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Music of Friday, 14 December 2007


Atongo moves Ghana into world ranks

Perhaps for some of us, it has happened sooner than we dreamt of. But it certainly is great news for the music industry. Last December 6, one Ghanaian musician played along some of the world’s greats at a show in Amsterdam.

This was the 6th Mokum TV Awards for World Music. It was one night every music addict had been waiting for. Most of the 40,000 spectators at the Amsterdam event that night had participated in the voting on the internet for several months to select the best world music artist for the year.

Finally, the announcement came. The Best African CD of the Year in the 2007 Mokum TV Awards for World Music was ‘Barefoot in the Sand’ by Ghanaian, Atongo Zimba. It was released on the Hippo Records of Holland.

Atongo Zimba, as a name, may not ring loud bells in the ears of the usual music crowds in a nation which has been gripped by the hiplife music, but his music is set to be the biggest thing on the world music market by a Ghanaian after Osibisa.

The Music of the World Award (MWA) is an international awards event that annually honours recording artists that recorded outstanding albums in the field of World Music. The awards show is conducted under the patronage of Mokum TV of the Netherlands.

The world’s best World Music artists in the various categories are determined by internet-voting by the audience and a jury, not on record company sales figures.

A follow-up CD of Atongo Zimba, SAVANNA BREEZE, was launched in Accra this week. If the preliminary vibes it is generating are anything to go by, it can be predicted that Atongo, as an artist, has stepped into the realms of Africa’s greats, a realm peopled by a handful, including Fela Anikulap Kuti (even in his death) Papa Wemba, Mory Kante, Angelique Kidjo and Salif Keita,

Atongo plays the koloko, the Northern Ghana guitar with one or two strings. Initially he made a living busking in the streets of London, but now he is becoming a little more established as a musician as his musicianship is reaping ever-growing recognition.

The life of a migrant musician is by no means easy. “Home for me is everywhere,” says Zimba. “…well, wherever my father and my family is.”

Reviewers and critics in Europe describe him in the following terms: “Atongo Zimba is an infectious personality. So is his music and the koloko. What he is able to do with his two string koloko is indescribable. I have always loved his music. I recently had an opportunity to do an interview with him in his native Bolgatanga and i can tell you that the man is DEEP. His Savanna Breeze album means so much to me now.”

Ola, New Jersey, a music fan interviewed by a Dutch newspaper had this to say: “What a fantastic musician with great deep voice! I was in Vondal park in Amsterdam on one warm Sunday when he was performing with his band. I can’t stop dancing with is killer melodies. As a Fela Kuti fan, I say that Atongo brought the spirit of Fela that day in Amsterdam.”

Another, Jaïr, also in Amsterdam said: “Last Friday Atongo Zimba performed with his group in Amsterdam - he blew me (and the audience) away. Fantastic! Check out the amazing sounds coming from his Molo lute!

Tracey Milton Keynes, a British, described him as “an exceptional artist”

Also in London, a fan known simply as Paul H gave his impressions about Atongo: “Zimba rocked me… Hardly has any man achieved such a vast range of melodies from such a seemingly simple instrument… All songs were well executed.”