Ebo Taylor – Palaver (Tabansi Records/ BBE Music, 2019)
Palaver contains five tracks recorded in Nigeria in 1980 by famed Ghanaian guitarist and composer Ebo Taylor. The material consists of irresistible songs that mix highlife, Afrobeat, funk and jazz. The EP showcases Taylor’s characteristic electric guitar style, along with a superb set of musicians, comprising George Amissah. Mat Hammond, George Kennedy and George Abunuah.
Ghanaian guitarist Ebo Taylor was one of the leading highlife musicians in the 1950s with ensembles such as Broadway Dance Band and Stargazers and continued during the following decades making remarkable highlife and Afrobeat recordings in Ghana and Nigeria.
This video sums up the historical context of the recordings:
Strut Records will release another volume of its Nigeria 70 series titled No Wahala: Highlife, Afro-Funk & JuJu 1973-1987 on March 29, 2019. Compiled by DJ Duncan Brooker, this collection returns to a highly productive era in Nigerian music when well-known styles like highlife and juju were combined with Western jazz, soul and funk, and musicians conveyed a proud new message post-independence.
The producer highlights the extraordinary Ukwuani musicians
from the Delta State region, including guitarist Rogana Ottah, Steady Arobby’s
International Brothers Band and Don Bruce.
In addition, No Wahala: Highlife, Afro-Funk & JuJu
1973-1987 reveals the tight connection between Nigeria and Benin’s music, most prominently
through Sir Victor Uwaifo and Osayamore Joseph.
Other artists Prince Nico Mbarga, the Nigerian-Cameroonian
star; reggae singer Felixson Ngasia; Etubom Rex Williams; and Jacob Lee’s Saxon Lee & The Shadows
Nigerian master musician Baba Ken Okulolo has roots that extend deep into traditional village life and folk music. Better known as the bandleader whose warm, smiling personality enlivens the popular Afro-beat band Kotoja and the all-star West African Highlife Band, Okulolo was first seen in the U.S. as bassist with King Sunny Ade’s world tours, and he continued to appear on Ade’s recordings. Five times, the Nigerian Journalists’ Association has voted him the country’s top bassist.
In addition to his vast body of Nigerian studio and production dates, he is known for his early work with highlife master Dr. Victor Olaiya, Steve Rhodes’ African Voices, and the seminal Afro-rock group, Monomono.
Okulolo was born into the Urhobo ethnic group, to a family of traditional dancers and musicians. In the tiny fishing village of Aladja, surrounded by deep forests and lagoons traveled by dugout canoes, he was exposed to the traditional stories, rhythms and songs of his people.
As a student in the city of Warri, Okulolo was exposed to the historic touring highlife bands of the era. On short-wave radio, he listened avidly to jazz, Afro-Cuban, rhythm and blues, and Congolese music.
Inspired, he took up the bass guitar and began sitting in with bands coming through town, and was soon touring regionally with the highlife band Harmony Searchers, until a talent scout for the great bandleader Dr.Victor Olaiya recruited the young bassist with the ‘roots’ feel to leave his homeland and head for the giant city of Lagos.
In a few years, restless to explore the modern potential of African music, he joined vocalist Joni Haastrup to form the seminal and legendary Afro-rock band, Monomono. By the early 70’s, they were at the top of the charts and touring West Africa with the albums Give a Beggar a Chance and Dawn of Awareness (EMI), fusing African roots music with rock, soul, and funk.
Okulolo became a mainstay on the Nigerian music scene, touring Europe with various groups, producing and performing on countless recordings, including his own hit album, Talking Bass (EMI), and leading his band, Positive Vibrations.
After moving to the U.S., he assembled a formidable band with top Nigerian and American musicians to create the modern Afro-beat band Kotoja. Featuring Ken’s vocals and original tunes, Kotoja blends jazz, funk, highlife, Afro-beat, and juju into exciting, animated shows. Comprised of a heady mix of top Nigerian and American musicians, Kotoja, led by Nigerian bassist/vocalist. Baba Ken Okulolo, has excited audiences around the U.S. with their infectious mix of African highlife, juju, funk, and jazzy horns.
Okulolo also leads the West African Highlife Band, joined by other distinguished West African music veterans to revive the great hits of the highlife music era. Their hot, dance-inspiring music is available on the CD, Salute to Highlife Pioneers (Inner Spirit/Stern’s).
Separately, to satisfy the demand for traditional African music in an acoustic format, Okulolo started The Nigerian Brothers. They recreate the sweet, lilting sounds of their earliest village memories, bringing folk, “palmwine,” and highlife songs to life with their harmonious voices, acoustic guitars, and hand percussion. This gentle but rhythmic music has been a special treat at museums and folk music festivals for those who love authentic African music.
