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Osibisa is a Ghanaian Afro-pop band, founded in London in 1969 by four expatriate African and three Caribbean musicians. Osibisa were one of the first African heritage bands to become widely popular and linked with the world music description.
In 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 (born Kweku Adabanka Tonto, 25 December 1940, Kumasi, Ashanti, Ghana died Monday 16 August 2010, at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra, Ghana) on trumpet, and scored a hit in West Africa with their 1958 song "Pete Pete." 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) (born Roy Bedeau, 3 September 1948, Aruba, Grenada, West Indies died Friday 30 July 2010) ; Trinidadian Robert Bailey (keyboard); Antiguan Wendell Richardson (lead guitar); and Nigerians Fred Coker (bass guitar) and Lasisi Amao (percussionist and tenor saxophone). Their music is a fusion of African, Caribbean, jazz, rock, Latin, and R&B.
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 (died 1977) (guitar) and Ghanaians Daku Adams 'Potato' (died 1995) and Kiki Djan (died 2004) 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 anthologized in many collections, most of them paying no royalties whatsoever to the band.
In 1996 Osei reformed the band, and many of their past releases began coming out on CD. The band remains active in 2009, 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 28/11/2010 at the Corporation Kalaiarangam in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.
The name Osibisa was described by the band members 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 'paemuka' 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 Djan a few days before his death.
The group used to live in Buck Lane, Kingsbury, North-west London, and the drummer Frank Tonto is the son of the band
Their 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.
The 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) and together they were also known as "the beautiful seven." The first to exit officially was Spartacus R who was replaced numerous times by once 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" release. Richardson was replaced a few times by the likes of guitar wizard, Kari Bannerman. Black Welsh guitarist Tony Etoria, who had a hit in 1977 with "I Can Prove It", joined on guitar in the early 80s.