It’s party time down at the Crescent Community Venue tonight and the man leading the celebrations is no less than Pat Thomas, the Golden Voice of Africa. And he has much to celebrate. He is here with the Kwashibu Area Band on what is the opening night of the UK leg of their current European tour, a tour scheduled to coincide with the release next Friday of their second album, Obiaa!
Obiaa!, which translates as “Everybody!” is the follow-up album to Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band’s debut offering from four years ago and based upon what we hear tonight, it is a delightful progression of its predecessor’s journey into a highlife sound for the future.
The musical genre highlife has its origins in the early part of the last century in the West African country of Ghana. And Pat Thomas is one of highlife’s greatest living exponents. Now 72 years of age, his musical career dates back to the 1960s and the Kwashibu Area Band – formed some five years ago – is the latest in a long line of Thomas’s impressive group collaborations since then, bands that have included Ogyatanaa Show Band, Black Berets, Sweet Beans (sponsored at the time by the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board, no less), and The Big ‘7’.
To highlife’s core elements of brass, asymmetrical drum rhythms and guitar melodies, these bands introduced the influences of Afrobeat, Latin jazz, and even psychedelic rock to diversify and develop their sound. The Kwashibu Area Band plots a similar path of invention, moving contemporary highlife music one step further beyond.
Obiaa! features production from Ben Abarbanel-Wolff (saxophone) and Kwame Yeboah (guitar/keyboards), two key members of the Kwashibu Area Band, and it is little surprise that it is to that record the eight musicians immediately head this evening. What follows is a joyful, at times hypnotic, confluence of sound as the band hit a glorious groove, with Thomas’s sweet honeyed voice to the fore. The passage of time has not withered any of its rich melodious charm.
They finish almost two hours later by momentarily stepping back in time to the Afro-funk of ‘I Need More’, a song that Pat Thomas had recorded with the Ghanaian band Marijata (a reincarnation of Sweet Beans) back in 1977. But be it music of the past, present or future, Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band rule this particular dance floor tonight.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from this show are HERE