For detailed profiles of African musicians, click on the logo below:
article by Kwaku K that was published in Gargamel, The International
Word in Reggae & Urban Music Issue 15, Autumn 2003
(Africa Gold section)
UNCLE SAM OF AFRICA
Choice FM's 'African Beats' Presenter
Ghanaian-born Uncle Sam has been presenting his African Beats music show
on London radio station Choice FM since May 2000. Although he'd been an
accountant for the Black music station since 1991, he says it was no easy
matter convincing his bosses. "I had a tough time trying to convince
my colleagues that I could present a show", says Sam adding, "I'm
glad to tell you they have had no regrets yet". In fact things are
on the up for the only African music programme on the station. In May,
it was 'promoted' to a better time slot: Sundays 6-9pm. Sam who, recently
returned from Ghana where he was able to 'freshen up' on his roots, now
devotes the last hour to African Hip-hop and fusion - 'the young music
of Africa by Africans'.
Born Sam Tsipotey, he says he's just a big fan and follower of all types
of popular music. He cites The Beatles, James Brown, John Lee Hooker and
some Jazz, as some of his favourites. However, he had no DJ or any other
music business related background before pitching for his radio show.
And he's since not bothered to further a music career, apart from presenting
his show. Being so close to African music, I wondered what observations
he had made about the music. 'African music is more closely related culturally
than I used to think. The basic underlying rhythms are quite similar to
the 'trained ear', opines the DJ. He believes his show is opening up African
music to a wider market. "I try to play from as many different areas
of the Continent as my collection and time can allow in order to broaden
the appeal of the music. Everyone is bound to hear something they would
like, I just want to make the show a complete one, in the sense that by
the end of it, you'd have learned something new about Africa".
Then he shoots off a rhetorical question, "Do you know that the word
'Africa' was coined by the Romans to refer to their conquered lands in
what we now call North Africa? It comes from the Latin word 'Afri' which
means 'a group of people of whom little is known'. I want to educate people
about Africa all the time". Well, he certainly does with his comments
and the special news reports on the African continent. Wondering about
his moniker? ...
Well, he says you can
blame his nephews and nieces for that. He wanted a name like 'Africanus'
but that was vetoed. "This is Uncle Sam of Africa", the DJ
asserts, adding that he hasn't yet visited America.
'African Hip-hop is not quite popular here yet, even though Hip-life
and Hip-juju can do well if the music gets a bit more polished and more
Africanised', says Sam, commenting on potential international breakthrough
genres from Africa. "At present the artists are trying too hard
to sound American or European".
Finally, I wanted to know why there's such a dearth of Ghanaian music
available overseas, unlike the Congolese Soukous or the Senegambian
Mende ? "Highlife was the first recorded African Pop music, in
1928. Since then, too much Westernisation has devalued my beloved Highlife.
By all means, let's modernise but without too much Westernisation. Right
now, Mande music is, in my opinion, the leading African music of the