Album Review: Ata Kak – Obaa Sima [Awesome Tapes From Africa, 3rd March 2015]

Whether in Ghana or anywhere else really, a man wearing a denim shirt, hat, and dark sunglasses on a front cover of an album is an invitation to jovial crowd music, and that’s exactly what Ata Kak’s Obaa Sima both promises and is.

The songs on this album are electronic backbeats on which Ata succeeds at enrapture: as if a 70’s disco singer or Hip Hop MC considering primarily impeccable delivery but also heat (the event’s temperature) as primordial to his or her art and its effect on a crowd. We imagine that this music is primarily made in and for private spaces in Ata’s Ghana, wherein men and women appreciate disco i.e. American music, with open arms enough to, in turn, fabricate their own that will not only “our own thing”.

The song Obaa Sima had pretty great singing and chanting to a pretty straight-forward disco beat. It’s a charming song. We also hear rapping in what ends up being the album’s most entrancing track.

The song Moma Yendodo has a great beat and choir, though Ata’s repeating scooby, scooby dooby, dooby, feels kitschy.

The album in its entirety is charming, as if it’s a cassette tape made for neighbourly boom boxes, and it is its most enjoyable quality.

It must be said that these songs can be relentless and tiring, and should be listened to with friends or in a party setting open to be bounced about.

This music is probably meant to have a purpose other than the American music that fundamentally inspired it. Both disco and Hip Hop were born to galvanize the signifying of blacks to society at large: as momentary masks, with deep ideological roots in the statement “fight the power”, whether it be the cultural hegemony of white painting in museums or of a city’s architecture, despite having to work for the same system, and sometimes minstrel, that one is dancing jovially as a way to stand up to. This is disco, hip hop, and even ragamuffin-like music, produced for a Ghana after colonialism, wherein traditionalism thrives alongside cities aiming to be capitalist behemoths, aiming to be feed a site populated by a subculture of appreciators.

In the end, Ata’s music is valuable and a far from expected experience for its listener, who, as humans, “look for new homes every day”, to quote the Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor, and a good dose of tasteful living.