This week we caught up with Ghanaian producer and selector extraordinaire DJ Katapila. Katapila briefly talks us through a selection of life experiences from the Accra music scene in the 80's when he first started out DJing, to explaining his distinctive high energy rhythms, which fuse together a unique blend of traditional Ga music with fast tempo house & techno beats. Listen to his mix in the MMT Mix Series here.
However it isn't just his music that makes Katapila so unique. Katapila is an enigma who gives off energy and kindness wherever he goes. We were lucky enough to have him play at MMT Weekender in 2019, where he brought his passion and character to the festival, and we hope to have him back again in the future. Take a look below to read what he had to say...
DJ Katapila at MMT Festival 2019
Hi Abbey thanks for talking with us and we hope you are good! Firstly we just wanted to ask how you are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what are you missing the most about life before the pandemic?
It's not easy, in Accra everything is off, and you know music creates a lot in our lives! They have imposed social distancing here which means no parties, no funeral’s, no festivals, no church… and you know music makes money without music it's difficult for us. So for me and my family and friends it's very bad! For me, my life is all about music and the people I play for - parties, funerals, you name it, so I am missing all of these with the pandemic and can't wait to get back to playing music.
Everyone is wondering where the name DJ Katapila comes from, can you tell us?
Yes it comes from my fans! Because I play long hours they think - yes I work like a Katapila - after the Caterpillar construction equipment, so that's why I get the name Dj Katapila!
Can you tell us about when you started DJing, and what the scene was like?
I started playing in Accra in the 80’s. Back then I was playing in a group called Risky Sounds and also Medways Sounds, playing a lot at funerals and parties, and some smaller stages in Accra too. We also used to play at some pop joints like Peace and Love, Sports Gloryland Hotel and Babysinn. Back then everyone was into dancehall and of course Highlife music, but I was also playing House and Calypso music.
Can you explain how your relationship with Awesome Tapes From Africa (ATFA) started out?
It's so amazing and wonderful to find awesome tapes from Africa in 2015. Brian Shimkovitz (ATFA Founder) saw how people were dancing to my songs in Kumasi, so he bought one of the tapes and took it to the US. From there we started communicating and were able to make ATFA my record label.
Do you have any particular artists that you have taken inspiration from to make your music?
The music I take most inspiration from is actually not from Ghana but from Togo & Abidjan! His name is Kanda bongo man, but he is just one of many. Listen here
What is your favourite track you have made and why?
My favourite track would be the track Aroo from my second album. This is my favourite because is a techno track and I’m very proud of that track! I like this track because it has an international sound, it has a techno feel, but also uses some similar samples from my first album, which makes it great fun to mix when DJing. Listen here
Do you remember the feeling when you first played your own music to a crowd during your DJ sets?
Yes that was 2007, it was so fun because the crowd don't know that I did that music but they were all dancing with it which made me so happy and encouraged!
Many of your mixes features music from Ata Kak, do you know him? What is he like as a person?
Yes I met Ata Kak on tour in London. He was such a kind and a good man. I love to play his music because we have the same rhythms. I started playing his music way back in the 80s before I knew him, so I was so happy when I met him. He's a very good man he has given me a lot of advice and encouragement, he is like a father and a brother to me.
You played at MMT Weekender in 2019. Can you tell us what your favourite things were about the MMT Weekender Festival?
The festival is an international festival in Ghana… I loved it and I was shocked because you created this festival in Ghana in such a quiet and beautiful place in the Volta region, I must be frank with you guys - I love MMT and I would love to play there every year!
MMT Weekender 2019: "Everyone Welcome" in local Ewe language
Who is the most exciting Ghanaian artist right now?
The most exciting Ghanaian artist for me right now is Sarkodie. He is a very fast and talented rapper, rapping in his local language, Twi, and many other languages too. He also collaborates with a lot of other artists with his tracks featuring some amazing people. I think it's great what he is doing. Listen to Sarkodie here
What are your dreams for when the pandemic is over?
My dream is to have a company to work with, and also to do my music and play it around the world to make people happy and entertain them internationally and locally!
Can we expect to hear a release from you anytime soon?
Yes I'm working on it, but because of this pandemic I have to just hold on! But yes definitely soon…