Termed as "the father of modern highlife," E.T Mensah is noted for playing a vital role in revamping highlife music in Ghana. He is also believed to have popularised the genre in the 1950s and 1960s.
In an interview with E.T Mensah in the early '90s, he said :"we urgently wanted an indigenous rhythm to replace the fading foreign music of waltz, rhumba, etc. We evolved a music type relying on basic African rhythms, a crisscross African cultural sound."
E.T Mensah (1919-1996) was a native of Ussher Town in Accra. He schooled in Jamestown where he learned to read music and play the concert flute and piccolo. Switching to trumpet and saxophone in his teens, he quickly attracted attention with his expressive playing.
At the age of 18, E.T Mensah formed his first band known as the Accra Rhythm Orchestra. The band comprised of five saxophones, guitars, and African drums. He later joined the Jack Leopard's band in 1940, before accepting to be a member of the Tempos.
The Tempos band was one of the first to adapt highlife rhythms to a small-ensemble approach. This approach was in contrast with the early 1940s highlife bands which were modelled after jazz bands. Mensah's singing in a variety of indigenous Ghanaian languages became an essential element of the Tempos band's sound.
E.T Mensah’s hit songs 'All For You' and 'Ghana Freedom' are still popular in the present day.
Apart form the widespread publicity Mensah gained in Ghana, he also attracted global recognition. He performed with Louis Armstrong as part of the celebration of Ghana's independence in 1957. In 1959, he composed a song to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's visit to Ghana.
The original Tempo disbanded in 1942. However, Mensah reorganized the group six years later. Mensah and the group toured the UK in 1953. Among their many hit singles were "Donkey Calypso," "School Girl," and "Sunday Mirror."
Despite being confined to a wheelchair, E.T Mensah embarked on a world tour in 1986. In the same year, a biography of him was prepared by John Collins, titled E.T. Mensah: King of Highlife, which was published in both London and Ghana in honour of his contribution to highlife music.
Information from https://www.allmusic.com/artist/et-mensah-mn0000163663/biography, https://yen.com.gh/123888-22-iconic-musicians-ghanas-62-years-existence.html was used in this story.