OsibisaOsibisa are a British Afrobeat band, founded in London in 1969 by four expatriate African and three Caribbean musicians. Their music is a fusion of African, Caribbean, jazz, funk, rock, Latin, and R&B and highlife.
Osibisa were the most successful and longest lived of the African-heritage bands in London, alongside such contemporaries as Assagai, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Demon Fuzz, and Noir, and were largely responsible for the establishment of world music as a marketable genre.
HistoryIn Ghana in the 1950s, Teddy Osei (saxophone), Sol Amarfio (drums), Mamon Shareef, and Farhan Freere (flute) played in a 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 "(I feel) Pata Pata." 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 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 and lead vocalist); 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 anthologised in many CD collections, most of them unauthorised 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 revitalised 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.
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 Ace Ghanaian hip-hop music producer Hammer of The Last Two stated that his debut production, Obrafour's Pae Mu Ka 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 a few days before his death.
Album coversTheir first two albums featured artwork (and logo) by famed progressive-rock artist Roger Dean (before he became famous for his artwork), depicting flying elephants which became the symbol for the band. The third album, Heads, features a cover by Mati Klarwein, famed for his covers for Santana (Abraxas) and Miles Davis (Bitches Brew). Osibirock features "Negro Attacked by a Jaguar" (1910) by Henri Rousseau. Playing on the original flying elephants theme, the Ultimate Collection set features elephants with tank turrets for heads. In 2009, their Osee Yee album featured the flying elephants once more, this time painted by Freyja Dean (Dean's daughter). Roger Dean's logo for the band continues to be used on every release.
ControversiesOne major controversy surrounding the death of keyboardist Kiki Djan, was made public by his daughter Vanessa Sullivan Djan in an interview she granted a local newspaper RazzPaper. In the interview she stated "“They betrayed him! If I’m your friend and I’m into some form of immorality and you watch me go on with it till I crush, that is a form of betrayal! Kiki wrote many songs when he was part of Osibisa but they never gave him credit for that. That was another betrayal”. Teddy Osei, who refuted the reports said in an interview with Let’s Talk Entertainment (LTE) on JoyNews on MultiTV, the group took care of Kiki, who joined the band at age 18, until his death in 2004.
Line-upsThe original line-up consisted of Teddy Osei (saxophone, flute, and vocals), Mac Tontoh (trumpet and background vocals), Sol Amarfio (drums and backing vocals), all three from Ghana, Loughty Lassisi Amao (congas, percussion, and horns), from Nigeria, Robert Bailey (keyboards), from Trinidad, Spartacus R (bass), from Grenada, and Wendell Richardson (lead guitar and vocals) from Antigua; together they were also known as "the beautiful seven". The first to exit officially was Spartacus R, who was replaced numerous times, once by the bassist of the group called Assagai and a few times by Jean Mandengue and others. Amao left and was replaced by Kofi Ayivor, who was replaced by Potato but returned to the group later. Richardson left in 1972 and returned in 1975 and henceforth "Welcome Home" and "Sunshine Day". Bailey was replaced by Kiki Gyan before "Sunshine Day"′s release. Richardson was replaced a few times by Kari Bannerman. Black Welsh guitarist Tony Etoria, who had a hit in 1977 with "I Can Prove It", joined on guitar in the early 1980s.