Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Gyedu-Blay Ambolley

  • Simigwa [Mr Bongo, 2018] A-
  • 11th Street, Sekondi [Agogo, 2019] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Simigwa [Mr Bongo, 2018]
In Ronnie Graham's 1988 Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music, this 1973 debut heads a list name-checking several dozen "Various" Ghanaian artists. So having learned that Ambolley had long since emigrated to the States the way Eddie Quansah did to Australia, and having already found his 2019-released 11th Street, Sekonde simply irresistible, I was spurred by Graham's sole annotation, "(A huge hit)," to order it unheard. I have no regrets. Most of this highlife turned Brownian Afrofunk has what I assume are Twi lyrics, but not this Inspirational Patter: "I'm gonna crack you like a peanut, tune you up like the radio, read you like the daily newspaper, until everything becomes about the quogyes of the yebofum." A-

11th Street, Sekondi [Agogo, 2019]
Singer-saxophonist Ambolley is a 1947-born Ghanaian whose 2019 album, said to be his 31st, I streamed on a tip and dug on the spot. What I noticed right away was not simply one more infectious African rhythm variant but the extra pleasure of hearing someone singing or rapping or commenting or interjecting atop/amid that variant in a language I could actually understand--to be specific, English rather than French. What my wife noticed was the variant itself, which she swore she recalled from an old Sunny Adé record she'd inscribed in her memory book. What you'll notice, I believe, is both. Special kudos to a guitarist billed simply as Dominic and Ambolley's trademark "Hey-up-pah!" A-