This night was always going to be a bit different. Who knew what to expect from a distinctively early 6 to 11pm gig at Hidden, one of Manchester’s most forward thinking clubs renowned for showcasing house and techno into the early hours. I did, however, know what to expect from Banana Hill; born in Sheffield, the club night has blessed the North and beyond with global line-ups spanning afrobeat to jazz, to disco to kwaito, house and beyond.
As soon as I entered Hidden I knew it was going to be a party, with DJ Katapila playing fast, rhythmic and percussive cuts, whipping the room into a carnival-like frenzy. Growing up in Ghana, Ga percussion styles took centre stage throughout his set with upbeat electronic tunes playing over the top. His enthusiasm created an amazing atmosphere, with lots of crowd participation and emceeing awash with his typical humour. You could really see the enjoyment he has playing to a crowd and tunes like ‘London bridge is falling down’, and ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ made both him and the crowd extremely happy (though I was a little confused). Ending on P-Square ft. Akon Chop My Money, he left the crowd in high spirits.
The change in mood was instantly evident when the heavy bass of Awesome Tapes From Africa’s (Brian Shimkovitz) first song came on. Mixing solely with cassette tapes, Awesome Tapes’ selection was as broad as I’ve ever heard him play, switching from disco to carnival, grime to jazz, 80s synthesisers to pop; highlights included South African afropop giant Brenda & the Big Dudes’ It’s Nice to Be With People and Senegalese Aby Ngana Diop Dieuleul Dieuleul - a song that Awesome Tapes has reissued on his own label.
Next it was Ghanaian, Ata Kak playing live. The crowd were really excited and straight away the bass and drums oozed funk and groove. The rapper Yaw Atta-Owusu, speaking so fast that you wonder whether he even needs to breathe, was impressive to say the least. Tracks like Moma Yendodo showed off the bass sound really well whilst the crowd’s favourites were Daa Nyinaa and (as FACT described it) the original awesome tape from Africa, Obaa Sima, a song his band broke down and then slowly speeded up until the crowd was borderline moshing.
Overall both the music and the crowd were a surprise. The broad range of genres and ambience was exciting, while the crowd's participation and enthusiasm for the artists was something rarely seen at a more nocturnal club venue like Hidden. Banana Hill brought the party again and I can’t wait for who they bring to Manchester next.
Words: Kelly Raymond