Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, affectionately known as the “Simigwa Do Man,” was born in 1947 in the port city of Sekondi-Takoradi, in the Western Region of Ghana. This versatile multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and producer exploded on the music scene in 1964 with a jazzy highlife sound called Simigwa-do.
Ambolley’s early years of musical interest date back to the age of eight, when he began playing with his father’s flute until he was able to teach himself how to play. His formal musical training came at the age of fourteen under the apprenticeship of “Uncle Bonku,” who taught him how to play the guitar. The young music enthusiast continued to learn the rudiments of music from the late Sammy Lartey and Ebo Taylor.
Ambolley spent a great part of his day listening to records of musicians living in the United States. He contributes his free style of singing to mentors such as James Brown, Ray Charles and Sam Cook. During the 1960s, the young aspiring musician was excitingly impressed with the music he heard on the popular radio show, “Voice of America Jazz Hour.” The sixties show featured jazz giants Jimmy Smith, Max Roach, the late Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Eckstine… all became a part of Ambolley’s early music experience.
Gyedu-Blay Ambolley’s professional performances started in the 1960s in Ghana with Tricky Johnson Sextet in 1964. He participated in many other bands, such as Railway Dance Band (1965-67), Houghas Extro-Ordinaire (1968), The Meridians (1970), Uhuru Dance Band (1972-73), and Ghana Broadcasting Band (1974). In 1974 he became band leader of several bands, including Apagya Show Band (1974), Super Complex Sounds (1975-78), Zantoda Mark III (1959-80), The Steneboofs (1987-88), and Gyedu-Blay Ambolley and His Afrikan Hi-Life Band (1994).
Ambolley’s name has become synonymous with Simigwa music and dance since his first hit single released in 1972. The band leader’s talent was not limited to Ghana, Ambolley was invited to London where he performed to standing room only crowds. Having experienced success in his own country, as well as London, it was time for the ambitious musician to test his musical abilities elsewhere. In 1988, Ambolley left Ghana and arrived in New York (USA). Since his arrival, Ambolley was able to prove his worth by performing from the East to the West Coast, at places like the historical Apollo Theatre in Harlem (New York), The House of Blues in Los Angeles (California), and popular night clubs and festivals across the country.
Returning to Ghana in 1997, Ambolley was honored with a standing ovation from President JJ. Rawlings and the First Lady, at Ghana’s Awards Nile 1997. Ambolley has numerous albums to his credit and has received numerous musical awards. His stage works and music have embraced audiences around the world. According to Ambolley, there is but “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.”
Simigwa (Essiebons, 1975)
Ambolley (Warner, 1982)
Apple (Sunrise Records, 1986)
Gyedu-Blay Ambolley (Simigwa Records, 1989)
Bend Down Low Party Time! (Simigwa Records, 1989)
Son Of Ghana (Simigwa Records, 1996)
The Sekondi Man (Simigwa Records, 1997)
Afrikan Jaazz: A New Sound In Town (Simigwa Records, 2001)
Sekunde (Hippo Records, 2015)
Ketan (Agogo Records, 2017)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel is also co-founder of the Transglobal World Music Chart.
Angel has also produced and remastered world music studio albums and compilations for labels such as Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, and Music of the World.