We No Be Machine is an uplifting and groove-filled reminder of the deep power of human community, connection, and creativity. Formed of the core partnership of KOG (Kweku of Ghana, KOG & the Zongo Brigade) and Tom Excell (Nubiyan Twist), ONIPA is the word for ‘human’ in Akan, the ancient language of the Ashanti people of Ghana. Several guest features from cross-continental collaborators cement the album’s central themes of the power of humanity in the time of the machine.
Listen Now: ONIPA – We No Be Machine
Building on the sound of their 2018 debut EP Open My Eyes, ONIPA crush together intense electronic sounds with danceable Afrobeat grooves in the new album. In the more erratic industrial moments like ‘Hey No I Say’, the sound is reminiscent of the ‘Afro-junk’ of Mbongwana Star. Elsewhere, ONIPA proudly channel the influence of Afrobeat and highlife icons like Ebo Taylor, Pat Thomas and Dele Sosimi. Instrumental highlights are the jazzy flute solo on ‘Onipa’, the percussion solos on ‘Yenimno’ and ‘Kukuru’ and Tom Excell’s guitar sounds, which are excellent throughout.
After ONIPA establish their Afro-electronic sound in the opening tracks, many of the collabs and features occur in the latter half of the record. ONIPA allow space for their guests to shine, from South African rappers Spoek Mathambo & Syntax lyrically flexing on ‘Free your Mind’ to the expert harmonising of Tanzanian sisters Pendo & Leah Zawose on ‘Safari Ya Muziki’.
Ghanaian pop-sensation and activist Wiyaala features on three tracks, singing in the Sissala language from the North of Ghana, with her feature on penultimate track ‘Kon Kon Sa’ being a particular highlight of the record.
The video for the title track features the band trapped in an unnerving science facility run by men in suits, before escaping into the streets of Sheffield’s Kelham Island. The song is also an excellent example of the vocal dexterity of KOG, who moves effortlessly between rapping and singing while he insists that ‘we no be machine’ and ‘people have the power’.
Listen to the full album now on Bandcamp.