Today, he lives in Oakland, California, with his family. Says Okulolo, “I see the world today as one family, as one village. We all have the same needs and wants. Peace, love, and understanding will help solve the world’s problems, and that’s what we are trying to spread to all people with our music.”
Ken Okulolo “Talkin’ Bass Experience” (EMI Nigeria, 1976)
Babá Ken and Kotoja “Freedom Is What Every Body Needs” (Inner Spirit Records, 1990)
Kotoja “Sawale” (Mesa/Blue Moon Recordings, 1992) Kotoja “Super Sawale” (Putumayo World Music, 1994)
West African Highlife Band Salute To Highlife Pioneers” (Inner Spirit Recordings, 1998)
Babá Ken Okulolo & The Nigerian Brothers “Songs From The Village” (Inner Spirit Recordings, 2001)
Babá Ken Okulolo and the Afro Groove Connexion “Deep Down Beat” (Inner Spirit Recordings, 2008)
Babá Ken Okulolo “We Are All From Africa” (Inner Spirit Recordings, 2009)
Babá Ken Okulolo “African Drum Songs” (Inner Spirit Recordings, 2012)
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)
Comprised of a heady mix of top Nigerian and American musicians Kotoja led by Nigerian bassist/vocalist. Baba Ken Okulolo has excited audiences around the U.S. with their infectious mix of African highlife, juju, funk and jazzy horns.
Kotoja’s animated powerful shows featuring Okulolo’s original songs and vocals brighten the scene with bubbling dance rhythms jazz-informed musicianship and an uplifting universal message that brings music lovers to their feet. The band’s national tours and three album releases Freedom Is What Everybody Needs and Sawale on Mesa Recordings and The Super Sawale Collection on Putumayo have won critical acclaim.
Nigerian master musician Bab? Ken Okulolo is one of the few popular African musicians of today whose roots extend deep into traditional village life and folk music. Better known as the bandleader whose warm smiling personality enlivens the popular Afro-beat band Kotoja and the all-star West African Highlife Band Okulolo was first seen in the U.S. as bassist withKing Sunny Ade’s world tours and he continues to appear on Ade’s latest recordings. Five times the Nigerian Journalists’ Association has voted him the country’s top bassist.
In addition to his vast body of Nigerian studio and production dates he is known for his early work with highlife master Dr. Victor Olaiya Steve Rhodes’ African Voices and the seminal Afro-rock group Monomono.
Okulolo was born into the Urhobo ethnic group to a family of traditional dancers and musicians. In the tiny fishing village of Aladja surrounded by deep forests and lagoons traveled by dugout canoes he was exposed to the traditional stories rhythms and songs of his people.
As a student in the city of Warri Okulolo was exposed to the historic touring highlife bands of the era. On short-wave radio he listened avidly to jazz Afro-cuban rhythm and blues and Congolese music.
Inspired he took up the bass guitar and began sitting in with bands coming through town and was soon touring regionally with the highlife band Harmony Searchers until a talent scout for the great bandleader Dr.Victor Olaiya recruited the young bassist with the ‘roots’ feel to leave his homeland and head for the giant city of Lagos.
In a few years restless to explore the modern potential of African music he joined vocalist Joni Haastrup to form the seminal and legendary Afro-rock band Monomono. By the early 7’s they were at the top of the charts and touring West Africa with the albums Give a Beggar a Chance and Dawn of Awareness (EMI) fusing African roots music with rock soul and funk.
Okulolo became a mainstay on the Nigerian music scene touring Europe with various groups producing and performing on countless recordings including his own hit album Talking Bass (EMI) and leading his band Positive Vibrations.
After moving to the U.S. he assembled a heady mix of top Nigerian and American musicians to create the modern Afro-beat band Kotoja. Featuring Ken’s vocals and original tunes KOTOJA blends jazz funk highlife Afro-beat, and juju into exciting” animated shows.
Okulolo also leads the West African Highlife Band joined by other distinguished West African music veterans to revive the great hits of the highlife music era. Their hot dance-inspiring music is available on the CD Salute to Highlife Pioneers (Inner Spirit/Stern’s).
Recently to satisfy the demand for traditional African music in an acoustic format Okulolo started The Nigerian Brothers. They recreate the sweet lilting sounds of their earliest village memories bringing folk, palmwine, and highlife songs to life with their harmonious voices acoustic guitars and hand percussion. This gentle but rhythmic music has been a special treat at museums and folk music festivals for those who love authentic African music.
Today he lives in Oakland California with his family. Says Okulolo: “I see the world today as one family as one village. We all have the same needs and wants. Peace love and understanding will help solve the world’s problems and that’s what we are trying to spread to all people with our music.”
