awesome tapes from africa give us their top ten tracks from the archives

The perfect soundtrack to your Friday.

by VICE Staff
24 March 2017, 3:22pm

Awesome Tapes From Africa began in 2006 when a young New York DJ named Brian Shimkovitz, then on a Fulbright scholarship to Ghana, was turned on to the area's street-hustled cassettes. Ten years on and countless reissues later, Awesome Tapes from Africa has grown from mp3 blog to internationally acclaimed record label, specializing in everything from South African disco to groundbreaking Somali jams. "This is music you won't easily find anywhere else — except, perhaps in its region of origin," says Brian. Here, he picks ten of the very best. 

Dur-Dur Band, "Tajir Waa Ilaah"

"Working with this Somali band who broke ground in late-80s Mogadishu was a dream come true. It took a long time to get in touch and work out how to do a reissue of one of their tapes. This song is one of my favorites among many quality jams."

DJ Katapila, "Lalokat"

"DJ Katapila is a marathon DJ genius and very minimalist producer from Ghana. He makes heavy dance music that reminds me of the stuff you sometimes hear in clubs in Abidjan (neighboring Cote D'Ivoire). He says he is influenced by everything from 90s radio club hits to traditional Ga drum and dance music from his Accra neighborhood."

Penny Penny, "Shichangani Remix"

"Love to DJ this track on big sound systems. Penny Penny is currently starring in a reality show in South Africa. Shit is getting pretty wild on Twitter in response."

Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band, "Sintayehu"

"Recently released on Awesome Tapes From Africa, Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band recorded this set in the nightclub during an afternoon rehearsal time in 1978 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It only came out on tape so some excavation was done to sort of clean it up. Worth the hiss. The whole recording is drenched in smoke and vibes."

Awalom Gebremariam, "Salel"

"Awesome Tapes From Africa exists to release records like this one. Not cool or trendy or dancefloor ready per se, but just some of the most honest and interesting music that I know. I like to think no other international label would release a record like this and that's why I do what I do."

Aby Ngana Diop, "Dieuleul-Dieuleul"

"This song by Senegalese singer Aby Ngana Diop (R.I.P.) is one of my all-time favorites. Someone sent the tape to me and I posted it on the blog. Later after the bale started I was looking for her family for a few years. Luckily, we connected, thanks to a professor in Boston who ended up writing really illuminating liner notes for the official reissue. I recently visited her family in Dakar and they are very sweet! This music video shows some very rare footage of Ms. Diop in action."

Hailu Mergia, "Shilela"

"Very good song off a very excellent album. Hailu Mergia went into the studio in 1985 and made a solo recording of keyboard, accordion, and drum machine, playing traditional Ethiopian melodies and a few popular songs in his own way. This entire tape is just perfect to me."

Ata Kak, "Daa Nyinaa"

"Ata Kak's music is what inspired me to start the blog in the first place. His live show is astounding! This song is always mayhem on the dance floor when I am DJing."

DJ Moruti, "Milandu Bhe"

"Very amazing gqom-style remix of Penny Penny's track by a producer from South Africa. Hoping to get more tracks to release by him ASAP."

Na Hawa Doumbia, "Koro Dia"

"'Koro Dia' is a powerful tune that shows off Doumbia's significant range and the array of timbers she uses with her voice. It's an early recording for a veteran singer whose career continues. She has a tour this summer in Europe, organized by a booking agency in Berlin we work with a lot called Planet Rock."

EP 707 by Umoja, the latest release from Awesome Tapes From Africa, is out 5 May.


Text Matthew Whitehouse

music news
Ata Kak
Awesome Tapes From Africa
Brian Shimkovitz
DJ Katapila
Hailu Mergia
aby ngana diop
awalom gebremariam
dj moruti
dur-dur band
hailu mergia & dahlak band
nahawa doumbia
penny penny