Ebo Taylor

Appia Kwa Bridge

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Unlike pop songs based on the Europe-derived rules of tonal music, Afro-beat doesn't typically move in a deliberate way from one place to another and then home again in a reasonably prescribed pattern of tension and release. Instead, it generally stays in a single place and dances there until it gets tired -- which can take anywhere from eight to 30 minutes. Nigerian legend Fela Kuti was the universally acknowledged Mozart of this approach: he would build a fearsome groove out of highly repetitive and mostly static harmonic materials, and then use it as an extended showcase for instrumental solos, wild dancing, and eye-poppingly bold political rants. Guitarist and songwriter Ebo Taylor, hailing from nearby Ghana, comes from the highlife tradition, which shares with Afro-beat a tendency toward funky, densely arranged, and harmonically static songs, but is also generally a bit lighter in terms of both groove and message. Recording here with the Berlin-based Afrobeat Academy band, Taylor gets deeper into his musical roots than he has on previous releases, creating a powerful set of songs that sound as if they could have been recorded in 1974: on tracks like "Abonsam," the highlife standard "Yaa Amponsah," and the effortlessly groovy title track, Taylor revives the old-school sounds with an energy and joy that belie his age. And on the album-closing "Barrima," he pays sweet tribute to his late wife with a stripped-down vocal-and-guitar composition that will break your heart. It all adds up to an album of unusual emotional depth and resonance.

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