In the sixties in Ghana, some bands began to imitate western music. The Avengers, for example, played an African version of the British-beat style of bands like the Beatles and their contemporaries. By the late sixties, psychedelic elements started to infiltrate the sound of certain groups. Bands like Tall Amma and his Skippers were releasing 45's that sounded like a cross between Captain Beefheart and the Rolling Stones. Before long, the sound of American soul started to enter Ghana and took hold of the imagination of young music lovers everywhere. Geraldo Pino of Sierra Leone came to Ghana in 1966 with his band The Heartbeats, and stayed for some time, bringing with him the music of James Brown. He was a big hit, and I've spoken to many guys who will never forget his energy on stage. Although James Brown visited Africa in 1966, he did not make it to Ghana, so the only experience of his music many had was seeing guys like Pino get up on stage, screaming and doing covers of Sex Machine.

But although soul music was huge in the clubs and 'spots' of cities like Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi, it still took some convincing to persuade the predominantly conservative record producers of the time to release the music on vinyl. Highlife was the mainstay of the fledgling recording industry at the time and this was a hard market to move other music into. The big bands were beginning to decline by the early seventies but taking their place were guitar artists like Dr K. Gyasi and C.K. Mann, the two biggest sellers in Ghana in the seventies. Some producers took chances with new styles, but generally it was hard. A large proportion of the record buying public were wealthy farmers and chiefs that would come into the towns from the country in search of the latest releases, and spend heavily to take the Highlife sound back to the villages, and generally they did not buy the new, more experimental sounds.

In the late sixties the majority of the records in Ghana were either manufactured in Europe, or made at the Ambassador records factory in Kumasi. Mr. A. K. Badu had set up the Ambassador factory in 1954, together with his in-house producer (a young guy called A. K. Brobbey) producing 78rpm shellac discs. This was the first independent record manufacturing plant in West Africa. By the mid-sixties they had switched to 45-rpm singles and were recording and producing their own records, as well as manufacturing for other producers.
It was not until 1969 that the first record plant was set up on the coast in Accra. Record Manufacturers Ghana Ltd. was a joined venture between Polygram and Dick Essilfie-Bondzie of Essiebons records. This venture marked the beginning of the life of the 33 1/3 rpm LP record in Ghana. It also marked a new chapter in terms of the kind of music that was being sold at the time.


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