John Kpiaye

Biography by

b. John Ogetti Kpiaye, 1948, London, England. Kpiaye was born to an English mother and Nigerian father, spending his formative years in the English countryside. He left school in London at the age of…
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Artist Biography by

b. John Ogetti Kpiaye, 1948, London, England. Kpiaye was born to an English mother and Nigerian father, spending his formative years in the English countryside. He left school in London at the age of 15 and, emulating luminaries such as Bob Marley and Desmond Dekker, he embarked on an apprenticeship in welding. In 1966, his mother bought him his first guitar, and he joined a band called the Hustling Kind, who later changed their name to the Cats. In 1968, Kpiaye encouraged the band to record a reggae rendition of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’, working out the piano melody line on his sister’s piano at home, and the Cats secured their first British reggae UK Top 50 chart hit. The success of the single resulted in a European tour, but by 1971 the group disbanded. Kpiaye soon found work playing for the In Brackets, who provided backing for a number of top performers including Dandy Livingstone, Ginger Williams, Owen Gray, Winston Groovy and Joy White. In 1973 the band was dissolved and Kpiaye became immersed in production work, initially for Dennis Harris, and provided direction for notable lovers rock performers Brown Sugar and 15-16-17. In the latter half of the 70s he became an in-demand guitarist, playing for Ijahman Levi, Aswad, Dennis Brown, Janet Kay and Linton Kwesi Johnson, Eddy Grant and Georgie Fame. In 1982, Kpiaye became the resident guitarist in Dennis Bovell’s Dub Band, touring the globe and providing backing to Linton Kwesi Johnson’s acclaimed appearances. In 1997, Kpiaye released Red, Gold And Blues, a reggae instrumental album drawing from his many influences.