Trans-National Musical Exchange

Musical fight!   Compare the opening sequence of these two songs, and note how the second one (from 1972) closely mirrors the first one released the year before:

Music for Gong Gong” [1971]

 – vs. –

Horns of Paradise” [1972]

Music for Gong Gong” was selected as the A-side of the second UK single from Osibisa, a pioneering British Afro-pop group composed of Ghanaian, Nigerian, and  Caribbean musicians.  “Gong Gong” would also be included on Osibisa’s debut album, notable for its cover design by Roger Dean (of Yes fame).  This self-titled album, you might be surprised to learn, was produced by Tony Visconti (David Bowie, Badfinger, T. Rex) and engineered by Martin Rushent (Buzzcocks, Human League & Stranglers).

US debut 45 B-side (left) and German picture sleeve (right)

London’s Dub Vendor makes this musical provenance clear in its sales blurb for an original copy of the 7″ vinyl pressed in Jamaica on the Wind label — a steal at £13 (others have paid ten times as much and more):

Vin Gordon [trombone] as Trammy re-arranges Osibisa’s ‘Music For Gong Gong’ as “Horns Of Paradise” + cool rocksteady instrumental [i.e., “Something Tender” (a.k.a., “Grass Root(s)”) by the Techniques All Stars] on the flip.”

Was producer Winston Riley right to take sole songwriting credit?

Jamaica’s master trombonist (who also goes by “Trommie” and “Trummie”) has recorded numerous 45 sides (and a few LPs) under his own name, while a fair number of tracks during the early years were also released under the alias, Don Drummond, Jr.   An alumnus of the famed Alpha Boys School, Gordon – who played horns on 1978 Bob Marley & the Wailers album, Kaya – began his lengthy and illustrious recording career as a session musician in 1965 at Studio One.  It’s been said that 1967’s “Real Rock” by Studio One backing band, The Sound Dimension (featuring Vin Gordon) is the most popular reggae riddim of all time.  Also worth mentioning that during UK’s second wave ska revival, Gordon joined forces with MichaelBamiRose in an ensemble called The Ska-Ville, who recorded a track entitled “The Clash & The Specials Go(ne) To Jail” for 1980 LP Ska Fantastic From Rock Steady to Ska.

Due to MCA’s mighty worldwide reach, Osibisa’s first long-player enjoyed distribution in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and Kenya, as well as the US and Canada.  When released as a single in Ghana in 1972, “Gong Gong” was designated (as in the US) the flip side — one of a handful or so of Osibisa singles issued on Ghana’s Capeside label in the 1970s.  Osibisa’s music would officially find release in Jamaica via 1976’s Ojah Awake album on the CavLip label, along with two single releases (1) “Dance the Body Music” b/w “Right Now” and (2) “Welcome Home” b/w “Do It Like It Is.”

The Guardian‘s Robin Denselow notes that in the 1970s, Osibisa “performed alongside the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, and were the first African-Caribbean band to pioneer a bestselling fusion style that mixed west African highlife influences with jazz, rock, calypso and unashamed pop.”  Tragically, though, “no other band achieved such extraordinary success, in terms of hit singles and albums in the UK and US, and yet no other band fell so dramatically from fashion.”

1982’s 12-inch single — Don Drummond Jr & the Ska Stars

Rim shot of respect to the percussionist in Dubble Trubble for hipping me to this matter.

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