Cult Classic Found: Ebo Taylor-Palaver.

In the history of Ghanian music one man looms large, Ebo Taylor. He’s a colossus of Ghanian music who deserves to be described as an innovator and  as someone who went on to influence future generations of Ghanian musicians. Nearly forty years later, and Ebo Taylor’s influence is still being felt not just in Ghanian music, but further afield.

Ebo Taylor was born in Ghana in 1936, and his career started in the fifties when he was the leader of two highlife bands in Ghana, The Stargazers and The Broadway Dance Band. These weren’t just any highlife bands, and were two of the best and most important Ghanian highlife bands. Being the leader of these bands allowed Ebo Taylor to establish a reputation as a bandleader and musician before he decided to spread the gospel of Ghanian music in London.

By 1962, Ebo Taylor had moved to London, where he founded The Blackstar Highlife Band. Having founded his own band, he could dictate musical policy. What Ebo Taylor wanted to do, was create a fusion of disparate musical genres and influences. This included traditional Ghanian music and other West African musical genres as well as funk and jazz. 

What The Blackstar Highlife Band eventually created was akin to a musical melting pot where  Afrobeat, highlife, jazz and funk came together to form a hypnotic and enthralling fusion of African and Western music. Before long, The Blackstar Highlife Band became a popular group not just in London, but further afield. The effect this had on Ebo Taylor’s career was considerable, and on his return to Ghana, his services as a producer were greatly in demand.

Having returned to Ghana, Ebo Taylor was like the all-conquering hero. Word had spread about the genre-melting music he had created in London with The Blackstar Highlife Band.Job offers came thick and fast for Ebo Taylor who was a  musician, songwriter, arranger and producer and could turn his hand to anything.

He was a member of the short-lived The Apagya Show Band, who released one single, Tamfo Nyi Ekyir in 1973. They also released one album which lay unreleased for thirty-nine years. From working as a musician Ebo Taylor decided to move onto arranging and production.

Then in 1975, Ebo Taylor arranged CK Mann and His Carousel 7’s 1975 album Funky Highlife. Later that year, he produced Gyedu-Blay Ambolley’s album Simigwa. It was through production that allowed Ebo Taylor to put his new ideas about music into practice. Ebo Taylor it seemed had done just about everything in music. However, he hadn’t written many songs and and had still to release a solo album. This was about to change.

Two years later, in 1977, he wrote several songs for Pat Thomas and Marijata’s eponymous album. Ebo Taylor was also asked to arrange the album. This he enjoyed doing and was good practise as he was later that year he would enter the studio to record his debut solo album.

Ebo Taylor had done many things during his three decade career, but had never had the opportunity to release a solo album. This  rectified in 1977 when he released his eponymous debut album Ebo Taylor on the Ghanian label Essiebons. This was  just the start of his solo career and before long, he would release his sophomore album.

Twer Nyame was Ebo Taylor’s sophomore album,  and was released on Phillips West-African Records. Having released two solo albums in the space of a year, it was another two years before Ebo Taylor released another album.

His next album was collaboration with the Saltpond Barkers Choi,  Me Kra Tsie which was released in 1979, on the Ghanian label Essiebons. The following year, Ebo Taylor released another collaboration and recorded another album.

For what was his fourth album Conflict, Ebo Taylor joined forces with Uhuru Yenzu. When the album was released in 1980 it was a commercial success in Ghana, but failed to find an audience in other parts of Africa. 

Despite this,  Ebo Taylor was a popular live draw in other parts of Africa. This included Nigeria, and in 1980 Ebo Taylor and his r touring band embarked upon a club tour, which was how he met none other tham Chief Tabansi of Tabansi Records. 

Within a few short days, Chief Tabansi had offered Ebo Taylor a one album deal, which he signed. With the deal concluded, Ebo Taylor and his touring band entered the studio and recorded an album’s worth of material which under the terms of the deal was to be released exclusively on Tabansi Records. Once the album  was recorded Ebo Taylor competed his Nigerian club tour.

Ebo Taylor was under the impression that Tabansi Records would release the album he had recorded Palaver, later in  1980 or in 1981. Sadly, for reasons lost in the mists of time, the album was never released and Palaver sat in the Tabansi Records’ vaults for thirty-nine years.

Nothing was head of the album until 2019 when Peter Adarkwah of BBE Music agreed a deal with Chief Tabansi’s son Joe to reissue around sixty albums recorded and released by the label and its imprints. That was when Joe Tabansi mentioned the tantalising prospect of unreleased material. That was when Joe Tabansi produced the master-tapes  to Palaver. Little did Peter Adarkwah realise that he had struck musical gold.

Palaver features five new tracks penned by Ebo Taylor, which were recorded by his band who accompanied him on tour and in the studio.The lineup included George Amissah, Mat Hammond, George Kennedy and George Abunuah. They were responsible for what’s a long lost hidden gem that for thirty-nine years lay in the  Tabansi Records vaults. 

 Palaver is a genre-melting fusion of African and Western influences that features Ebo Taylor and his band  at the peak of their powers. By 1980, Ebo  Taylor was a vastly experienced musician and bandleader. He had  nearly thirty years experience as a musician, and drew upon all that experience, fusing African and Western music on Palaver. Everything from funk and jazz to Afrobeat and highlife are combined on Palaver, which deserves to be called  a lost masterpiece  from Ghana’s greatest ever musician, and the King of Ghanaian  Funky-Highlife, Ebo Taylor.

Cult Classic Found: Ebo Taylor-Palaver.

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