Compelled as I am to write about the up and coming and new, I’m conscious that sometimes those who’ve been around the block a few times might get less of a look-in. And this is a shame when there are bands such as Osibisa who’ve been in existence, on and off, for more than fifty years. Yes, their membership has morphed and their success has gone through peaks and troughs but, with a new album, New Dawn, out and creating waves in the last week, it feels like an opportune time to publish a piece about the iconic Ghanaian Afro/rock band.
You might think you don’t know of Osibisa but I’d hazard a guess that you’ll be aware of their hits. Sunshine Day, a top twenty hit in the UK from the 1970’s, still glistens with sparkling warmth. I defy anybody not to break out in a broad smile whilst wiggling their toes if they hear a blast of this summer soundtrack coming through their stereo. It’s music that gives you a cuddle and we all need that right now, right?
The new material is crafted from the same block. The founding father of Osibisa, Teddy Osei, now steers the ship as a hands-on director but his health doesn’t allow him to perform live with the band. Younger guns, still with many years of Osibisa experience under their belts, have pulled the new album together. Written predominantly by Robert Bailey (an original member of Osibisa) and Gregg Kofi Brown (who has 4 decades of involvement), this isn’t a set of upstarts upsetting the apple cart. The vintage shines through on ‘New Dawn’ and the criss-cross rhythms still explode with happiness.
The lead single from ‘New Dawn’, ‘Douala’, is a celebration of life, a jab of joy in these tough times. It’s a tribute to Manu Dibango, the legendary musician from Cameroon, who passed away after a battle with Covid last year. (I feel another blog post coming on). But it’s also inspired by ex Osibisa bassist, Jean Dikoto Mandengue. Douala was Jean’s home town. “His vibrant humour and personality resonated strongly“, say the band.
I’m told that live shows and big news is on the way. “Lawyers have given me a gagging order for now“, say the PR company when I enquire. I’ll go out of my way to see Osibisa in a festival field this summer. My dancing will be off-the-scale and my smile broad and beaming. You don’t realise how much something is missed until it’s gone (temporarily).