Born in 1947 in Sekondi in Western Ghana, singer, songwriter, producer, interpreter, multi-instrumentalist, inventor of rap music and “afrofunk-legend” Nana Gyedu-Blay Ambolley made his name the Simigwa Do Man, when he unleashed his unique brand of Simigwa music on an eager yet unsuspecting world in the 70’s with the release of this, his Simigwa Do, fusing high-life and funk music…
This versatile, irrepressible “musical-life-force” exploded on the music scene more than forty years ago with the factual first rap song in the world called ‘SIMIGWA-DO’. Since that hit, he has lead many bands including his own in 1979-80. Ambolley celebrated his “Silver Jubilee” in music in 1998.
Ambolley’s early years of musical interest date back to the tender age of eight, when he began playing with his father’s flute until he had taught himself how to play it. His formal musical training came at the age of fourteen under the apprenticeship of “Uncle Bonku” who then introduced him to the guitar. The young music enthusiast continued to learn the rudiments of music from the late’ Sammy Lartey and Ebo Taylor.
Ambolley spend a great part of his day listening to records of musicians living in the United States. He contributes his free style of singing to such mentors as James Brown, Ray Charles, and ‘the late’ Sam Cook.
During the sixties, the young aspiring musician was excitingly impressed with the music he heard on the popular radio show, “Voice of America Jazz Hour.” The show featured such jazz giants as Jimmy Smith, Max Roach, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Eckstine and many others.. they all became part of Ambolley’s early musical experience.
The band leaders’ talent was not limited to Ghana. Gyedu-Blay Ambolley was soon invited to London where he performed to “standing room only” crowds. Having experienced success in his own country, as well as London, it was time for the ambitious musician to test his musical abilities elsewhere. In 1988, Ambolley arrived in New York City (U.S.A.).
Ambolley’s performance career is extensive and impressive. He has toured throughout West Afrika, Europe, Canada, and the United States.
He has performed on stage with some of the worlds most celebrated african and international artists, such as Miriam Makeba of South Afrika, the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti of Nigeria, the late George Howard, Angela Bofill, Norman Connors, Manu DeBango, Lakeside, Chikuzan Takahashi of Japan, Ricardo Estrada of Cuba, Mayuto Correa of Brazil and toured Ghana with Oscar Brashear and Michael Session.
Because of his originality, his performances have left audiences raving and shouting for more, as was the case at the world famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.
Ambolley has played the House of Blues in Hollywood, was a frequent performer at the Jazz Bakery in California and has played to “standing room only” crowds in London, England.
Returning to Ghana in 1997, Ambolley was honored with a standing ovation from the former President of Ghana, John Jerry Rawlings and the first lady at Ghana’s Music Awards Nite.
In October of 2003 Ambolley was prestigiously recognized for his commitment to his musical craft with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” by Jazz at Drew from Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Los Angeles, CA. Additionally he received a Congressional,Gubernatorial Certificate of Special Recognition by Cogresswoman Juanita Millinder McDonald. Also L.A.Weekly nominated Ambolley for “Best World Beat Recombinant Artists”-2003.
Still very active on stage, in his studio and elsewhere ;), Gyedu-Blay Ambolley has received uncounted musical awards and has twenty nine albums to his credit with album no. 30 well on its way…
It has been said that “Ambolley’s music is entertaining, elevating and spiritually inescapable, such that its uniqueness transcends all musical categories”..
Click here to check out his latest album “African Soul”