Taylor credits Kuti with pushing him, and others, to compose distinctly African music: Video, Photos

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Ebo Taylor became one of Ghana’s major prolific musicians in the 1950s and ‘60s, making his signature Ghanaian highlife that influenced the father of afrobeat, Fela Kuti.

As highlife and afrobeat music has entered the global stage, Taylor’s work has been sampled by international R&B artist Usher on his 2010 track “She Don’t Know,” featuring rapper Ludacris, and by Canadian hip-hop duo Ghetto Concept on their 1992 track “Certified.” His influence can also be seen in afrobeat’s clubbier offshoot, afrobeats (with an “s”), which has hit international charts through West African acts like Wizkid, who has collaborated with artists including Drake and Major Lazer.

And Taylor is still recording new material at age 84.

“Uncle Ebo,” as he’s known by locals in Saltpond, the small Ghanaian fishing town he’s called home since birth, has spent most of this year in his home studio observing Covid-19 protocols and recording new material for his third studio album in 10 years.

Since the release of his 2010 album “Love and Death,” as well as his collaboration with the Berlin-based Afrobeat Academy in 2011, Taylor’s international profile has been raised. In 2017, the release of Ghana funk anthem “Come Along,” made DJ playlists globally, according to Taylor. But Taylor’s newfound global fame is the culmination of his own influence on West African music since the early 1960s.

West African roots

Born in 1936, Taylor grew up listening to the highlife music that has always been at the heart of his style, which fuses jazz elements with traditional highlife for a groovier sound. “I was inspired by the pioneering saxophonist and trumpeter E.T. Mensah and his band The Tempos,” he said in a recent interview in Saltpond.

Taylor joined the Stargazers, a highlife band led by saxophonist Teddy Osei and drummer Sol Amarfio (who would both go on to form the legendary British-based Afro rock band, Osibisa) shortly after leaving college. In 1962, Taylor moved to London to study music at the Eric Gilder School of Music with funding from a government cultural program instituted by Ghana’s first prime minister and president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who secured independence for Ghana from British rule. It was in London that Taylor first met and collaborated with Nigerian saxophonist Peter King and Afrobeat legend Kuti.

“Fela used to come to my apartment in Willesden quite often and we’d spend hours playing records,” Taylor said. “When he came to Ghana in ‘67, he drove to Cape Coast to see me and we spent the afternoon talking about African Unity.”

The story of highlife and Afrobeat legend Ebo Taylor, in his own words

The story of highlife and Afrobeat legend Ebo Taylor, in his own words

Taylor credits Kuti with pushing him, and others, to compose distinctly African music. “He (Fela) never understood why as Africans we like playing jazz; he wanted us to be ourselves, be original and tell our stories,” Taylor said.

After moving back to Ghana in 1965, Taylor became the in-house guitarist, arranger and producer for the influential Ghanaian record label Essiebons, founded by music producer Dick Essilfie-Bondzie. It was during this period that Taylor recorded over 10 albums and put his stamp on projects by West African music legends like Pat Thomas, C.K. Mann and Gyedu-Blay Ambolley. The quality of Essiebons’ studio and the genius of Taylor made Essiebons one of the preferred recording studios for musicians from all over West Africa. Sadly, Ghana’s tumultuous political and economic environment throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, marked by multiple coups and government reorganizations following the ousting of Nkrumah, stifled the development of its music industry and arguably Taylor’s rise to global stardom.

Global influences

Yet Taylor’s influence can be seen across genres today, particularly with the emergence of afrobeats in the early 2000s, fusing afrobeat and highlife with EDM, hip-hop and reggae.

Taylor is quick to highlight the fact that the popularity of afrobeats has coincided with its embrace of authentically African arrangements and a departure from heavy hip-hop and R&B sounds which he believes could seem forced. “The music we made was real music, it made you stop and think,” he said. “It’s not surprising that people are connecting with afrobeats more now that it is embracing elements from the music we made.”

Taylor won’t say much about his highly anticipated new release. But it is uncharted territory for the guitarist and composer. He is working on it without support from two of his key collaborators: Essilfie-Bondzie, who became Taylor’s career-long executive producer; and Tony Allen, the legendary Nigerian drummer with whom he collaborated extensively on his recent projects. Allen and Essilfie-Bondzie died within months of each other earlier this year. Taylor fondly remembers both of them and lights up as he recalls his studio sessions with Allen. “The entire studio would freeze,” he said.”We just couldn’t understand how he was creating those sounds. Nobody knew what to expect next. It was magic.”

Over the last few years, Taylor has toured extensively throughout Europe with his Saltpond City band, marshalled by his son Roy, and has been more likely to be seen playing in Amsterdam or Berlin than in Accra or Lagos.

While Taylor is likely to slow down on touring, he intends to continue making music. “It’s what I love to do, it’s who I am,” he said. He intends to introduce his music to younger and more mainstream audiences and was keen to express his desire to collaborate with Ghanaian rappers M.anifest and Reggie Rockstone.

Like his hero Nkrumah, who Taylor believes is unique among African leaders past and present for his concern for the common man, Taylor wants to be remembered as a man of the people — not as a rockstar. “I want to be remembered for my music, for my art and as Ebo Taylor the man,” he said.

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EBO TAYLOR FALL TOUR 13'

EBO TAYLOR FALL TOUR 13'

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CD review: Rhoda Scott – Movin’Blues 2020: Video, CD cover

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The eldest daughter of an American pastor, Rhoda Scott was immersed in the atmosphere of gospels throughout her childhood.

Passionate about the Hammond organ, The Barefoot Lady was quickly fascinated by jazz and its bluesy swing: “I first knew religious music and then jazz”. She has around fifty records to her credit.