Freedom Is What Every Body Needs (Inner Spirit Records, 1990)
Sawale (Mesa/Blue Moon Recordings, 1992) Super Sawale (Putumayo World Music, 1994)
King Sunny Ade was born Sunday Adeniyi in the Ondo State of western Nigeria in 1946, the son of a Methodist minister. Although his father was a church organist and his mother sang in the church choir, his parents rejected his musical aspirations. He was, after all, Nigerian royalty — a prince in fact — and a career in law seemed more appropriate. Sunny Ade started with percussion. At the age of seven, he would follow his mother to church and he liked to be in between those people playing percussion. From there, he started touching the drums.
Sunny Ade began his musical career when he dropped out of school, at the age of 17, first joining the band of a traveling musical comedy troupe. Ade later moved to Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, where he joined a highlife (Nigerian dance music) band. Inspired by the music of Nigerian musician I.K. Dairo and American artists like James Brown, Brook Benton and Jim Reeves, Sunny Ade joined the Rhythm Dandies, led by Moses Olaiya (later known as Baba Sala). As his interest in his own Yoruban culture grew, however, Sunny Ade joined Juju bands. King Sunny was influenced by the legendary Tunde Nightingale (early Juju pioneer) and borrowed stylistic elements from Nightingale’s ‘So wa mbe’ style of Juju.
Until civil war broke out in Nigeria in the 1960s, highlife was king, but as the band leaders, many of whom were from eastern Nigeria, headed home to join their Ibo compatriots, many stages were left to be filled. Juju ascended and Sunny Ade along with it.
In 1966, Ade created his own group called the Green Spots Band and from then on refused to take orders. His first big hit, in 1967, was in honor of the local soccer team, the Stationery Stores Football Club. “Challenge Cup” sold over half a million copies, more than any Juju record had done before. Two and three best-selling albums have followed every year since, until, by 1976, Ade was chosen as best musician in Nigeria and called the King of Juju by his fans. It is a name he has held on to ever since.
After eight years in which the the Green Spots Band recorded 12 LPs for the Nigerian Africa Song label, Ade decided to form his own record company in 1974. At that time he changed the name of his band to the African Beats.
King Sunny Ade and The African Beats tour with a line-up of 20-30 members. They play a spacey, jamming sort of Juju, characterized by tight vocal harmonies, intricate guitar work, backed by traditional talking drums, percussion instruments, and even adding the unusual pedal steel guitar and accordion.
Even though he has released more than 100 records in Nigeria, the King first became known in the United States after a critically acclaimed three-record run on Island Records in the 1980s. Since then, he and his African Beats have become perhaps the leading lights in bringing African pop to the West.
Sunny Ade is known to many Nigerians as the Chairman, a title he earned due to his leading in numerous and diverse businesses. King Sunny has invested the revenues earned as a music superstar into participation in a multitude of companies, including an oil firm, a mining company, a nightclub, a film and video production house, record labels for African artists and a few other enterprises.
About 70% of Sunny Ade’s business is about music. The Chairman estimates that over 700 people work for him in one way or another, with 200 of them directly employed in music. Sunny Ade also chairs the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria, an organization whose mandate is to halt the uncontrolled record piracy that plagues Africa, as well as to protect the intellectual property and international copyrights of his fellow musicians.
In his continuing efforts to support African music, Sunny has also established the King Sunny Ade Foundation, which the Chairman founded with Nigerian civic and business leaders. The Foundation is situated on a large parcel of land donated by the Lagos State Government. It includes a performing arts center, a fully equipped recording studio and housing for young performers and musicians, and offers financial assistance to both the children of dead musicians as well to elderly musicians who can no longer perform.
Gnonnan Sossou Pierre Kouassivi, better known as Gnonnas Pedro, was a singer-songwriter, salsero and musician born in Lokossa, Benin.
Gnonnas Pedro had always excelled in many styles of music but if one had to associate him with a particular genre it would be Agbadja. Agbadja is a rhythm hugely popular in Togo, Benin and Ghana, and is used mainly during burial ceremonies. It is based on three percussions, each one of them with a different tone.
Agbadja was born in and dominates a region called Le Mono in the center of Benin and also the birthplace of Gnonnas Pedro. Gnonnas adopted and modernized the rhythm in the mid-1960s calling it “Agbadja Moderne”. It became his trademark and he was soon dubbed “Le Roi du Rhythme Agbadja.” In addition to Agbadja, he also played highlife and juju.
Pedro led his own bands Pedro y sus Panchos, later reforming as Gnonnas Pedro and his Dadjes Band, before joining the long-lived Orchestre Poly-rythmo de Cotonou. He sang in many different languages, including Minad, Adja, Yoruba, French, English, and Spanish.
Gnonnas Pedro became well-known internationally as the lead singer of Africando between 1995 and 2004.
