A Unique Group Called ‘Osibisa’ And Their Powerful Rhythm Explodes With Happiness

Osibisa 3The group ‘Osibisa’ performing

While very young, it came as a shock to us in Ghana, when a group known as ‘Osibisa’ gained instant international stardom, recording classic contemporary songs, giving Ghana a facelift in music and tourism. But who are those behind the band simply known as ‘Osibisa’ with slogan ‘Criss-Cross rhythm that explodes with happiness?

Osibisa is a British Afro Pop band, founded in London 1969 by four African expatriate and three Caribbean musicians. Their music is a fusion of Africa, Caribbean, jazz, funk, rock, Latin, and R&B. Osibisa were one of the first African-heritage bands to become widely popular and linked with the world music description.

In Ghana in the 1950s Teddy Osei, Saxophonist, Sol Amarfio, drums,  Mamon Shareef, and Farhan Freere, flute, played in highlife  band called The Star Gazers. They left to form The Comets, with Osei’s brother Mac Tontoh on trumpet, and scored a hit in West Africa with their 1958 song “Pete Pete.” In 1962, Osei moved to London to study music on a scholarship from the Ghanaian government. In 1964, he formed Cat’s Paw, an early “world music” band that combined highlife, rock, and soul. In 1969, he persuaded Amarfio and Mac Tontoh to join him in London, and Osibisa was born.

Joining them in the first incarnation were Grenadian Spartacus R bass,Trinidadian Robert Bailey, Keyboard, Antiguan Wendell Richardson, lead guitar, lead and Nigerians Mike Odumosu and Fred Coker (bass guitar) and Lasisi Amao percussionist and tenor saxophone. The band spent much of the 1970s touring the world, playing to large audiences in Japan, Australia, India, and Africa. During this time, Paul Golly (guitar) and Ghanaians Daku Adams ‘Potato’ and Kiki Gyan were also members of the band.

In 1980 Osibisa performed at a special Zimbabwean independence celebration, and in 1983 were filmed onstage at the Marquee Club in London.

Changes in the music industry, however, punk and disco primarily) meant declining sales for the band, and a series of label changes resulted. The band returned to Ghana to set up a recording studio and theatre complex to help younger highlife musicians. In the 1990s their music was widely anthologized in many CD collections, most of them unauthorized and paying no royalties whatsoever to the band.

In 1996, Osei reformed the band, and many of their past releases began coming out legally on CD. The revitalized band remains active, although Osei has cut back his touring schedule due to the effects of a stroke.

Osibisa had an energetic performance in India, at the November Fest 2010 on 28 November 2010 at the Corporation Kalaiarangam in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

 osibisa-7The original founding members of the group called ‘Osibisa’

The name Osibisa was described in lyrics, album notes and interviews as meaning “criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness” but it actually comes from “Osibisaba” the Fante  word for highlife. Their style influenced many of the emerging African musicians of the time and even now, as Ghanaian hip-hop music producer Hammer Of The Last Two stated that his debut production, Obrafour’s ‘paemuka’ album, the highest selling hiplife album to date was inspired by a single song (Welcome Home) by Osibisa. He also had the chance to work with Kiki Gyan few days before his death.

One of Osibisa’s hit ‘Woyaya’- We are going, became  the signature tune of an Akan drama series known as ‘ Osofo Dadzie’ for a number of years.

Explore the official website to know more about the group: http://www.osibisa.co.uk

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