Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Onipa are all about spiritual engagement on Tapes Of Utopia

"Tapes Of Utopia"

Release date: 17 September 2021
7/10
Onipa tapes utopia mixtape
23 September 2021, 06:47 Written by Ross Horton
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In the ancient Ashanti language of Akan - from modern-day Ghana - the name ‘Onipa’ means ‘human’. The band’s leader, vocalist and percussionist K.O.G made sure that he got that into the press release for Onipa’s new mixtape, Tapes of Utopia, and it couldn’t be more pertinent to a listener’s understanding of the group’s wild and eccentric sound. These are human ideas, expressed in that most intimate and guttural of art forms - jazz music.

Onipa is a collaboration between K.O.G and Tom Excell of Nubiyan Twist, and is fleshed out in the live arena by other members of Nubiyan Twist (Joe and Finn on sax and drums respectively), and Dwayne of Wonky Logic on synths.

Across the tape, you get glitchy percussion, wobbly synth lines, booming brass and serpentine rhythms woven into a dense tapestry of kaleidoscopic sound. If you’re after a representative track to sample before jumping in, you should look to “Future”, with its retro-futuristic sci-fi synth squiggles and soupy rhythms, or “Tami”, which has got lock-step percussion passages dropping in and around some gnarled, crispy blocks of distortion that could be treated guitar or processed synths or both. This kind of relentless, classic-modern hybrid ideology evokes the hellfire radicalism of Shabaka Hutchings’ work - Onipa would work wonderfully on the same playlist or festival bill as Sons of Kemet or Shabaka and the Ancestors.

Other highlights follow the same mindset but mix up the delivery. As unpleasant as the idea might be to some, “Waist” has the kind of intro hook that you’d be likely to find in some sanitised form on modern Coldplay tunes. Thankfully the rest of the song makes that notion completely silly. “Play”, which features Ghanaian superstar Wiyaala, is a clear highlight. The vocal hooks and the breakneck pace amount to something truly special, which they take to the next level with a euphoric, ecstatic crescendo.

The tape, and indeed the project as a whole, isn’t about passive listening but about a spiritual engagement with the music. In K.O.G’s own words: “It’s a message of connection through collaboration: from Ghana to London, our ancestors to our children, Onipa brings energy, groove, electronics, afrofuturism, dance and fire!" All these ideas and more are brought forth in great abundance on Tapes of Utopia, and if there is to be a complaint about it, then let’s all moan that it didn’t arrive in time for summer.

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