“To broken beat, what Tony Allen was to afrobeat”: A Brief History of Kaidi Tatham

Musician, multi-instrumentalist and producer Kaidi Tatham truly defined a movement; the soulful, syncopated beats we’ve come to term broken beat, though his output continues to defy categorisation.

His skill, influence and versatility has manifested in his writing, arrangements and wealth of collaborations over the last 20 plus years; from his work with Bugz In The Attic, 4Hero and Mark De Clive Low to longstanding collaborations with Dego of 2000Black, as well as his movements under his dance music-leaning alias Agent K, which has seen him work with a prodigious list of names including Amp Fiddler, Amy Winehouse, Leroy Burgess, Slum Village and many more.

Last month First Word Records, the London-based label that has housed several of his releases, reissued his first album under his given name, the acclaimed In Search Of Hope, a release far ahead of its time that had a palpable influence on many artists, musicians and producers.

To commemorate the reissue, a handful of those artists who have felt his impact or been lucky enough to work or play alongside him share their favourite Kaidi tracks and arrangements, and how his influence has affected them.

Alex Phountzi

Kaidi Tatham – ‘The Shadow Ain’t Going Nowhere’ [2000 Black, 2016]

“Kaidi’s music has played a part in our music community for over twenty years so it’s hard to pick a favourite and I’m just pulling the first one that came to mind that I feel really represents him. As a collaborator, Kaidi has worked on some incredible music with many different artists and producers so I’m choosing some of his solo work.

This hit me as soon as I heard it, it’s a classic stripped back groove and I spent some time counting this and when I saw him I asked him about it and he told me it was all in 4 which I still don’t get! There are other classic Kaidi hallmarks in this such as the piano solo and the way he uses the voice to layer the harmony, amazing music!” 

Alexander Nut

Misa Negra – ‘Spiritual Vibes (The Afronaught Dub)[People, 1998]

“Kind of ironic that I’m choosing this track, as it’s perhaps the most uncharacteristically Kaidi track there is, but thats what I love about it, it shows just how versatile and how understanding he is of the music. Truth be told I’d say Kaidi has played, written or arrange 90% of all the broken beat that exists. Just look at the credits! Normally Kaidi’s technical prowess is what shines through on a lot of tracks, he’s a scientist, but here it’s just a vibes thing, a less is more type approach, and it’s also a track on which Kaidi flexes his flute skills, an aspect of his musicianship which is often overlooked… he’s an amazing flautist. If you hear this at a jam you know you’re at the right kind of party.”

Ash Lauryn

Kaidi Tatham – ‘Zallom[First Word, 2019]

“This track is a deep and beautiful blend of equal parts jazz and hip-hop. What I like about Tatham’s music is that it encompasses the sounds and spirit of black music’s past, present, and future.”


Kaidi Tatham – ‘Swift Inspiration’ [Freedom School, 2008]

“Kaidi’s ability to easily suck you into his beautiful compositions and arrangements and switch between jazz (fusion), brazil, funk and hip-hop is always so mind-boggling to me. The (broken beat) music scene would never be without Kaidi’s influence. A true musical virtuoso.”

Charlie Bones

Kaidi & Dego – ‘Got Me Puzzled’ (12” Mix) [2000 Black, 2003]

“Production, arrangement, beautiful drums, key, message. A timeless anthem, melancholy and yet optimistic, all I need in a record. one of my favourites still to this day. All praises due to the dynamic duo Kaidi and Dego.”

Errol Anderson

Neon Phusion – ‘Timecode’ [Laws of Motion, 1999]

“Beyond Bugz In The Attic’s classic Back To The Doghouse, this record was one of my first tastes of broken beat during my teens. I hadn’t yet discovered Kaidi Tatham as the solo keys/production phenom (which would of course blow my mind), but this Neon Phusion was and is everything to me. From the credits, it’s clear that a lot of the Bugz were in on the act for this record (no surprises there!) but for the unacquainted, the group consisted of Kaidi, Afronaught and Alex Phountzi (Bugz In The Attic, Greenmoney, NameBrandSound). I can picture a young me — up until that point, solely obsessed with grime, UK Funky and not-so-deep jungle cuts — going mental in front of my Packard Bell at 2m49s as I stumbled across this thing that, to me, combined all three genres and so much more. So UK, so gritty yet elegant in equal measure. It changed me in the same way that hearing Dilla for the first time did. It also led to loads of late nights fiendishly trying to find more music like it and even cracked open the door to jazz (which I admit, I wasn’t ready for at that stage). Kaidi has thrilled me on so many occasions since, but what an introduction ‘The Future Ain’t The Same As It Used 2 B’ happened to be.”


