Back In Ghana, Pat Thomas Gives New Life To Highlife Pat Thomas and Kwashibu Area Band's eight songs unfold in beautifully paced arrangements that are unhurried, but also packed with ideas. Legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen guests.
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Back In Ghana, Pat Thomas Gives New Life To Highlife

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Back In Ghana, Pat Thomas Gives New Life To Highlife

Review

Music Reviews

Back In Ghana, Pat Thomas Gives New Life To Highlife

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, the sound of highlife. That's a style of music that once defined dance floors in West Africa. Pat Thomas, a singer and bandleader from Ghana, is behind it. He has a new album out, and reviewer Banning Eyre says it breathes fresh life into an all but forgotten genre. It's called "Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAT THOMAS SONG, "MEWO AKOMA")

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: Pat Thomas is nearly 70. He's lived in England, Germany, Canada and the U.S. But these days, he's back home in Ghana once again making the music that enshrined him in the hearts of his countrymen, highlife.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEWO AKOMA")

PAT THOMAS: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: In the '60s, highlife out of Ghana and Nigeria ruled the dance floors of West Africa. The music's blend of African rhythm, jazzy brass lines, tangling electric guitars and call-and-response vocals projected African modernity. Independence fever was sweeping the continent, and highlife was the soundtrack to celebration. For Pat Thomas, that celebration has never stopped.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREBREBRE")

THOMAS: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: Thomas recorded this album in Accra with a young Ghanaian producer, so it's a multigenerational effort. The session reunites Taylor with another highlife veteran, Ebo Taylor. These two first worked together in 1968, and they've remained close all these years. Check out Taylor's signature brass arranging on this track, "Oye Asem," a song that encourages people to speak openly about their problems.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAT THOMAS SONG, "OYE ASEM")

EYRE: These eight songs unfold in beautifully paced arrangements - unhurried, but packed with ideas. Some songs nod to music styles that highlife has influenced, like Afrobeat out of Nigeria. Drummer Tony Allen started out in highlife and went on to become an architect of Afrobeat with his unmistakable brilliance on trap drums. Allen's presence on two tracks here is a special treat.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMA EHU")

THOMAS: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: Now, no one would argue that highlife is poised to make a serious comeback in the era of hip-hop and electronica, but iconic dance sounds, whether big-band swing, soul or ska, never really die. Highlife belongs on that list, and we're lucky Pat Thomas is still around to remind us what all the fuss was about.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAT THOMAS SONG, "GYAE SU")

CORNISH: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. He reviewed the new album, "Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band."

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