October 18 - 24, 2007
TELFER REMINISCES ON BOOMBAYA AND ALL
By: E. A. ANDAM
SOMEWHERE at Ringway Estates in Accra, Bernard Telfer, the gifted guitarist, composer and arranger is working diligently, arranging and mixing the works of Sakpa Yawa, a Togolese song writer which he intends to release alongside his personal third album in January, next year.
Also, known as Ben Jerry, it was Bernard who together with his peers from Mfantsipim School and Adisadel College formed the group Cosmic Boombaya which in the 70s attracted a lot Ghanaian youths to dance halls whenever they performed in any of the popular venues in Accra.
The group comprised Ben Jerry on rhythm guitar and flute, George Mensah, bass, Kofi Adu, drums, all former students if Adisadel College, Alfred Bannerman lead guitarist and Kofi Edu, keyboards also from Mfantsipim who devoted themselves to a career in music and their initial successes were such that two British lecturers working in the country bore their expenses to campaign in England in 1974.
“In England the story was the same, we mostly played cover versions of songs by acts like Santana, Jimmy Hendrix, the Beatles and other trendy music of the time. We did not play our own music but wherever we played, at concerts or festivals, we were the toast of the audience. We played so well that if you were not in the hall you would think that it was the original group performing”.
Soon they had outgrown the pop circuit and had moved onto the university circuit where their popularity kept increasing and major American performers such as Ben E King, Donald Bird and many others were inviting them to support their concerts.
The two British lecturers who supported the beginning of their campaign in England became their managers and worked very hard to secure them contracts and invitation from the continent. They also performed in Germany, Holland and came back to Africa to honour invitations in Tunisia and Morocco.
“For the first four years we enjoyed whatever we did but we started staggering when the music of the groups whose music we copied faded in popularity. We began to compose our own songs but we were not musically educated enough to make our music solid to maintain the popularity we had gained playing other people’s music,” Ben recalled.
They realized this handicap early enough following which Ben Jerry enrolled at the School of Contemporary Pop Music and Jazz to learn composition and arranging in the summer of 1980. Before he could complete the course, things had gone so bad for the great Boombaya that it collapsed when their lead guitarist Alfred Bannerman left to join the phenomenal Osibisa.
“Just about that time I had started making a family and therefore had to seek employment with Ford Motors and I worked for three years before coming back home. When I completed the course, I decided that I would come back to set up my own studio and lend assistance to the development of music in the country,” Ben Jerry noted.
“In 1983 when I came back to Accra, I could not find my bearings until I joined Ebo Taylor’s band called Ataa to play some gigs at the Continental Hotel which had just been designated the Golden Tulip. The group played there for about two years but before we went off the scene. Ebo Taylor introduced me to Redcap who had just returned from Abidjan and was in the process of forming a new group to play jazz at the Bass Line night club,” he added.
The Bass Line gigs also lasted for two years but before the two groups came for him Ben had formed his own band known as Aklonto (the Ga word for Horns).
Ben recalls that “this group played my compositions only and helped to released my first solo album titled Running Wild. The group did not last because they insisted on going their own way.”
After the bass Line gigs came to an end, he decided to devote his entire time to composing and arranging his own works and those of others who needed help and this he has been doing for quite some time now.
Graphic showbiz October 18 - 24, 2007 Page: 6