Since 2006, Brian Shimkovitz’s Awesome Tapes From Africa blog has been shedding light on obscure and wonderful sounds from across the continent. As a DJ he brings the blog to life. Blending folkloric pop, left-field dancefloor gems and hip-hop bangers he’s collected on African marketplace finds. Traveling from club to festival to DIY space, Awesome Tapes From Africa DJ sets celebrate the music and musicians whose cassettes Shimkovitz has collected over the years. His DJ sets on twin tape decks explore deep, regional sounds using analog-anchored agility not heard/seen anywhere else.
In 2011 ATFA developed into a critically acclaimed vinyl label, re-releasing records by African artists including Bola, Dur-Dur Band, Hailu Mergia, Penny Penny, Aby Ngana Diop and Ata Kak. The label plays an essential role in furthering Brian’s mission to build an international audience for African music through touring and re-issues.
On the 27th and 28th of February, Brian brings his Awesome Tapes From Africa cassette DJ set to New Zealand for shows in Wellington and Auckland respectively at San Fran and Weird Together’s World Together afternoon event at Silo Park. Here are five
albums TAPES he’s listening to right now (partially because his turntable broke a couple months ago and he hasn’t had it fixed yet…)
1 – Steve Reich, Drumming: Steve Reich is one of my all-time favorite 20th century composers and I grew up playing drums and percussion. This piece is just all tight drum patterns and repeating bell, xylophone and marimba patterns. It sounds really good and resonant on the system I have in my living room.
2 – V/A, Midnight Cowboy Original Motion Picture Score: The title theme to this great old film just makes me feel relaxed. I love how the film shows typical mid-century Manhattan street life. The score captures the desperation and hopes of the characters in the film really beautifully. I found the original United Artists pressing of the tape at a flea market here in LA.
3 – Rarotonga Primary School Choirs, Viking Polynesian Music: Part of legendary NZ label Viking’s Polynesian Music series, my friend from Wellington who is an incredible artist and you may know her, Kerry Ann Lee, gave this to me (along with a couple others from this series). It is very lovely and charming and totally so much more than a novelty listen or like a children’s folk album, promise you.
4 – Awalom Gebremariam, Desdes: I was recently reminded of this wonderful musician from Eritrean multi-instrumentalist and singer, whose cassette I posted on the ATFA blog a couple years ago. The tape is not in the best shape so it sounds a bit rough but that’s part of the overall appeal for me, once I get a few minutes into a track. Krar and drum machine and vocals, pretty much. Just crushingly good.
5 – Blazer Sound System, Listen Up! zine mixtape: I have a couple buddies in NYC who run a sound system and the put together a great zine that also came with a tape of dub reggae deep cuts. It is pretty much perfect start to finish and I can just keep flipping the tape for a long-ass time. Dillinger, Jah Shaka, Gregory Isaacs, Tappa Zuckie and a whole bunch of others I can’t identify appear on this tape.