Arrived in France in 1968, she played for many years in duet with a drummer. This was followed by Daniel Humair, Franco Manzecchi and Félix Simtaine. In 2009, she recorded Soul Sisters with singer La Velle and, in 2011, Rock my boat, with David Linx and André Ceccarelli. Recently, it was with her Lady Quartet that she played, recording We free Queens (nod to We free kings by Roland Kirk), with Sophie Alour (ts), Lise Cat Berro (as) and Anne Paceo (dm).

For Movin’Blues, she returns to her old loves: the duo with drums. She is here accompanied by Thomas Derouisseau, young drummer who we discovered in Liège for the West Side Story Medley project.

Here she chooses an eclectic repertoire: the spiritual Let my people go (Go down Moses), Caravan by Juan Tizol, Come Sunday by Duke Ellington, Honeysuckle Rose by Fats Waller and Watch what happens by Michel Legrand, without forgetting one or the other references to the blues: Movin’Blues, Blue Law, Blues at Pinthière.

We find all the magic of the Hammond organ, its bluesy swing, its low notes played with the feet: “I sing with my instrument: it breathes in me.”

A nice cover but a small gap: the list of titles does not specify the names of the composers.

Born in the United States, Rhoda Scott, the eldest daughter of a traveling pastor, grew up, she recalls, in the atmosphere of the small black churches with the accents of gospels and spirituals. In France, she also held the organ for forty years in her parish of Perche: “I sing with my instrument. He breathes in me. I’m faithful to it I first knew religious music and then jazz “, “God can encompass all styles of music” she says. Passionate about Bach’s works, she has established herself as the ambassador of the Hammond organ popularized by artists like Jimmy Smith. Mastery, energy and thick timbres, Rhoda Scott remains the living myth of the Hammond organ. Encircled by two monumental Leslie cabins and B3 controllers, she hops with a smile to groove his keyboards by ensuring a swing “bluesy”, airy and hard-hitting … With fifty records to his credit, concerts at the Olympia and in the most prestigious festivals, Rhoda Scott returns with his new “Movin ‘Blues” to his first love the drum organ duo that made his success and his trademark. The Barefoot Lady is back!

The Barefoot Lady is back! After a first album success with the Rhoda Scott Lady Quartet “We free queens” and more than 100 dates of concerts around the world, the adventure continues. Far from being sparse and reserved for initiates, her music is rich, dense, groovy, like Rhoda Scott’s generosity. As a tightrope walker, she gives the Hammond organ its full dimension, respecting the great tradition of jazz and blues in a special duet with drums that has been her hallmark all along her career. Her audience will enjoy this homecoming.

01. Blue Law (4:12)
02. Movin’Blues (5:16)
03. Come Sunday (5:13)
04. Blues at the Pinthière (5:43)
05. Caravan (5:51)
06. Dans ma vie (3:53)
07. Honeysuckle Rose (4:42)
08. Watch What Happens (5:37)
09. I’m Looking for a Miracle (6:55)
10. Let My People Go (6:35)
11. Prière (5:24)
12. Yes Indeed (3:44)
13. Fais comme l’oiseau (3:35)
14. In a Sentimental Mood (4:54)

Rhoda Scott, organ Hammond B3
Thomas Derouineau, drums

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Image result for Rhoda Scott - Movin'Blues

Image result for Rhoda Scott - Movin'Blues

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Interview with Angel Forrest: Blues will take over for the empty music: Video, Photos

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Interview with Canadian energic vocalist Angel Forrest: stays true to her country and blues roots.

How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I have always been a 60’s child … born to late. I have much older siblings and have been raised listening to blues and late 60’s and 70’s music.  The influences from that time run deep. I time when expressing yourself fully was a good thing. I have always made music that is real to me at that moment in my life…whether it be blues, rock, country…or folk or in another language even. I am not one to kneel to pressure of any kind. So, my decision making is not always informed with what is expected of me. And that goes not only in music but life period.

How do you describe your songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

I have a varied songbook… Blues is the way I express myself … because it’s freeing and spiritual almost to me. No matter the style of record I make there is always that thread of blues through it all. Life is an incredible canvas of influences…

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

After 32 years on the road and 11 albums …you can be sure there are stories…but the same one repeats its self…and that is making music with friends and it taking us to a level of bliss fulness not found anywhere else….

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The music I am exposed to today … I find lacks depth and heart. Like most of what’s going in in the world … I fear the loss of human connection. Hopefully the Blues will take over for the empty music we are feed on commercial radio. People are hungry to feel and be moved.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Digital … computer music! Return to making music with old school instruments … reel to reel … experience live music!!

What touched (emotionally) you from the local Canadian blues scene? What characterize the sound of?

Canadian Blues has a very international sound…I love this blues society for it’s diverse sound and the true camaraderie of the players … very supportive and respectful of each other.

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

I don’t see nor feel a difference … we all kick ass!

What is the impact of Blues music to the socio-cultural implications? What is the legacy of Janis Joplin’s music?

I have always believed that the ones who make the decisions of who hears what and where … are frightened of music that stirs people up emotionally. Meanwhile those that don’t buy into the pop culture are working very hard to keep blues music alive … and slowly but surely a younger generation of listeners is getting a taste of this freedom music … we just have to help nurture the next generation.

Janis sang from her guts … her heart … she felt every note and sent it off to the listener to absorb. People are never forgotten when you have been touched emotionally by them.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Woodstock 1969 … The last day when all the electric acts played … I am so influenced by the artists and their music … I would love to experience all the magic that day possessed!

Interview by Michael Limnios

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