Photos by Etienne de Villars
We proudly introduce the man behind one of the greatest African Funk albums ever, Marijata band leader Pat Thomas. He is touring again with the fantastic band and his shows are incredible. Check the story behind this exemplary 40 years career.
Can you tell us the origin of your new record on Strut?
The record came about when Ben and Kwame approached me to work on the project. Ben had produced Ebo Taylor’s records on Strut and I’ve known Kwame since he was a baby! So it was a great team.
How did you record it?
It was recorded at Kwame’s studio in Accra. They also used Lovelite Studio in Berlin, where they had done the Ebo Taylor records.
You have some guests, old pals : Tony Allen, Ebo Taylor, Osei Tutu… What do they represent for you?
It’s great that Kwame and Ben brought those guys in. It brought a deeper level to the recordings, for sure.
You played with them in the 1970’s, memories?
Oh, too many!
You are accompanied by young musicians: Kwashibi Area Band. What does that change in your music over your old records?
The Kwashibu Area guys are great. So much energy! They keep me on my toes for sure.
What was the role of Kwame Yeboah for recording? sound designer? artistic director? New ears?
Ben and Kwame worked together on this project from day 1. Kwame has a great band and is a natural leader. I know Ben from his work with Ebo Taylor. The 2 of them made this happen.
The new record sounds like the old 1970’s ones. It was a voluntary choice, assumed?
Well you’ll have to ask Ben and Jochen about that.
“I Need More” sounds as the perfect «one more» track. Do you believe that a title from 1970 is still an hymn that summarizes the spirit of your music in 2016 ?
Hahaha! Well that song was recorded in the 1970’s and believe it or not we never performed it live at the time! It works great now and I think it’s still fresh.
Can we expect some reissues of your old discs, hard to find?
Yes I believe Strut will be releasing my « best of Pat Thomas » album soon. Some of my older records will be reissued later this year.
In the 1960’s, you started in the Broadway Dance Band and The Stargazers. Do you think the scene was richer than today in Ghana?
Oh well, that was a completely different time. In those days there were so many bands. If you wanted to go out, you would go to a club and dance to a live band. Nowadays it’s much different.
Yourself, how did you get started? Your first influences: your parents? Is that true your father was a music teacher and your mother a band leader?
Yes my family is musical. I started out singing with my uncle King Onyina who was a very famous and important highlife guitarist!
What do they teach, spread to your mind? And you, what have you teach to your daughter, who sings with you?
Oh, you learn by being there, you know…
What musician and what music has influenced you in your youth, and in the beginning of your career?
In Ghana we play a lot of different kind of songs. There are highlifes and funeral songs, also we played «copyright» which are covers of the popular songs of the day. I used to love Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye of course.
Do you believe highlife is still the matrix of your music? And how have you made the connection with the Nigerian afrobeat?
Highlife is my whole thing man. I grew up with highlife and will die with highlife. That’s our music, Ghana music. I never really sang afrobeat.
In 1978 You were crowned Mr. Golden Voice of Africa and at the time you won the ECRAC award of the year. How do you explain that you have not been as successful in Europe as other Africans?
The late 70’s were a difficult time in Ghana and many musicians left the country. I spent a long time abroad too. We played a lot in Europe, but in the Ghanaian community, not at European events.
Thereafter, you have recorded more disco highlife LP. Why this choice ? How these records have been received?
I sang those songs because that was the sound of the day. The burger highlife was very very popular. We had a lot of hits.
In the 1990’s, you had a first comeback with “Sika Ye Mogya”…
You say comeback, that’s strange to me because I never went away. I’ve been singing in Ghana the whole time.
How could explain this «renaissance» on european scene?
The new album was well received and now we can work! I hope it keeps going for ever!
For a year, you are again at the top. You tour a lot in Europe… Is this the same show that you can play in Accra?
Yes this is our show with Kwame and Ben and the Kwashibu Area guys. We played a show in Accra just before we came to Europe.
What are your future artistic projects?
For now I’m concentrating on the tour: we have a lot of new songs and the second album will come next year.
Thanks for their supports Christine @New Morning & Corinne Serres @MadMinute