Following the wartime big band highlife pioneers like E.T. Mensah, Taylor became a major figure in Ghanaian highlife during the 1950s and ’60s as highlife exploded. Cutting his teeth with leading big bands like Stargazers and Broadway Dance Band, Ebo Taylor quickly rose through the ranks and became a prolific composer and frontman. Taylor moved to London in 1962 to study. “I had the Black Star Highlife Band sponsored by the Ghanaian High Commission, mainly comprising music students. We tried to incorporate jazz into highlife and progressed through talking and through jam sessions, trying to develop our skills and ideas.”
Back in Ghana, Taylor became an in-house arranger and producer for labels like Essiebons, working with other leading Ghanaian stars including C.K. Mann and Pat Thomas. “I was paid to write for them and we made some great records. People were trying new things – I always loved C.K. Mann’s ‘Funky Highlife’. It was fresh.” Through the mid-’70s and into the ’80s, Taylor then recorded a number of solo projects, exploring unique fusions and borrowing elements from traditional Ghanaian sounds, Fela’s Afrobeat, jazz, soul and funk. Tracks like ‘Heaven’ now stand as among the best Ghanaian Afrobeat of the era.
Now 74 years-old, Ebo Taylor’s music has become increasingly in-demand in recent years with a series of Ghanaian compilations on Soundway Records and Analog Africa and an unexpected sample as Usher lifted a riff from ‘Heaven’ for his hit with Ludacris, ‘She Don’t Know’. A new Ebo Taylor album was a natural progression. “For the new album, I wanted to advance the cause of Afrobeat music. Fela started it and we shouldn’t just abandon it. We should push it so it is a standard form of music.” The result is a firing new set backed by Afrobeat Academy, a Berlin-based collective featuring members of Poets Of Rhythm, Kabu Kabu (Jimi Tenor collaborators) and Ghanaian legends Marijata. Tracks include new versions of Taylor classics ‘Victory’ and ‘Love And Death’ and a selection of new compositions including ‘Kwame’, celebrating Ghana’s late, lamented leader Kwame Nkrumah.