29 January 2021
Album Rating 4/5
Live Potential 5/5
Diversity in Songs 4/5
Favourite Songs Obi Agye Me Dofo, Gyaesu, Gladys Mmbobor
The Canadian label, We Are Busy Bodies, have reissued a 1977 album from Ghanaian Highlife group, Vis-A-Vis. Obi Agye Me Dofo is a rich album of afrobeat and afrofunk as well as the traditional Highlife of Ghana, reminiscent of Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas.
Between 1975 and 1982, Vis-A-Vis were a popular live act and a group of established studio musicians. The band had thirteen albums to their name and played with Ghanaian singer K. Frimpong in the 1970s, but have remained as unsung heroes.
Among the members of Vis-A-Vis include vocalist Isaac 'Superstar' Yeboah, Sammy Cropper on guitar, Slim Manu on bass and Gybson 'Shaolin Kung Fu' Papra on drums. Obi Agye Me Dofo is a showcase of their talent.
The album's title track is a perfect example of hypnotic afrobeat, and one that has appeared in Soundway’s collection of Ghanaian music. Synths, horn stabs and rocking guitars come together in funky harmony. It’s a track that is typical of the grooves that K. Frimpong worked with in the 1970s and its reissue acts as a tribute to a musical legend.
The music’s interplay between cosmic synth, funky guitar licks and sharp horns conjure up the picture of Ghanaian Highlife at its finest, ever with the sprinklings of disco and African jazz.
‘Kankyema’ carries on where the opening track left off. It’s a slower groove but no less funky and culminates with the vocals of Isaac 'Superstar' Yeboah. The guitar playing is a delicious underscore, often played on the offbeat like a call out to 1970s reggae.
‘Gyaesu’ is the third track and is simply joyful. The tune has sunny major arpeggios on the guitar as a constant foundation, which is typical of West African Highlife. You can’t help but smile when you hear this one, and picture the sunny months to come.
‘Gladys Mmbobor’ has a similar uplifting tone to the previous track and is short enough to be a chart-topping pop song. The album's transition from the afrobeat opening of the first two tracks to these more Highlife-oriented songs keep the music interesting enough to have you returning to it again and again.
Obi Agye Me Dofo ends on ‘Susan Suo’, opening with grooving drums and falling into euphoric twinkling Highlife.
We have We Are Busy Bodies to thank for the reissue of this wonderful album. It’s a showcase of a hidden gem in the Highlife melting pot. The 1960s and 70s housed a musical explosion of exciting music in Ghana and Nigeria with many records that have been overlooked or unnoticed outside of their home nations.
Vis-A-Vis deserve to be thought of in the category of Ghana's most celebrated musicians, be it K. Frimpong or Ebo Taylor, and this album is a step in that direction.
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