Gnonnas Pedro died August 12, 2004 in a hospital in Cotonu, Benin.
Dadjes: The Band Of Africa (1975)
Gnonnas Pedro (Disco Stock, 1979)
El Cochechivo (Ledoux, 1981) Gombo Salsa, with Africando (Stern’s Africa STCD1071, 1996) Baloba, with Africando (Stern’s Africa STCD1082, 1998) Agbadja (Syllart, 1999) Irma koi (Syllart, 1999) Mandali, with Africando (Stern’s Africa STCD1092, 2000) Live!, with Africando (Sono CDS8907, double CD, 2001) Martina, with Africando (Stern’s Africa STCD1096, 2003) The best of Gnonnas Pedro (2003) Ketukuba, with Africando (Stern’s Africa STCD1103, 2006)
Adam Solomon is a 2005 Juno Award winner in the World Music Album category. Adam was born in Mombasa, Kenya, and began performing at an early age, playing kivoti (flute) and Kayaamba (shaker) at village celebrations and festivals. He established his career playing lead guitar and singing on recordings and videos with Kenya’s most popular bands and musicians, such as Joseph Kamaru, Professor M.B Naaman and the Nine Stars Orchestra, Super Wanyika Stars of Issa Juma, Lessa Lessan vocalist of Dr.Nico, Super Mazembe ya Mushosho, Kanda Bongo Man and Mombasa Roots band.
Adam formed his band Tikisa in 1995. Retaining his roots in traditional music, Adam’s compositions are comprised of a wide variety of African rhythms, from traditional chela, highlife, soukous, reggae, and samba to bossa nova and traditional 6/8 beat chakacha. Adam sings in six languages: Swahili, English, Lingala, Duruma, Giriama, and Arabic. “The Professor,” as he is known in musical circles, is highly respected as a lead guitarist and vocalist. In addition, he is experienced as a bass and rhythm guitar player and keyboard player. Adam Solomon & Tikisa have performed across Canada and the US in clubs and major festivals.
Adam Solomon was a co-founder of Canada’s great pan-African band, The AfroNubians, with whom he toured western Canada in 1993 collaborated on two CD releases: Tour to Africa and The Great Africans. His touring credits also include workshops with African super stars Papa Wemba from Congo and Ismael Lo from Senegal.
Adam Solomon moved to Canada and was a co-founder of Canada’s great pan-African band, The AfroNubians, with whom he toured western Canada in 1993 collaborated on two CD releases: Tour to Africa and The Great Africans. His touring credits also include workshops with African super stars Papa Wemba from Congo and Ismael Lo from Senegal.
Adam Solomon has released several albums. Safari Afro-Pop music won Best Release at Toronto African Music Awards and Best New Performers of the Year.
In 2004, Adam collaborated with other well-known African musicians on a CBC-sponsored project called the African Guitar Summit, which eventually garnered the 2005 World Music Album Juno Award, Canada’s top music award.
As well as his career as a band leader, Adam also established a reputation in music education and as a valuable contributor to programs in African Heritage education.
Aaron Bebe Sukura is a Ghanaian multi-instrumentalist (harp-lute, thumb-piano, bamboo flute, guitar, xylophone). He recorded Nyong, a solo album devoted to acoustic Highlife from Ghana with a unique mixture of Jamaican, Manding and Ghanaian influences.
Aaron Bebe Sukura sings about love, wisdom, and the fight against corruption. He made his recording with Local Dimension, a group based at the University of Ghana at Legon. The originator of the project was John Collins, producer of several records in Nigeria and Ghana, the author of a book about Fela Kuti, and a specialist in African urban music.
‘Highlife – Jazz and Afro-Soul (1963-1969)’ contains all the Koola Lobitos recordings with a 12-page booklet, including a full discography and essay by Fela Kuti scholar and author Michael Veal. The significant collection of 39 tracks, recorded live at the Afro-Spot in Lagos, Nigeria, in the mid-1960s demonstrates how Fela used a mix of jazz and high-life to create the early beginnings of what was soon to become his characteristic Afrobeat.
The compilation traces Fela’s musical evolution in the decade before he formed the famous Africa 70 band. In 1958 Fela was sent to London by his parents to study medicine but he decided to study music instead at the Trinity College of Music.
Upon returning to Lagos in 1963 Fela had aspirations of becoming a successful modern jazz musician and became the leader of Koola Lobitos, a popular dance band. ‘Highlife – Jazz and Afro-Soul (1963-1969)’ follows Fela Kuti’s career, from highlife (a genre considered to be a West African slant on jazz) to soul to the beginnings of Afrobeat.
Also for Record Store Day (April 16, 2016) Knitting Factory will release a limited edition 10” vinyl single of the 1986 recording of “I Go Shout Plenty”, backed with “Frustration”.