Onipa Channel Ghanaian Highlife to Great Effect on ‘Yenimno’
“Yenimno” is a raucous blast of energy from Onipa’s recently released debut album, We No Be Machine. The guitar is a marvel here, generating restless, romping momentum in cascades of sing-song lines, and all four group members contribute to a stirring chorus.
Onipa is a relatively new outfit formed by Kweku Sackey, best known for his work in K.O.G and the Zongo Brigade, and Tom Excell, a member of Nubiyan Twist. The group dubs their sound “Savanna bass,” which they describe as “a fundamental thread of traditional African rhythms, instrumentation and storytelling, interwoven with electronics, urban soundscapes and synth bass.”
Both the Zongo Brigade and Nubiyan Twist are sprawling — with nine and 10 members, respectively — but Onipa shrinks to just four players: Sackey on vocals and miscellaneous percussion, Excell on guitar, Dwayne Kilvington on synthesizers, and Finn Booth on drums.
Sackey and Excell find the small-group format refreshing. “There’s only 4 of us, so we can compose very quickly,” they explained. “Also having restrictions of fewer instruments can bring about interesting results… Sometimes it’s pretty hard, as we’re all multi-tasking playing multiple instruments each in one tune, but it keeps us on our toes.”
We No Be Machine also includes contributions from artists across Africa: Wiyaala (Ghana), Spoek Mathambo (South Africa), Morena Leraba (Lesotho), and Pendo & Leah Zawose (Tanzania).