Pat Thomas is a Ghanian vocalist and songwriter famed for his work in the highlife bands of Ebo Taylor and his own recordings of Afrobeat and Afro-pop.
Born in 1951 in Agona, in the Ashanti Region, Thomas was born with music almost literally in his DNA: his father was a music theory instructor and his mother a bandleader. His uncle was none other than legendary Ghanaian guitarist King Onyina, who was not only renowned for his own recordings, but for his pioneering work with Nat King Cole.
Thomas went to live with his uncle for a time and learned musical notation. He also began to study guitar and play drums. He became a notable composer, and as a teenager, established a reputation on the local club scene as a singer.
In early 1971, he moved to Accra to join Taylor’s legendary highlife band the Blue Monks; their residency at the Tip Toe Nite Club is an important part of modern Ghanaian cultural history. They alsoi played in two other legendary bands from the period the Broadway Dance Band and Stargazers.
Thomas left Taylor’s band (though their friendship and their musical association continued) and moved to the Ivory Coast in 1973, where he formed the Satellites. The band was short-lived but they cut a few singles.
In 1974, he formed the Sweet Beans (that also featured Taylor in some incarnations) and cut his first long-player, The False Lover, for Gapophone. It was followed by Stage Two in 1974. In 1976, his first single, “Asawa Do,” made him a radio favorite. It was followed by the live Wednesday at Tip Toe. Later in the year he released Pat Thomas Introduces Marijata, another funky Ghanian group that backed him and had their own unique identity. He recorded one more album with the trio in 1977, Pat Thomas & Marijata, as his final date for Gapophone.
In 1978 he was voted Mr. Golden Voice of Africa. He recorded three Afrobeat-cum-Afro-pop records entitled In Action, Vols. 1, 2 & 3 (issued between 1978 and 1979). For the album 1980, he shifted his musical vision to include Afro-Latin sounds and reggae melded to funky African disco.
In 1982, he moved to London and recorded Hitsville Revisited with Taylor and the guitarist’s band, Uhuru Yenzu. They followed with two co-billed albums, Sweeter Than Honey Calypso ‘Mahuno’ and High Life Celebration, and a self-titled duet set in 1984.
Thomas’ first hit outside Africa was Asanteman in 1985, the first of two albums cut for JAP. He followed it with Highlife Greats Mbrepa a year later.
Thomas was restless. He moved and played all over Europe for the next five years, recording for a series of labels including Kopatko and Nakasi. He moved to Canada in 1990, where he began teaching at university in addition to playing and recording. Sika Ye Mogya was issued by Fire Records in 1991 and won the Album of the Year award in Ghana. Thomas focused on his teaching for the next decade, though he did play summer festivals in Europe. His only other recording during the ’90s was Nkae on Sikafutro Productions in 1996.
Professional Uhuru Dance Band featuring Pat Thomas: Freedom Tour in U.K. was issued on T-Vibe Records in 2000, and the singer returned to Ghana, where he resumed his teaching and played across the African continent, making occasional forays to Europe.
In June of 2015, the U.K. label Strut released his first recording in over a decade. Entitled Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band, it was recorded in Accra. It placed the singer in the company of a band assembled by multi-instrumentalist Kwame Yeboah and saxophonist Ben Abarbanel-Wolff. Other musicians included drummer Tony Allen, Noble Kings’ bassist Ralph Karikari, and a host of younger players including Thomas’ daughter Nanaaya, a celebrated vocalist in her own right.