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As We Walk Toward Addis: Psychedelia, revolution and research in Ghana and Ethiopia with Afrocat

“Ghana was the first country to gain independence from colonisation. We grew up with Kwame Nkrumah’s name in our house. The spirit of revolution is in the music. And we need that spirit now to make changes in the world.”

This is the mission statement of Afrocat (@afrocatmusic), a Brighton-based and currently nomadic DJ with Ghanaian and Trinidadian roots who has been performing and digging for twenty five years.. Multidisciplinary artist Cameron Evans (@zenrei), who writes for independent music magazine Soundsight Mag and London-based creative collective ASHA.FM, recently caught up with her for THREADS Radio to discuss an upcoming odyssey of hers – a compilation album of Ghanaian and Ethiopian music from the 1970s, Afrocat’s Lost Tracks: Accra to Addis, that will be researched and put together on an upcoming journey to the two countries.

CE: What is it that made you feel you had to do this?

“I had the idea and the name of the album in November 2022, the night before a Threads party. A lot of this stuff isn’t credited how it should be and there’s so many hidden gems. There’s a few labels reissuing afro stuff, and there’s a growing appetite for it. But a lot of the people doing it don’t have direct links to the places like I do. I grew up with a lot of that stuff from my dad, who is Ghanaian, and my mum who is Trinidadian. They both loved loads of different kinds of music. And then there’s a lack of female DJs putting together these kinds of compilations – so I felt there’s space for a female to curate a collection like this. I’ve been collecting vinyl for 25 years, but with these compilations, it’s usually a couple white guys going out there to find them.”

CE: What was the atmosphere at the time, and how do you feel it transfers to the music?

That time was a special time because Ghana was the first country to gain independence from colonisation. We grew up with Kwame Nkrumah’s name in our house. The spirit of revolution is in the music. We also need that spirit now to make changes in the world. Music is the great uniter, so I can’t wait to hear what came of that time.

A lot of things in Ghanaian culture are oral histories, so a lot of things are recorded down family and community lines, so speaking to people will really inform the experience. And for Ethiopia, it didn’t get conquered by Italy, so it has always had a feeling of revolution and self-governing. For both of these, If you’re a young band and that happens in front of you, it’s going to be in your music.

CE: So what’s the plan?

I raised 1,000 pounds which got my trip started. On the 1st March, I fly out to Accra, and around the 30th March I’ll head to Ethiopia. There’s a few things…

The first element is that I’m spending a month in Ghana, and it starts with performing on Independence Day at the AsaBaako. I’m going to be looking for old records, to find some special tracks. My specialist area is 70s productions and styles, and that’s what I’m looking for. Not just highlife and afrobeat – there was all kinds of psychedelic stuff going on. Something different, like disco and calypso influenced stuff. 

Because there’s music that was influenced back from the diaspora back to Africa. I’ll be speaking to artists and families, studios that were functioning at the time and so on to find rare tracks. Also, I’m going to be researching women in music in the 60s and 70s who might not have been recognised for their artistry or technical skills in both Ethiopia and Ghana. Lastly, I used to run a small youth charity that started in Brixton and ended up doing some great music and social projects in London and in 13 countries. When I’m in Ghana I’m going to be visiting a youth project to hopefully restart some work there.  So I’ve been looking at artists I already know, looking at where they recorded and what areas they recorded in. I’m already linked up with some vinyl stores there and some music departments from universities. I think I’ll find so much, it’ll be more curating it, and finding the artists to make sure that they get their fair share.

“A lot of stuff might not be researchable online – it’s always different in person, but records (in general) might not be kept in the same ways as they are in Europe. There’s a lot more value in being there in person. A lot younger generations are more interested in the electronic side, so they may see less value in what their parents and grandparents listened to.”

Afrocat tells me a story midway through the interview which I feel encapsulates her own quest:

There’s a band called WITCH [We Intend To Cause Havoc), a psychedelic band from the small psychedelic scene in 1970s Zambia. Things happened in the country and within the band, and they had to disband. A few years ago, an Italian filmmaker was involved in a documentary in Zambia. He looked up the main singer who was alive and working in a mine, and the keyboardist, who was holding a national independence festival at the time. He found loads of footage and old recordings, and has been on a mission to get them back together. There’s a couple of the original members and some new ones. They’ve started performing again. It’s an amazing story. And it shows there are still these things out there, and those people who were involved in those scenes are still around. I got to see them in Brighton and they came on my [December 2023] Blaxploitation Lounge show. It was after I had started this project, but it was signpost of what I’m looking for…”

From the conversation, it seems clear that Afrocat’s conversation with a newly reformed WITCH was the result of a reflection of her own mission – the preservation and celebration of culture and identity through music. 

Follow Afrocat’s journey through Ghana and Ethiopia at @afrocatmusic and @blaxploitationlounge – they also stream on Threads, Slack City and AAJA Radio. 

Cameron Evans is a writer, poet, and Russian to English translator. He also releases hip-hop and spoken word poetry as Zenrei. He can be contacted at zenrei.reizen[at] 

Editor: Alex H Honey

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