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Live Band Review: Onipa at The Brewery

Last Saturday Onipa, a 4 piece Afrofuturist band, managed to battle the snow storm to give us a performance that helped warm our bodies and souls.

Onipa were joined by North Fire Sound, a sound system collective heralding from the North that have performed with the likes of some of the biggest sound system purveyors on the scene.

They previously performed with Mungo’s Hi Fi and An Dannsa Dub who graced Solfest this year, as well as having performed at some of the biggest music festivals known for Dub and Sound System culture such as Beatherder, Shambala and Boom Town.

North Fire Sound on the decks.

North Fire Sound brought to our ears a delightful blend of funky soul, essential dub and even a bit of deep jungle in places to fire up the audience and get us lively for Onipa.

We were glad that we had an array of sounds to listen to as listening to any one of these categories of music straight through would’ve lost its momentum.

North Fire Sound’s vibrations set the right mood and mindset for what was to come from Onipa and was a strong opener considering Ben Ja Man was playing to a relatively small crowd, you have to admire commitment to craft from start to finish.

Ben Ja Man giving some love to the audience.


The stage set with Kitenge draped over the stage.

Onipa means ‘human’ in Akan and it has roots with the Ashanti people of Ghana in West Africa. Their name is an undoubtable reflection of their live show and mixed with K.O.G’s exhilarating personality as lead vocalist they transcended us to the origins of their sound and explored the African diaspora genres throughout.

Onipa’s multifaceted range of tunes created engagement in different ways during the set. Their self-titled song had a hearty highlife sound with a psychedelic rock guitar riff. The Calypso beats of Makoma, spun into rap/bashment with Sohaa Gb3k3. They even had a special garage inspired tune.

The diverse selection took us around the world to each corner of music that has African origins. Onipa executed it with flow and flair using instruments such as: bongos, percussion, balafon (similar to a xylophone and is one of the oldest African instruments), drums, bass and guitar.

Tom Excell (left) grooving on his guitar with K.O.G. on the balafon.

Tom Excell demonstrated what he has achieved as the lead producer for Onipa and has clear vision and influence in the arrangement of music which is probably inspired by the African-influenced jazz scene of East London where Onipa first evolved.

Not only this but with tracks like Tami and We No Be Machine they celebrated House music’s black history and I didn’t know whether to skank or to network to these bangers.

The audience soaked up K.O.G’s energy and matched it during Onipa’s performance. The frontman invited the audience to take part in Massi dancing, to sing in native tongue on tracks like Fire and Waters of Congo and to even learn traditional West African dance moves completely immersing and assimilating us in their culture.

My personal favourite moments had to be singing back Afro Beats mixed with traditional harmonies on Ayo and experiencing the dreamy uplifting and heavenly Joy which was a little bit special for me as my name means Joy in my native language Chewa.

K.O.G (left) and soulful Bassist Owen Burns.

One thing I’m certain of and can guarantee from being at the concert is that Onipa has a deep passion for celebrating pan-African music.

They immersed us into a culture that has always dominated the music scene but perhaps hasn’t been given the full appreciation it deserves as throughout musical history there has been black erasure.

Usually this is the point in the review where I give a critique but I can't because they were on time, the instruments were tuned and the vibes were immaculate.

Onipa, Black Joy, Black Love, Black excellence.

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