The sequel to Rome collective Crudo Volta's Woza Taxi film, about the rise of South African gqom, is now ready for release
Working with Hagan, a London producer with Ghanaian heritage, Tommaso Cassinis’s new documentary explores the influence of urban African music on UK culture. Called Yenkyi Taxi, it deals with questions raised in Woza Taxi, the 2016 film he made with the Rome collective Crudo Volta about South Africa's gqom scene and computer-based music in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“When we finished Woza Taxi, achieved in collaboration with Nan Kolè, we realised that many issues were brought up, such as cultural reappropriation, historical contest and further,” explains Cassinis. “Having an intersectional artist, in terms of cultural identity, like Hagan who shares a West African heritage and a British identity, to help us navigate and observe the contemporary scene in Accra would have brought new questions and new reflections.”
“This all started from my guest appearance on the Pattaya show [Radar Radio], which Nan Kolé invited me to,” confirms Hagan. Yenkyi Taxi is also produced by Crudo Volta and directed by Cassinis, with writing and art direction by Mike ‘Michele’ Calandra Achode. “This is where I officially met Michele, another DJ on the show,” Hagan continues. “During the interview, I was talking about my plans to go to Ghana for my Grandma’s birthday as well as my intentions to make music out there. Straight after the show Michele proposed an idea for his collective Crudo Volta to travel with me and film my journey. I was already fond of the work Mike had done with Nan Kolè on South Africa and the evolution of gqom. So when he pitched the idea, I was already thinking about how high in quality the results would be. It was from here I started researching what possible producers I could hit up in Ghana and the studios I could work in.”
Hagan originally started producing while at university, using a copy of FL Studio his mum had bought him a few years earlier. Having played percussion at school and church, his electronic productions were rooted in UK funky, making tracks for his friends to play out.
Yenkyi Taxi shows Hagan visiting three areas, Kwabenya, East Legon and Aburi. His working trip resulted in a new EP set for release just after the film.
“Collaborating with Nii, the percussionist from Vivivi Studios, was probably the most exciting part of the trip for me,” says Hagan. “Having such a huge interest in percussive instruments and playing some myself, it was great to see someone who could play rhythms at such a high skill level. I had access to a range of African instruments such as, the talking drum, the fontomfrom and the atumpan drum. This was a very instrumental part for the development of a large portion of the tracks on the EP.
“Nii understood everything I asked of him in terms of what rhythms to play,” he adds, “and he provided his own improvisations. Mixing the traditional sounds with my electronic arrangement template is what I wanted to accomplish.
“After filming the traditional drumming and dances in Aburi, my uncles decided to take us to Akosembo, a small town in the eastern district of Ghana to view the Akosombo Dam. The trip was completely unplanned but gave me so much inspiration to complete the first track on my forthcoming project. The lake views coupled with being so far away from my fast-paced life in London was a moment that made me very reflective and will stick with me forever.”
Grandma's 80th birthday was also a success. “Seeing her face light up when we stepped out of the car to greet her on the first day of our arrival was perfect,” concludes Hagan.
Yenkyi Taxi will stream from 19 April on Crudo Volta's Youtube channel. Watch a trailer below.