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Osibisa Gives World Music Broader Appeal

  • Suzanne Chislett

'World music' is a phrase used to describe songs and music that originate outside Western Europe and English-speaking countries. In the past three decades it's become a genre in its own right -- taking in the Latin beats of South America, the traditional music of India and the rhythms of Africa. But when did 'World Music' become truly global?

One of the groups that holds claim to popularizing World Music in western nations is Osibisa. Teddy Osei started the group after moving from Ghana to Britain 35 years ago. Unlike many popular groups from the sixties and seventies, who are content to play their original hits, the musicians of Osibisa are still busy recording and creating new music.

Four decades after beginning his musical journey, Teddy Osei still loves being in the studio. Back in the ‘70s Osibisa -- Ghananian for 'criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness' -- scored a major hit with 'Sunshine Day' -- a new sound to British ears.

"The elements that we put in the music, which is African, a little bit of jazz, a little bit of soul, calypso all mixed together and made it more interesting for people," he said.

The band's original line-up consisted of three Ghanaians and three Caribbean musicians. Teddy believes that, given the activism of the time, audiences were surprised that the group focused on having fun and enjoying music.

"An all-black group could be coming up with political songs, but we didn't. We came up with happiness, togetherness, and more rhythm, for people to enjoy dance and be happy."

The music of Osibisa was a welcome respite during the tumultuous political times of the late sixties and seventies. Throughout the years, the band has continued to influence generations of world musicians who have followed in their footsteps.

"We brought in percussion into the music. We brought in music that makes people dance and also not only dance but listen. We brought in music that makes people think about relationships and how people can forget whether they are black or white."

Osibisa has spent much of the last four decades making music and touring.

The band continues to wow audiences with its energy and style of music.

"We want to show that the music is really going somewhere different, but to us, the foundation is what has been already."

'What has been already' -- the music of Osibisa -- forms a legacy of joyful music that will likely inspire listeners for years to come.

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