Glitterbeat Records.

Edikanfo The Pace Setters album cover.

Edikanfo, a Brian Eno-Produced 1981 Ghanaian Classic Gets Reissued

Premiere: Hear the captivating blend of highlife and afro-funk from Glitterbeat Records' reissue of Edikanfo's The Pace Setters.

Back in 1981, a debut record from a young Ghanaian eight-piece group called Edikanfo began turning heads. People were drawn to The Pace Setters album for its infectious blend of highlife and afro-funk, but also due to the record's producer: Brian Eno.

Eno, at the time, had been looking towards West Africa and the likes of Fela Kuti for inspiration, some of which he took to his work on Talking Heads' Remain in Light and David Byrne on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

"Faisal Helwani (Edikanfo's manager) invited me to Ghana as an 'international observer' for the biennial Festival of African Song and Dance, which was that year to be held in Sunyani," Brian Eno tells OkayAfrica, "I accepted—having spent the previous few years immersed in Fela's early albums and the previous few months stuck into John Miller Chernoff's book African Rhythm and African Sensibility. I was very keen to hear some African music in situ. Prior to the visit I knew little about Edikanfo. The original arrangement with Faisal was that I would produce the band and in return they would play some things for me and, in due course, I'd work over them."

Eno and Edikanfo recorded The Pace Setters together at Studio One in Accra, creating this captivating blend of Ghana's sonic worlds. It was a sort of early Graceland idea," Eno mentions. "The actual recording sessions were joyful—the band played with such verve that you couldn't resist. The recording process was challenging—not many mics and a lot of people very close to each other in the smallish room—but the proximity paid off in tight, telepathic performances."

Unfortunately, just when things were looking up for Edikanfo and the release of The Pace Setters, a coup d'etat hit Ghana at the end of 1981. Edikanfo bassist, songwriter and founding member Gilbert Amartey Amar says, "We were just about ready to tour the world to promote the record then the coup happened. There was another coup d'état. And that's actually why we split."

"The government was going to give us some money to help prepare for the trip. And then when the coup happened the new government said—there is no money—so the confusion started right from there, and that's why we decided not to go on anymore," Amartey Amar continues. "There was no way to do the tour we needed to do.... When I finally went to Europe the record was all over. So a lot of people had the record in Europe even before I went there. So now we are trying to tour again. You know, it's about time."

Listen to our first listen of "Gbenta" ahead of the re-release of Edikanfo's The Pace Setters via Glitterbeat Records.

Edikanfo - Gbenta

Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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