Various artists Essiebons Special 1973-1984 // Ghana Music Power House Analog Africa
After opening west Africa’s inaugural record pressing plant back in 1967, Ghanaian producer Dick Essilfie-Bondzie set about reconfiguring the musical landscape. His Dix and Essiebons labels were home to the pinnacle of highlife throughout the 70s, with Essiebons in particular experiencing a hot streak at a period when the country’s music industry was rocked by political and economic turmoil. That in itself is testament to Essilfie-Bondzie’s enduring passion for the music he championed.
Last year, even as the pandemic halted the pioneer’s 90th birthday celebrations, Essilfie-Bondzie was approached by Berlin-based label Analog Africa with the hopes of releasing a commemorative album celebrating his contributions to African music. The result is Essiebons Special 1973-1984, a restless, effervescent odyssey spanning 14 tracks and featuring unreleased material from the label’s mid-70s golden era. Ernest Honny’s Kofi Psych, a groovy, synth-laden track with a psychedelic shimmer sprinkled on top, is a strong indicator of the fizzing energy that makes the record sing. Elsewhere, CK Mann & His Carousel 7 bring the funk on Yeaba, while Seaboy’s Africa evokes the spirit of Fela Kuti with its galvanising sax. Black Masters’ Band’s Wonnim A Bisa – a highlight – is a swirling near-six-minute epic that would’ve been a floor-filler today considering Afrobeats’ rising standing in the zeitgeist.
Sadly, Essilfie-Bondzie passed away last summer, well before the compilation neared completion. However his legacy lives on in the transcendent and influential music he ushered into the world.The brilliant, enduring Essiebons Special 1973-1984 captures those sentiments and brings it all to vivid life.