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 www.youtube.com