Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
African pop/Afro rock fusion band formed in London '69, still one of the most commercially successful African bands of all time, with their 'criss-cross rhythms which explode with happiness'. Teddy Osei (sax, flute, drums; singer) was born in Kumasi, Ghana; qualified as a building inspector, turned to music and formed his first band the Comets '58: big hit 'Pete Pete' '59 from LP Afro-Rhythm Parade 1. To London '62, after some hardship awarded scholarship to study music by government of Ghana, formed band Cat's Paws and developed his plan of breaking black music down to its constituents and starting from there. In '69 his brother Mac Tontoh (trumpet, flugelhorn; ex-Comets, Uhurus) and old friend Sol Amarfio (drums, bongos; ex-StarGazers, Rhythm Aces) came to London and Osibisa was formed (named after osibisaba, the Fanti word for highlife). They were joined by Nigerian Lasisi Amoa on congas/sax, West Indians Spartacus R on bass, Wendell Richardson on guitar and vocals, Robert Bailey on keyboards. First hit was 'Music For Gong Gong' '70; they made albums Osibisa '71, Woyaya and Heads '72 on MCA, Happy Children '73 and Obisirock '74 on WB, Welcome Home on Island; also soundtrack to blaxploitation film Superfly TNT '73 on Buddah. All charted in USA, where records sold better than in UK; other albums incl. Black Magic Night and Ojah Awake; they made UK singles chart twice '76 with 'Sunshine Day' and 'Dance The Body Music'. There are few countries they haven't visited, highlights incl. tours of Australia, Japan, Africa, USA, Nigerian FESTAC '77, Zimbabwe Independence celebrations '80. Through changes in personnel the three Ghanaians remained constant, Kiki Gyan and Alfred Bannerman among those who passed through. More albums incl. Mystic Nights '80, Mystic Energy '81, Osibisa Unleashed (live in India) '82, Live At The Marquee '83; some said that the studio albums never did them justice. Art Garfunkel covered Amarfio's song 'Woyaya' '76; Osei and Tontoh collaborated with other Ghanaian stars on album Pete Pete. Reissues Unleashed (with new tracks), Superfly and new studio album Monsore '96 all appeared on Red Steel CDs '96; by the time of the latter Teddy was the only remaining original member, but the band was at last getting the recording quality it deserved.