Ebo Taylor — a True Great of Ghanaian Highlife Music

Ebo Taylor links with Strut Records for his first ever internationally released studio album and retrospective album

During the 1950s and ’60s as Ghanaian highlife music exploded as big band highlife pioneers like E.T. Mensah and Ebo Taylor became a major figures. Cutting his teeth with leading big bands like Stargazers and Broadway Dance Band, Ebo Taylor quickly rose through the ranks and became a prolific composer and frontman.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/6115471″]

Taylor moved to London in 1962 to study. “I had the Black Star Highlife Band sponsored by the Ghanaian High Commission, mainly comprising music students. We tried to incorporate jazz into highlife and progressed through talking and through jam sessions, trying to develop our skills and ideas.”


Back in Ghana, Taylor became an in-house arranger and producer for labels like Essiebons, working with other leading Ghanaian stars including C.K. Mann and Pat Thomas. “I was paid to write for them and we made some great records. People were trying new things – I always loved C.K. Mann’s ‘Funky Highlife’. It was fresh.” Through the mid-’70s and into the ’80s, Taylor then recorded a number of solo projects, exploring unique fusions and borrowing elements from traditional Ghanaian sounds, Fela’s Afrobeat, jazz, soul and funk. Tracks like ‘Heaven’ now stand as among the best Ghanaian Afrobeat of the era.

Now 74 years-old, Ebo Taylor’s music has become increasingly in-demand in recent years with a series of Ghanaian compilations on Soundway Records and Analog Africa and an unexpected sample as Usher lifted a riff from ‘Heaven’ for his hit with Ludacris, ‘She Don’t Know’.

A new Ebo Taylor album was a natural progression. “For the new album, I wanted to advance the cause of Afrobeat music. Fela started it and we shouldn’t just abandon it. We should push it so it is a standard form of music.” The result is a firing new set backed by Afrobeat Academy, a Berlin-based collective featuring members of Poets Of Rhythm, Kabu Kabu (Jimi Tenor collaborators) and Ghanaian legends Marijata. Tracks include new versions of Taylor classics ‘Victory’ and ‘Love And Death’ and a selection of new compositions including ‘Kwame’, celebrating Ghana’s late, lamented leader Kwame Nkrumah.

life stories: the definitive ebo taylor retrospective

Not long ago, in a wrap up of his favorite reissues for NPR, Now Again’s Egon Alapatt expressed regret that a long awaited retrospective of Ghanaian music legend and possible candidate for coolest man alive, Ebo Taylor, didn’t see a 2010 release. He’s right that a comprehensive collection is long overdue, but “Life Stories” is worth the wait.

The Strut records team dug deep into Taylor’s musical history to assemble not only solo material, but also side projects like The Apagya Show Band and short-lived Taylor-led combos Assase Ase, Super Sounds Namba and The Pelikans. Also included is a real gem in the form of CK Mann’s “Etui,” which Taylor wrote and produced. Liner notes come courtesy of the ever knowledgeable Miles Cleret, whose Ghana Soundz compilation deserves much credit for introducing Ebo Taylor’s music to an international audience. And of course you can expect rare photos and original album art.

“Life Stories” will be out April 12th, with tour dates backed by Afrobeat Academy scheduled in select (and lucky!) of the globe. – Courtesy of Strut records

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Ebo Taylor - Love And Death

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