You are here: HomeNews2010 10 12Article 195084

Entertainment of Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Source: B&FT

Osibisa Founder, Teddy Osei's Last Tribute To Mac Tontoh

Osibisa’s founder, Teddy Osei, last week Thursday gave what was nothing less than a resounding performance to see off his brother and colleague, Mac Tontoh, who was buried last Saturday, after succumbing to mild stroke more than two months ago.

It was a tribute concert for a fallen colleague and some of Ghana’s finest musicians turned up to say ‘adieu’ to arguably one of Ghana’s most energetic trumpeters and stage performers.

The list of musicians included Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Ben Brako, Kojo Antwi, the all-female singing group, Kete Warriors, Becca, and surviving members of Osibisa led by Teddy Osei. Though the audience was constantly reminded the night was to celebrate Mac Tontoh’s life, the emotional bit could not be celebrated from it. Especially for his brother Teddy Osei, the night was pretty much a mixed bag of excitement and sadness.

He was excited because he got the chance to show off to the audience, mostly in their 30s and rarely seen Osibisa perform a taste of what made the group successful for several decades. Those successful years were with Mac, and that was what Teddy was sad about. But on the night when he took the stage with his other colleagues, Mac was nowhere to be found. It was his trumpet which was displayed.

Though struggling a bit because of ill health, Teddy mounted the stage all the same and gave off what appeared to be the last stand for his brother. Sitting behind the drums and with his saxophone by his side, Teddy welcomed the audience, said a few things about the group and went into action. He went deep into the group’s basket of songs which included ‘Celebration,’ Why,’ ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘PataPata’ and equally great songs. Every song brought out fresh energy in Teddy.

He did not allow his health to prevent him from giving the audience, who had waited for them for hours, a remarkable performance. His energy was amazing and for someone at his age, it was amazing to see him gave a very good account of himself, and keeping the audience happy. Gyedu Blay Ambolley was invited by Teddy to perform ‘Welcome Home’. Ambolley’s performance was symbolic because he is one of many Ghanaian musicians who had returned home after many years abroad.

Though he did not change anything significant in the song, he gave it a rendition that showed his stature and creativity honed out of years of careful adherence to the rudiments of the act. It is obvious Kwabena Kwabena’s pedigree as one of Ghana’s finest young highlife talents cannot be taken away from him. The chap was invited by Teddy to join them at a point and he did not disappoint.

The Kete Warriors, a band put together by Mac, performed two lovely songs. Though the performance of the song ‘Friend’ was a bit drowned by the increasing levels of the sound, the young lads did not disappoint. They were later joined by Mac’s son Frank Tontoh, a renowned drummer who gave the audience a taste of what makes him thick. He got the same energy as his late father, though they performed on two different instruments.

Though most people associate Teddy with Osibisa which is true because he put it together, the first band he played in was ‘The Star Glazers’ with Sol Amarfio, a gifted drummer, who also became a member of Osibisa. He left to form ‘The Comets, with his brother Mac and their 1958 song “Pete Pete’ was an instant hit.

He moved to London in 1962 after receiving a government scholarship to study music. Two years after arriving in London, he formed the group ‘Cat’s Paw,’ which combined highlife, rock and soul. After successfully persuading the likes of Sol Amarfio and his brother Mac to join him in London, he formed Osibisa.

Obviously gifted with scouting great musical talents, he recruited the likes of Grenadian Spartacus R, Trinidadian Robert Bailey, Antiguan Wendell Richardson, and Nigerian Lasisi Amao. Others who were to join the band in later years included Darko Adams Potato, and Kiki Djan.

The band spent years touring the world, playing for audiences in Austrialia, India, Africa and Japan. They even performed for the British Queen Elizabeth at a point.

Old age and death of some of the members weakened the band a bit but in 1996, Teddy reformed the band, and most of their hits were put on CD. The group was still performing occasionally until last year when Teddy cut back on his engagements with the group because of his health.