During the 1980s,
ghanaian bandleader Gyedu-Blay Ambolley began to experiment with
electronic instruments, and the result was a potent cocktail of
highlife, funk, exploratory synths and righteous vocals, the sound of a
restless genius intent on pushing the traditional sounds of highlife
into a brave new future. By the end of the 1970s, Ambolley was already a legendary figure on the
ghanaian music scene. A drummer, turned guitarist, turned bassist,
turned lead vocalist, he rose to prominence during the late 1960s,
serving with countryman Ebo Taylor in the Stargazers and the Uhuru Dance
Band before launching his own career with ‘Simigwa-do’, the 1972 hit
that propelled him to West African stardom. As a founding member of the
Apagya Show Band and the Complex Soundz, he stretched the boundaries of
highlife with electric instruments, funky rhythms and socially charged
lyrics in Fante and English.
If he had retired in 1978, Ambolley’s place in the history of ghanaian music would have been secure. Instead, he dissolved the Complex Soundz and embraced the synthesizer. With a new band, Zantoda Mak III, he recorded ‘The Message’, a seven minute funk workout built on a highlife foundation, and decorated with shimmering synths. Recorded in 1980, the song became a hit that would change the direction of Ambolley’s music: over the next decade, electronic instruments played a much larger role in his sonic experiments.
‘The Message’ receives a long overdue re-release on this 12" along with three other peaks from Ambolley’s eighties output. The futuristic funk of ‘Akoko Ba’ strips down the rhythm, raises the intensity of the vocals, and adds a dose of serpentine saxophone. On the B-side, ‘Simigwa Soca’ sets classic highlife horns against an unshakable bass groove, while the incredible ‘Burkina Faso’ is Ghana’s great lost electro-funk gem, a sleek construction of robotic bass, call-and-response vocals, and fat stabs of slippery synth.
- 1.The Message07:47
- 2.Akoko Ba05:10
- 1.Simigwa Soca03:43
- 2.Burkina Faso03:49