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Out of Africa: Tapes Brought Back from Ghana Create a Different Kind of Dance Party 

Tuesday, Sep 30 2014

Awesome Tapes From Africa — the blog, record label, and DJ persona helmed by Brian Simkovitz — is something truly unique, a modern wonder of our internet age. The blog came first, beginning after Simkovitz returned home to L.A. from Ghana, having traveled there on a Fulbright scholarship for ethnomusicology. Upon realizing there was an entire wealth of music that never made it beyond Ghana's borders, he launched the blog in 2006, digitizing cassette tapes he discovered throughout Africa, making them readily available for the first time.

The blog was a runaway success. In 2011, Simkovitz launched a record label, reissuing a long-out-of-print record by Nahawa Doumbia, a vocalist from southern Mali. Her voice is the star of the record, soaring across registers, backed by undulating plucked guitar rhythms (played by her husband) and a variety of percussion instruments. Simkovitz has since reissued numerous gems from across the continent, and shows no signs up letting up.

DJ gigs came shortly thereafter. Armed with two cassette decks and a mixer, Simkovitz plays out using original tapes from his collection, cueing up tracks before gigs and deftly handling any mishaps (cassettes — and cassette decks — definitely aren't built to last, unlike a bag of records and a pair of Technics 1200s). Music-wise, his sets are all over the place, encompassing a range of genres, styles, and moods, including many sounds inspired by Western music and a whole bevy that aren't. No matter what, though, the tracks he selects are lovely on the ear and ecstatically rhythmic — this isn't the dance party you're used to, and that's what makes it so great.

Other worthy parties this week

Icee Hot presents D'Marc Cantu, Hashman Deejay, and Braiden at Public Works, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4. $10-$15;

Headlining Icee Hot's latest party is D'Marc Cantu, the analog hardware wizard affiliated with the Midwestern "jakbeat" crew, known for raw, gritty acid house with an old-school flavor. Live, Cantu is a chameleon, banging out the house and techno he's known for, but he's not afraid to tread into high-bpm waters, ratcheting up the intensity and the vibe. Hashman Deejay, a producer and DJ from Vancouver's Mood Hut collective, joins Cantu for DJ duties, following up on last month's Pender Street Steppers party. Last but certainly not least is Braiden, a London-born, Berlin-based DJ known for his long-running radio shows on and NTS, connecting the dots between techno, house, and everything in between.

Lights Down Low presents Shadow Child at Monarch, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, Oct. 3. $20;

Shadow Child appeared in 2012 as a side project of Dave Spoon (aka British radio DJ Simon Neale), a producer and DJ who released one irresistible tech-house record after another during the mid-2000s. As Shadow Child, he made a splash with his debut on San Francisco's Dirtybird, and has since released a barrage of bouncy, bottom-heavy house tracks — mainly remixes with a handful of original productions to round it out. Expect a DJ set of high-energy contemporary house music with a heaping helping of U.K. bass-centric sounds to keep things interesting. Richie Panic, Lights Down Low's resident DJ and partymonster, provides support duties throughout the evening.

Go BANG! featuring Carrie Morrison and Freshstep at The Stud, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4. Free before 10 p.m., $7 after;

If house and techno don't get your motor running quite like disco does, Go BANG! is your answer. The long-running party features an always-crowded dancefloor, trip-you-out laser light show accompaniment, a friendly and enthusiastic mixed crowd, and most importantly, a killer disco soundtrack filled with classics, hits, edits, and (of course) tracks you've never heard of. This month's edition features two guest DJs — Carrie Morrison and DJ Freshstep — both San Francisco locals. Joining them are the party's residents, Steve Fabus and Sergio Fedasz, who open and close the festivities.

Listed presents Play with Patrice Bäumel, Nuno dos Santos, and more at The Endup, 11 p.m.-10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4. $15-$20;

Sometimes, the party just doesn't stop, and for those nights (read: mornings) there's The End Up. Patrice Bäumel and Nuno dos Santos, fellow Dutchmen and residents at Amsterdam's renowned Trouw club, will be making a stop in San Francisco to play during the wee hours of Sunday morning. Both Bäumel and Santos are producers of a similar caliber — both craft beautiful deep house with a focus on shimmering melodies and spaced-out atmosphere. As DJs, they blend underground house and techno with the occasional pop song to keep the crowd on its feet. Naveen G and San Francisco local Buckner provide DJ support until the sun comes up.

About The Author

Chris Zaldua


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