Awesome Tapes from Africa at Café Oto
Unless you’ve been living on the moon for the last eight months, then you’ll probably know that Awesome Tapes from Africa have been the best new thing of 2013. Brian Shimkovitz and his project have brought to the music industry a brand new breath of fresh air, introducing to western society the best independent African music of the last thirty years.
Shimkovitz is a ethnomusicologist who has been travelling around that continent for the last five years; thanks to this experience he has started a seminal blog entitled ATFA, where he uploads all the music he has discovered in Africa and where everyone can download this music for free. Besides this, Shimkovitz has just set up a label called ATFA too, where he sells on vinyls and CDs of this wonderful music. He is currently travelling the globe with a peculiar DJ set made up with tapes, two cassette players and a four channel mixer. And frankly, this is the best music you can hear around right now: Hailu Mergia’s Shilela, Penny Penny’s Dance Khomela, Dur Dur Band’s Dooyo are just few of these superb tracks played yesterday, together with artists like Ebenezer Obey and Mama Yergue Barry.
One particular thing hit our curiosity more than others – for a DJ set of African music, made up of only African artists, in a multicultural neighbourhood like Dalston, why was the audience formed only of white people? What does this mean for the definition of Shimkovitz’s music?
At Café Oto, the temple of educated music in the heart of Dalston, Shimkovitz offers his sold out DJ set in front of 100 youngsters for more than two hours, starting with quiet, chilled tunes, then moving to afro beat, disco soul and afro funk (Nigerian funk, Ethiopian Jazz and obviously Fela Kuti tracks aswell). It is a pleasure to see people dancing, and not to conventional pop tracks, but to songs with with complex bases and with unusual instruments.
This music is different from everything else you may have listened to. In particular, there is one feature that makes this music amazing and different: it’s the lo-fi quality of the tapes that makes everything more genuine and powerful at the same time. For two hours, in a crescendo of beats and mood, Shimkovitz patiently changes tape after tape, giving a more colourful background and set. Finally, someone who’s trying to offer a new vision and new music. Thanks Brian.
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information about Awesome Tapes from Africa and future events visit here.
Watch a live performance of an Awesome Tapes from Africa DJ set here: