Brian Shimkovitz was on a Fulbright scholarship in Ghana, 2006 when he got hooked on the cassette culture of the region. Street vendors hawked bootlegged West African recordings in myriad genres, from highlife to African disco, old left-field soul to curious local pop. When he returned to his native Brooklyn, New York, he launched a blog to share his experiences, and the Awesome Tapes From Africa project was born.
Since then, he has travelled back and forth numerous times to various parts of Africa, soaking up the different musical influences, and buying collecting cassettes on his travels. In 2011 ATFA developed into a critically acclaimed vinyl label, re-releasing records by African artists such as Bola, Dur-Dur Band, Hailu Mergia and recently, Penny Penny. The label plays an essential role in furthering Brian’s mission to build an international audience for African music through touring and re-issues.
Drawing on his vast African cassette archive—which includes highlife, fuji, benga, tsonga disco, soukous, hip-hop, rhumba and ethio-soul, among countless other genres—his role now combines that of educator, promoter and selector, finding him DJ across the world at festivals, clubs, museums and cultural spaces. HIs DJ sets on twin tape decks explore deep, regional sounds using analog-anchored agility not heard/seen anywhere else.