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Ghana's Highlife Music Collection

E.T. Mensah


E.T. Mensah, The King of Highlife Is Back Again (1976)
E.T. Mensah (1919-1996)

Emmanuel Tetteh Mensah was born on 31st May 1919 in Accra. E.T. went to school in Jamestown where he learned to read music and play the concert flute and piccolo with a teacher called Joe Lamptey who formed the Accra Orchestra out of his school fife band. E.T. joined the Accra Orchestra in 1932. Between 1936 and 1946, he played the alto saxophone with the Accra High School Orchestra, the Accra Rhythm Orchestra, and the Kumasi Philharmonic Orchestra.

Back in Accra in 1947 he joined the Tempos under Joe Kelly. When the band split up in 1950, he recruited musicians to form the band E.T. Mensah and the Tempos. In 1952, the Tempos made their first recording with Decca. In 1954, E.T. formed a second band called the Star Rockets. In 1957, Ghana achieved independence and E.T. composed a highlife song entitled "Ghana Freedom Highlife". In 1969, the Tempos went on a tour in the U.K. While in London the band recorded an LP called “The King of Highlife – African Rhythms” in Decca studios. By the mid-1970’s, the Tempos was still playing regularly.

The band had a Cuban rhythm section with the front line comprising two trumpets and three vocalists. The Tempos used electric lead and rhythm guitars and electric bass. The repertoire of the band became larger and included Congo music, reggae, souls, Afrobeat and pop music of the younger generation. E.T. Mensah recorded eleven LPs. He died in July 1996 at the age of 77.

Source: J. Collins, 1996.