Want to cook like Selassie Atadika? Here’s the music to help you
The chef shares her musical and culinary passions in our new book Snacky Tunes
If you want to find a chef whose musical tastes mirror her culinary influences, look no further than Selassie Atakida. The chef, culinary ambassador and founder of Midunu, the nomadic restaurant based in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, was born in West Africa, raised on the East Coast of America, and has worked throughout her life to bring these two cultures together, just like the musicians she used to hear growing up.
“The first music I fell in love with was what my parents listened to, which was highlife,” says the chef in our new book Snacky Tunes, a deep and delicious investigation of the musical and gastronomic arts, from the team behind the podcast of the same name. “Highlife music originated in Ghana, and is the backbone of traditional Akan music, but played with western instruments. I didn’t do it consciously, but at some point I realized that my food philosophy is similar, in that New African Cuisine is based on the lessons I’ve learned from the traditional African kitchen and now I’m applying them to the current food landscape to create a new form.”
“Growing up in New York, my father listened to a lot of diverse tunes from all over the world, but there was one song by a Ghanaian artist that was in particularly heavy rotation, Aben Wo Aha,” she goes on to say. “When he played it, he invariably started dancing. I would be bopping along trying to keep up with him while he was jamming. My younger brother was into rap and hip-hop music at the time, so I wasn’t sure he took notice. But when he got married in 2010, as the MC introduced the wedding party, the song my brother chose was Daddy Lumba’s Aben Wo Aha, as my parents walked out. At age seventy, my father still broke out and danced his way through the crowd.
“Inevitably music became my companion in the kitchen. It kept me company while I was baking. After many years of travelling throughout the African continent and enjoying different culinary experiences, the music of those experiences and cultures have become part of me and my food. My cooking pulls from and is inspired both by those various cuisines and by the music from those experiences and cultures.”
To listen to that mix of cultures, go to Selassie Atadika’s playlist, which Snacky Tunes have posted on Spotify, here. It includes works by Hugh Masekela from South Africa, Bisa Kdei from Ghana, and Lagbaja from Nigeria, as well as many, many others. And if you’d like to cook along, order a copy of the Snacky Tunes book. Atadika has contributed her dish, mushrooms with a wrewre sauce, a delicious adaptation of Ghanaian traditional cooking, with just a touch of international worldliness.