Pat Thomas is a Ghanaian 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 Agona, in the Ashanti Region, Thomas had 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 as a singer on the local club scene.
In the 1970s, he moved to Accra to join Ebo Taylor’s legendary highlife band The Blue Monks; their residency at the Tip Toe Night Club is an important part of modern Ghanaian cultural history. In later years ,he moved to the Ivory Coast and produced various records in Afrobeat, 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. Thomas’ first hit outside Africa was Asanteman in 1985. He followed it with Highlife Greats Mbrepa a year later.
He played all over Europe during the following five years, recording for a series of labels. He moved to Canada in 1990, where he began teaching at university, in addition to playing and recording. Sika Ye Mogya was released 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.
In June of 2015, the UK 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.