Ata Kak – Obaa Sima, 1994 (reissued 2015)

Ghanaian musician A Yaw Atta-Owusu, aka Ata Kak, recorded and self-produced Obaa Sima in 1994 in his home studio while living in Toronto. In spite of only 50 cassette copies being produced, the tape has enjoyed cult status over the past decade. Still, scouring the internet turns up virtually no information about him, which will change today. Awesome Tapes From Africa‘s Brian Shimkowitz has finally tracked him down after years of searching, and is restoring and rereleasing Obaa Sima on all formats, 21 years after its original release.

Obaa Sima lies somewhere in between highlife, house, hip hop, new jack swing, and electro, produced rough and dry. Without wanting to suggest that this is a kitschy bedroom-tape artifact (it’s not), what makes this so exciting is its rawness and deliberate playfulness. Ata Kak seems to have exploited his minimalist production methods on purpose and clearly had a lot of fun doing it. The music feels pixelated and hyper-saturated at the same time, like playing Pacman through 3D glasses.

 Ata Kak is a wicked rapper, and his hopped-up flow takes center stge, sometimes backed by pitched-up backing choruses of what sound like his own voice. The result is joyous and strange, a window into something that children of the internet will never be able to experience firsthand–this having been made in 1994, right before dial-up became ubiquitous in America and the world began to shrink. Obaa Sima is the end of an era, the end of (global, if not local) anonymity and microcosms, the last of glee and spontaneity. It’s a vibrant moment that presumably happened without documentation, leftfield and DIY to its core. Obaa Sima has a lot more going on than just nostalgia, though–it’s warped and frenetic and a little scary in its relentlessness. We’re looking forward to reading more about Ata Kak Yaw Atta-Owusu. For whom did he make this music? Was he homesick? How much did it circulate in Ghana? We like to imagine that he was dancing as if no one was watching, because no one was watching, and that was totally fine by him.

Preview the anthemic, blazing “Daa Nyinaa” below. It belongs on every summer mixtape, ever. Side note that this amazing video footage is unrelated to the song and there’s a bit of mastering on the audio. If you want to hear the original recordings, they’re all over YouTube.

buy: tape / itunes / vinyl

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