Ebo Taylor - Yen Ara
The 81-year-old composer, arranger, guitarist and vocalist has been a key figure in the evolving afro-funk sound since the Seventies, working with the likes of Apagya Show Band, CK Mann and Pat Thomas. Famously, he rubbed shoulders with Fela Kuti while studying in London in the Sixties, before going on to lead the Ghana Black Star Band (featuring Osei and Sol Amarfio from Osibisa) and later the Uhuru Dance Band back in Ghana. Like Fela, he is always pushing forward, constantly reconceptualising his sound and attuning it for a new generation. Part teacher, part messenger, listen to Yen Ara and you will not only hear the high-energy afrobeat, sweet highlife, jazz and konkoma influences that he’s famous for, but also a disco pulse and hardhitting percussive edge to the tracks, which were produced by Justin Adam (Tinariwen, Rachid Taha, Robert Plant) and recorded in the live room at Electric Monkey Studio in Amsterdam.
His group, the Saltpond City Band, are all handpicked local musicians featuring two of his sons. An appropriate line-up on an album whose titles means “we”. And they are on fine form, ripping through tracks such as Krumandey (a surefire party starter) and Mind Your Own Business (a simple message delivered over a frenetic drum rhythm). Elsewhere, Aboa Kyirbinwill please fans of tough afrobeat grooves, while Taylor could well be inciting a riot at his next gig with Mumudey Mumudey, We hear him calling for ‘preshaaah’ and leading us into a call and response as the trumpet takes us higher. And the lift of those horns on Ankoma’m evokes some of his finest work such as Love and Death and Come Along, the latter recorded with the Pelikans and featured on a recent Mr Bongo reissue.