“Awesome Tapes from Africa” — the name says it all. Run by Brian Shimkovitz, this wonderful MP3 blog features glorious music from Africa, where cassettes remain the preferred medium. Shimkovitz acquired the majority of his hefty collection during two extended stays in Ghana. Since the spring of 2006, he has been digitizing these musical gems (both rough-hewn and precision-cut) and posting them to awesometapesfromafrica.blogspot.com. The music runs the gamut from Ghanaian gospel to Nigerian highlife, dulcet Malian folk to polished Kenyan hip-hop. Here’s a taste . . .
Boubacar Traoré, “Benidigmamogo”
Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Boubacar Traoré is a legendary figure in his native Mali. One listen to this beautiful track, which features Traoré’s plaintive voice with elegant acoustic-guitar accompaniment, and it’s easy to understand why.
Dr. Orlando Owoh and his Omimah Band, “Iyawo Olele”
This track by the celebrated Orlando Owoh is Shimkovitz’s latest entry, a jaunty dose of Nigerian highlife, with Owoh’s rich, raspy voice backed by talking drums and a deft guitar that’s mixed front and center. The popping percussive breaks are a simmering, groovy treat.
Mariam Bogayogo, “Massafing”
With its looping rhythms, handclaps, and finger snaps, this is one mesmerizing piece of music. Bogayogo has a powerful voice, and she sings in a vibratoless style that cuts right through the drifting, unearthly sounds of the balafon, a xylophone-like instrument constructed using large gourds that create scintillating overtones reminiscent of Indonesia’s gamelan.
Ata Kak, “Moma Yendodo”
Full of helium-stoked vocals, lightning-fast rhymes, and cheesy synths, this is an infectious slice of mid-’90s Ghanaian highlife gone haywire. It’s one of the more brilliantly tweaked tracks I’ve heard in some time.