Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fela's Soul Mate: Ebo Taylor

Ebo Taylor
The luscious slipstream of West African music tonight bends toward Ghana, home of the grand old man of cool, Ebo Taylor. If Victor Olaiya, the Evil Genius of Highlife taught Fela Kuti how to play trumpet thereby helping to give birth to afrobeat, Ebo Taylor is the artist whose music equally embraces highlife’s incredible lightness of being as well as afrobeat’s urgent insurgent groove.

Born in 1936 Ebo Taylor played in and led a number of bands, such as The Stargazers and the Broadway Dance Band in Ghana throughout the 1950s and 1960s.  In 1962 he led the Black Star Highlife Band to London where other African musicians, including Fela Kuti, were learning their art. In fact, for a while Ebo and Fela studied together and shared their passion for blending highlife with the new sounds of jazz, R&B and rock ‘n roll they encountered in Europe. Both men returned to Africa, Fela to Nigeria and Ebo to Ghana next door. Over the years Ebo developed a sound that at times was similar to his Nigerian friend’s hard hitting, pile driving political funk but which always remained distinct and unique.

Ebo Taylor is the master of guitar and his brand of afrobeat has a different weight and feel to the leading sax lines of Fela’s. At the same time, while you could never be in any doubt about where Fela stood on the political and social issues of the day, you could listen to his music forever and never really get any closer to the ‘human’ Fela. Listen to tracks like Love and Death  or What is Life by Ebo Taylor however, and you get a very real sense of the personal human dramas and dilemmas of the singer.  But with no compromise on funkiness or grooviness.

Ebo Taylor is well into his seventies now but still plays music. He recently played his first European dates since the 1960s and earlier this year saw the release of Life Stories a compilation of some of his best work from the 1970s. Only now becoming known to the non-specialist, non-African audience, thanks to some of his tracks being sampled by hip-hop artists in the USA, the broader (if belated) ‘discovery’ of Ebo Taylor is a glorious new chapter in one of the most exciting African musical stories.

The Washerman’s Dog is very excited about this music and only hopes that Ebo Taylor will continue to make and reissue his music for many years to come.  Thank you sir!

         Track Listing:
         01 Heaven
02 Atwer Abroba
03 Victory
04 Ohiani Sua Efir
05 Kwaku Ananse
06 Peace on Earth
07 Aba Yaa
08 Ene Nyame Nam 'A' Mensuro
09 Tamfo Nyi Ekyir
10 Love and Death
11 Ohye Atar Gyan
12 Yes Indeed
13 Mumude
14 What Is Life
15 Etuei
16 Egya Edu

Listen here

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