Osibisa's Black Magic Night
The dynamic that occurs when a specific group of players comes together just cannot be predicted, even if they've been together in the past and in other contexts. That is the true story of Osibisa when they played live at the Royal Festival Hall in July 1977 when the band embarked on its UK tour to promote its previously released LP "Ojah Awake." However, and amazingly, "Ojay Awake" was not played during this live in concert, thus promoting the year before album. After a series of gigs and studio albums in the 70s, founders Teddy Osei, Mac Tontoh and Sol "Rhythm Man" Amarfio lined up in a classic performance that included the Antiguan-born guitar wizard Wendell Richardson, Grenadian Spartacus R. and Trinidadian Robert Bailey. Former BLO bassist, Mike Odumosu, would join the band later replacing Amao from the band's early years. The live session at the Royal Festival Hall would be Richardson's last in-session with Osibisa without Spartacus R., though, until 1999 when he reunited with the sensational World Music gurus in a series of live concerts in Ghana to commemorate the band's 30-year anniversary.
I'm not sure if I've seen any live album by any African performer when I purchased this 2-record set upon hitting the record shops in late 1977. I had to play the stuff over and over again just to figure out what exactly made this group unique in the 70s. Osibisa was something else in this live recordings with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio which took place at the Queen's Royal Festival Hall.
The live recordings starts with the band's usual trademark, Introduction of band and group/The Dawn written and composed by Osei, Amarfio and Tontoh, a track from the band's debut album. The group performed all its original compositions from its Bronze and Pye years in London. It was really a true Black Magic Night notably with flamboyant Tontoh on trumpet, flugel horn, Kabassa, bells, rattles and African Xylophone. The first disc of this live album clock around 9 and 5 minutes beginning with the lenghty opener "The Dawn." Osei leads off by introducing the group with background vocals chanting "Choo boi," and Tontoh's cowbells vibes followed by the bands "criss cross rhythm explodes with happinness" which stands for the symbol of the group. Osei also continues with his trademark flute before saxing it up on Tontoh's trumpet which echoes simultaneously with Richardson's Carlos Santana's flavored guitar. The song ends with the radical drum beats of the "Rhythm Man" Amarfio and Osei thanking the audience for showing up.
"Welcome Home," the second track of CD 1 is another notable Osibisa classic. The track was dedicated to Osibisa's homecoming after being gone for a long time playing gigs in London.
Every track of this live performance was a jam, though I love everyone of them, my favorite of all the tracks on both record sets is "Woyaya," meaning we are going and the vibe had been like an idea implanted in a child's brain making it plausible it can't be erased. Good vibe and Osibisa had a blast and I did recite this sometime ago:
Woyaya means we are going
Only God knows where we are going
We are going
Heaven Knows where we are going
We know we will
We will get there
Heaven Knows how we will get there
We know we will
It will be hard we know
And the road will be muddy and rough
But we will get there
We will get there
Heaven knows how we will get there
We know we will
The disc ends with the track "Spirits Up Above" which was originally released by EMI Music.
Disc 2, starting with "Kelele," a familiar tune in the 70s was from Osibisa's own label "Osibisounds" which was written and composed by Osei, Tontoh, Amarfio and Kofi Ayivor. Osei introduces his brother Tontoh on the African xylophone and the traditional rites of passage commences with Tontoh displaying his talents while the audience applauds and the jam session follows. The track is followed by another radical drum beat of the "Rhythm Man" Amarfio in "Fire" accompanied by Tontoh's trumpet backed vocally by Sonia Lekhela, Ntobi Ndudu,, Tiny Conco and Linda Conco. "Fire" was a national anthem back in the day and Osibisa was happening. "Music For Gong Gong" follows with that Tontoh trademark windy vibes accompanied by some juicy afro beat kind of vibe.
All in all, a brilliant stuff and I think the album is great with that debut live performance at the Royal Festival Hall.
Teddy Osei -- Tenor & Soprano Sax, African Drums, Lead Vocals
Mac Tontoh -- Trumpet, Flugel Horn, Cowbells, Rattles, African xylophone, Vocals
Sol Amarfio -- Drums, Cowbells, congas, vocals
Wendell Richardson -- Guitars, Dondo Drum, Lead Vocals
Mike Odumosu -- Bass Guitar, Bells, Vocals
Robert Bailey -- Keyboards
Daku Potato -- Congas, Percussion
Sonia Lehela -- Backing Vocals
Ntobi Mdudu -- Backing Vocals
Tiny Conco -- Backing Vocals
Linda Conco -- Backing Vocals
1. Introduction/The Dawn
2. Welcome Home
3. Ayiko Bia
4. Living Loving Feeling
6. Spirits Up Above
3. Music For Gong Gong
4. Beautiful Seven/Y Sharp
5. Sunshine Day