The history of underground pop has quite a repertoire of amazing tales; the story of Ghanaian artist Yaw Atta-Owusu (stage name Ata Kak) is reminiscent of a particular one. Rodriguez, an American folk singer from the sixties, disappeared from the public eye without knowing that his albums gathered quite a cult following. He was only found thirty years later by one particularly determined fan.
The music scout in the case of Ata Kak was American musicologist Brian Shimkovitz. An avid fan of African music and cassette tapes, Shimkovitz unearthed one in a Cape Coast market stall in 2002. The tape contained a condensed mix of lo-fi and rudimentary house music with some festive rap and Ghanaian songs. It was recorded with the Atari Notator software, a second-hand synthesizer and a 12-channel mixer. Shimkovitz featured the music on his blog, boldly stating that “[y]ou may never hear anything like this elsewhere.” The forgotten treasure inspired him to launch the vinyl collection Awesome Tapes from Africa in 2011, a follow-up to the namesake blog he created five years beforehand.
After a long and extensive global search, he finally found Ata Kak, a musician who was previously a member of reggae and highlife band Marijata. As it turns out, Ata Kak recorded the Ghanaian pop hybrid in a studio in… Ontario, Canada!
One of the stops on the cult singer’s improbable road now includes Lausanne.