Kaidi Tatham – ‘The Shadow Ain’t Going Nowhere’ [2000 Black, 2016]

“A personal favourite is ‘The Shadow Ain’t Going Nowhere’. Kaidi is brilliant at finding chord sequences that revolve so well –  perfect loops. This track has a lovely mix of charm and suspense, sparse snares and stirring vocals. The track really opens up for me about 3:22min in with a piano solo that captivates me every time.”

Leanne Wright

Shokazulu – ‘Dis Yah One I Love’ [2000 Black, 2011]

“How do you pick a favourite Kaidi Tatham track?!

I first came across Kaidi around 1998 when Robi Walters and I started designing record covers and club flyers for the Goya/West London and Co-Op massive. Going through his collaborations with this stable of broken beat pioneers (Bugz in the Attic, Neon Phusion, Likwid Biskit, Misa Negra and Da One Away to name only a few), you’ll understand that as Tony Allen was to Afrobeat, Kaidi Tatham is to broken beat. Alongside the syncopated riddim, his keys and percussion were central to a sound that was an amalgamation of many flavours – jazz, hip hop, electro-funk, house and more – all run through a filter of London sound system culture.

A massively talented multi-instrumentalist, his solo catalogue is equally impressive. I almost went with Orbit (under his Agent K moniker – where he jumps on the mini moog for full Larry Dunn/EW&F effect) but in the end, I’m going to go with the 2011 Shokazulu release ‘Dis Yah One I Love’ on 2000 Black because I think we’ll still be dancing to it in 10 more years. I think his partnership with Dego to be a sort of spiritual home for him.”

Sassy J

Kaidi Tatham – ‘The Extrovert City’ [2000 Black, 2016]

‘Tell Me What Yo Feeling‘ in 2000 was my introduction to the LEGEND that IS KAIDI TATHAM. From then on he became one of my favourite contemporary artists. A brilliant pianist, flutist, percussionist – musician and producer. It’s impossible for me to choose a favourite song he’s involved in or he has created entirely. His collaborations would be another task: Dego & Kaidi, Neon Phusion, DKD, Project X, Bugz In The Attic, Afro Force, Likwid Biskit, Homecookin’, Da One Away, Misa Negra etc. I will choose from a solo project – composed, arranged, performed, programmed and produced entirely by him, since the task is ‘Favorite Kaidi Tatham Song’. Today’s favourite Kaidi Tatham creation would be ‘The Extrovert City’ on 2000Black: ALL INSTRUMENTS DESTROYED BY KAIDI TATHAM. Yesterday’s favourite was ‘Arms R Deh‘ and tomorrow  ‘Don’t Hide Your Love‘. The day before yesterday ‘I’m High‘ and the day after tomorrow ‘In my Life’. Thank you for your music – it always lights up my heart.”

Tony Nwachukwu

DKD – ‘Future Rage’ [Bitasweet, 2004]

“This was hard! The Kaidi signature tone always provokes a sense of warmth and attentive listening! He’s the lynchpin collaborator underpinning music productions that have shaped a movement pushing boundaries, re-imagining harmonic themes and traditions. DKD’s ‘Future Rage’  smashes it! Perfect progressive boogie synergy. Kaidi interweaves his genius with those distinctive chord voicing and synth motifs. This tune cuts through any dance, anytime, anywhere!”


Agent K feat. Izzi Dunn – ‘Betcha Did’ [Giant Steps, 2003]

“I discovered Kaidi’s music for the first time when I heard Dego play a drum n bass dubplate in 1997 or 1998. It had a crazy solo, and was something I haven’t heard before. The song was Seiji & G Force ‘Sex In Space’. Then came Neon Phusion ‘Space Jam’, Likwid Biskit and I was hooked! To me Kaidi is the most gifted musician out there, so I’m partial to everything he does. He gave life to so many incredible jams in his countless collaborations and sessions! I feel blessed to have worked with him in few projects! If I have to mention some of his solo joints maybe ‘Betcha did’, Shokazulu ‘Part 4’, The Extrovert City EP… a special mention for his duo with Dego and his wonderful work with the late Modaji!”

This article was compiled by Sean Keating and Josh Byrne. In Search Of Hope is out now – grab your copy via First Word Records.

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