ONIPA – We No Be Machine


Title: We No Be Machine 
Artist: ONIPA 
Label: Strut  
Formats: CD, LP, Digital 
Release Date: March 20, 2020 


In Akan, the ancient language of the Ashanti people of Ghana, ONIPA means “human.” The Ghanaian group’s debut album adheres closely to this meaning with the title We No Be Machine. Formed through a collaboration between longtime friends K.O.G. and Tom Excell, the London-based duo is bringing African-inspired grooves to European and American audiences. 

Despite their emphasis on humanness, ONIPA heavily incorporates electronic influences into their music alongside afro-grooves and a fiery energy. The album is composed of 19 relatively short tracks that celebrate cultural and musical encounters. The group says it best, describing their music as, “‘Savanna Bass,’ a fundamental thread of traditional African rhythms, instrumentation and storytelling, interwoven with electronics, urban soundscapes and synth bass.” Their title track and first single, “Makoma” (meaning “pillar”), embodies the Savanna Bass sound described by the band: 

Sometimes referred to as afrofuturistic, sometimes as an afrodisco duo, ONIPA’s fusion of traditional Ghanaian rhythms and language with modern electronic accompaniment and lyricism reflects human cross-cultural connections. During this period of personal distancing and uncertainty caused by the global pandemic, We No Be Machine is a welcome reminder of our shared humanity. 

Reviewed by Chloe McCormick