Osibisa makes it a Sunshine Day at Bläserfestival

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The Bläserfestival is a free outdoor weekender held in Weil Am Rhein the most Southwesterly town in Germany. Situated on the borders of three countries, arriving here by air, you fly into Basel, Switzerland exit through the French exit, cross over the River Rhein and just minutes later you’re in Germany where the majority of people living here are understandably bilingual.

A relaxing and chilled out place full of open-air cafes where, for this weekend, the town centre roads were closed off to traffic so that music-loving folk of all ages could enjoy the two stages that would come alive to the sound of music.

Primarily a jazz festival, the main attraction was Afro-Rock outfit Osibisa, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary.

Formed in London in 1969 by a group of expatriates from West Africa and the Caribbean, Osibisa enjoyed success with chart hitting albums and singles. While also breaking down racial barriers and pioneering the path for what would become world music.

Osibisa is currently going through a transitional period by bringing in new members giving the band a more earthy flavour that takes them back to their original roots.

Sadly founder member Teddy Osei was forced to retire from the live stage following a stroke in 2010. However, he can often be seen stageside at their London shows giving his full blessing. He also remains very much the ringleader of all decisions regarding the band.

Original guitarist Wendell ‘Dell’ Richardson is once again on vocal duties; just like he was on their biggest hit single 1975’s ‘Sunshine Day’. The bearded and ever-faithful original member Robert Bailey is still playing the keyboards providing his inimitable organic sound.

Currently a six-piece, Osibisa take the stage with an improvised jam that builds into opening song The Dawn.”Like a morning mist that slowly arises above the African jungle”, states Richardson. This absorbing number affirms what Osibisa is all about. Taken from their classic Tony Visconti produced debut album and featuring cover artwork by the esteemed Roger Dean – his first-ever album artwork commission – of an elephant with wings, the track immediately captures the imagination. This music is the epitome of Osibisa’s vision of ‘criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness’.

This novice audience is completely in their grasp as the uplifting music continues with their soundtrack Superfly Man and the snazzy funk of Living Loving Feeling.

The new members are all full of character and play their part in contributing to the legacy of Osibisa.

Cool cat, sharply dressed bassist Dino Walcott invites the audience to play their part by engaging a young girl to shake the maracas along to the rhythm of the Akan chant of Ayiko Bia.

Drummer Michael Crevier has an exuberant personality performing in a jazzy style and is quick-witted delivering one-liners to further entertain the excited audience.

Percussionist Issac Taghoe is fully dressed in traditional African attire while in-demand trumpeter Colin Graham is an infectious and imposing player giving Osibisa a broad and pumping sound.

Yet it’s the more upbeat numbers which get the crowd grooving. Welcome Home is an enchanting beauty that features intricate organ work from Robert Bailey and the voice of wisdom from ‘Dell’ Richardson who adds bluesy guitar throughout. It’s no surprise that Free once acquired ‘Dell’s’ services for their 1973 Heartbreaker tour replacing the erratic Paul Kossoff.

A trio of their hit singles sent this party into overdrive with Sunshine Day getting everyone jiving and swinging. While set-closer Dance The Body Music left Weil Am Rhein begging for more; they could’ve danced all night.

With a career spanning boxed set and new music on the horizon, Osibisa still has plenty of love and unity for their timeless music.

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