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Country Ghana UK Genres acoustic roots Website www.atongozimba.com Festival Sauti za Busara 2006, 2013 Recordings
Allah Mungode, 1994; MC Combination, 1996; Savannah Breeze, (Hippo Records 2005); Barefoot In the Sand, 2007; Sakune Music, 2009
Atongo Zimba comes from the north of Ghana. He was very young when his grandfather taught him to make and play the koliko (or molo), a two stringed lute, which is used throughout the savannahs and deserts of West Africa.
His time as a child was divided between the family farm and the regional capital of Bolgatanga. During holidays and weekends he would run the family cattle through farmland and forest, with other boys, looking for feed and water for the cows. There was a strong musical tradition amongst the cowboys and they would play instruments such as flutes and percussion, as well as using their voices to make different sounds, many of which mimicked birds and animals.
He learnt traditional songs and started to compose his own and to use the koliko for more complex melodies than the usual strumming. The instrument is used for many traditional events and to motivate farm workers, but Atongo was interested in gearing it towards more general entertainment and decided to travel in order to explore the possibilities of music making as a career. He found the compound of Fela Kuti in Lagos, where he stayed for two years in his late adolescence, opening the weekend shows with his solo performances
He returned to Ghana, this time to Accra where he joined a very active and creative music scene in the 1980s and 90s, playing with Osibisa and the Pan African Orchestra amongst others. At the same time, he continued to develop his own solo style, picking up ideas from highlife, jazz and funk.
Atongo composes and sings in his native Fra Fra, Hausa, Ga, English and Twi. The themes of his songs include power and respect in inter-personal and inter-ethnic relationships, issues of everyday life and development for Ghana and Africa generally as well as romantic love and spirituality.
Atongo has released four albums in Ghana. Since 2003 he has been based in the UK, whilst maintaining a strong link with his home country and its musicians. He has played numerous festivals in Europe as well as Africa and Latin America.With thanks to Goethe Institut