifically of West African artists being sampled in live house sets in England and the US. But now you can start to hear the influence of East African and Arabic sounds from North Africa sneaking into playlists the of DJs and producers as well.
One of the people to start popularizing this sound into Western music again is Brian Shimkovitz. Some might say he is the person.
Shimkovitz has spent over a decade traveling Africa in order to bring cassette tape versions of the music he’s found there back home. The cassette tapes make a nice physical token to mark his journey but they are a practicality as well. Most music is recorded, sold and traded with cassettes around Africa, making it the medium of choice when it comes to sharing and transporting music.
It also makes the music extremely hard to find online. You have to be there to hear it. In the beginning Shimkovitz set out to bring the tapes back and digitize them in order to share them with a wider audience. Now acts as a record label for many new artists he finds, licensing their music and distributing them.
Besides the music, the artwork that goes onto these tapes is pretty interesting as well. It represents a wide range of cultures, languages and design styles. I’ve selected a few of the tapes that jumped out at me for you to look at and listen to, but I highly recommend you visit the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog to see just how amazing this project is (and listen to some rare music).
Asnakech Worku – Tche Belew
Awesome Tapes From Africa Blog: “There is perhaps no woman more cherished in modern Ethiopian history than Asnakech Worku. As a musician, actress, dancer and cultural icon, Asnakech inspired and challenged society for decades, until her death in 2011. She was an internationally-celebrated performer of Ethiopia’s ancient harp, the krar, making her one of the most visible female musicians of the 20th century.”
Professor Rhythm — Release Me
Professor Rhythm — Uskamosothotsa
Professor Rhythm — Bafana Bafana
Forget that “Professor Rhythm” is an awesome name, he makes some sweet sweet music reminicent of the 80s and 90s. Hard piano hooks, 80s house synths, driving beats… this is Africa party music meets brightly colored 80s shoulder pads.
From the Professor Rhythm Bandcamp page: Professor Rhythm is the production moniker of South African music man Thami Mdluli. Throughout the 1980’s, Mdluli was member of chart-topping groups Taboo and CJB, playing bubblegum pop to stadiums. Mdluli became an in-demand producer for influential artists (like Sox and Sensations, among many others) and in-house producer for important record companies like Eric Frisch and Tusk. During the early ’80s, Mdluli projects usually featured an instrumental dance track. These hot instrumentals became rather popular. Fans demanded to hear more of these backing tracks without vocals, he says, so Mdluli began to make solo instrumental albums in 1985 as Professor Rhythm. He got the name before the recordings began, from fans, and positive momentum from audiences and other musicians drove him to invest himself in a full-on solo project. It was the era just before the end of apartheid and house music hadn’t taken over yet. There wasn’t instrumental electronic music yet in South Africa. As the ’80s came to a close, that was about to change.
Learn more about Professor Rhythm on the ATFA blog
Roi Alekpehanhou – Sato Na Hangna
Roi Alekpehanhou – Mi Wè Non Hin So Mi
More about Roi Alekpehanhou from ATFA: “His music is heavy. The massive ensemble is technically beyond reproach. Extended/repeated listening is rewarded. And the spiritual and historic background of what he’s doing—traditional Fon music full proverbs, praise and death-related ritual—are worth a read. All hail drums and reflection and the message.”
Aster Aweke – Track 4
From ATFA: “Aster Aweke! What a revelation this tape is for fans of her early years. Ethiopian Amharic language popular music from one of the undisputed legends. So smooth, such a rainy night vibe. Aweke’s voice soaring. Mid- or late-1970s, I believe. The backing band I suspect is Roha Band (nee Ibex Band)… mellow af. Reminds me of the recent Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band reissue.”
Sourakata Koite – Ha-Madi Sourakata Koite – Kaira “Om” Alec Khaoli — Say You Love Me “Om” Alec Khaoli — Enjoy It Nahawa Doumbia — Tou Dibile
And finally, here is a mix by Shimkovitz himself for Resident Advisor. It’s a great selection of the many of hundreds of tapes that he’s compiled for Awesome Tapes From Africa.RA.517 – Awesome Tapes From Africa
- Onyame Nkrabea Nwomkro – Owerehoni
- Issa Bagayogo – Kouloun
- Penny Penny – Shichangani (Remix)
- Dr. Raphael Samah – E So Fun Oniduru Mi
- Souleymane Traore – Cinporoko Nomougoro
- Vumani – Black Mampatile
- Yvonne Chaka Chaka – Sangoma
- Brenda Ando The Big Dudes – Gimme Gimme Your Love
- Manu Dibango-Echos Beti
- Stip Guys-Da Kara-
- Lat Mbaye-Teckno ac Tama
- DJ Katapila-Zoomlion
- DJ Mengie & DJ XL Yafet-??
- DJ Alex Funk-Ambiance DJ Instru
- DJ Katapila-Gbe Ohe Mix
- DJ Katapila-Ice -Inc.
- Ata Kak-Bome Nnwom
- Aby Ngana Diop-Dieuleul
- Dieli Moussa Condé-Dena Dyala