Ebo Taylor: Portrait of a highlife legend

Two beer bottles leisurely sit on a roundtable, their owners, a middle age man and a female companion, both holding the last end of their cigarette sticks between their fingers, the smoke faintly billowing into the dark, clinched their fist and punched the air in appreciation of Ebo Taylor’s mastery of an electronic guitar. The highlife legend and his Saltpond City band headlined a midweek concert at Republic Bar and Grill, one of Accra’s finest hangouts for both corporate and non-corporate crowd, a blend of locals and expatriates.

A sizable crowd fit for the space was already seated ahead of the gig. Dressed in a top to down African print with his trade mark bucket hat firmly locked on his head, Ebo, now 82 years, implored the audience to ensure the songs coming from him do not go waste; he expected everyone to take to the dance floor and dance.

His guitar strapped across him, he opened the art with a song to some of the country’s activists in the independent struggle, acknowledging their work and contributions over the period they were alive, and the void their departure has created. And while the lyrics, heavily soaked in his native Fanti, mills beyond the fenced crowd, patrons kept ordering drinks and puffing their smoke into the skies.

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Ebo’s repertoire has never been in doubt and every song, including “Odo Yewu, Ankonam, Mind Your Own Business, Odo bra” got a good number of the crowd dancing with the rest tapping their feet in appreciation. Perhaps the song that got everyone going was “Ayesama”from  Appia Kwa Bridge released in 2012. Ebo brings his creativity on the album, blending Fanti chants and childhood stories from his native Saltpond. Painting him in words is arguably the most painful experience for any writer with addiction to this genre of music, especially when almost everything and anything has been said about a man who has been around the music scene for over sixty years.  An accomplished guitarist and impeccable vocalist, Ebo, who founded Black Star Highlife Band back in 1962, has a reputation for infusing Afro-funk into his artistic vocabulary.

His creative loins are as fertile as the first day he started singing and despite his age, his unspoken scale of artistry is still fresh and young.

*** The writer is a Prampram native and currently working on a project examining night life and live band music at Ghanaian pubs.

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