Ghanaian producer and Awesome Tapes From Africa alum DJ Katapila has died

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Ghanaian artist DJ Katapila has died from a brief illness.

Awesome Tapes From Africa (ATFA) has released a statement confirming that the DJ and producer, real name Ishmael Abbey, had passed away at home on Sunday (January 28) following a brief illness.

Abbey became a DJ at just 15-years-old where he would stand on crates in order to reach the decks, with early influences ranging from late-1980s house to Detroit techno and traditional Ga music from his home of Accra.

DJ Katapila’s signature style would see him talk in Twi and Ga during the breaks of tracks, as well as tapping along to his mixes with an electronic drum pad.

His artist name came from a nickname given to him in reference to the construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, as people would refer to him as hard-working.

Speaking about his nickname he told the New York Times: “They call me Katapila because I can stand on my feet for three days nonstop”.

Years later, in his mid-30s, Abbey tried out producing after a friend installed a free trial version of the music-production software FruityLoops on his computer where he would use his daughter’s pitched-up vocals on tracks.

According to the New York Times, ATFA boss Brian Shimkovitz discovered Abbey’s work and began trying to track the artist down to sign him.

Whilst working with ATFA, DJ Katapila reissued his debut album ‘Trotro’ as well as toured Europe visiting the likes of Hamburg’s Golden Pudel to Manchester’s Hidden.

DJ Katapila’s final release was the EP ‘Techno Africa’ via Tash LC’s Club Yeke in 2022.

Brian Shimkovitz shares: “DJ Katapila launched into my consciousness on a trip to Ghana in 2015, after finding one of his tapes. We ended up releasing a 3 albums together and he travelled to Europe for touring at least four times.

“Many of those shows we played together so I have vivid memories of our travels together and all the capers that entailed. Ishmael’s friendly and calm nature touched countless people along the way. It wasn’t always easy or stress-free working with him but I greatly value what I learned from him.”

Shimkovitz adds: “Ishmael was without a doubt the biggest booster of ATFA on the African continent. He really pushed me and encouraged me all the time and he was always there to help when I asked for it, or even when I didn’t.”

Listen to DJ Katapila’s debut album ‘Trotro’ below.

Becky Buckle is Mixmag’s Multimedia Editor, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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