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E. T. Mensah

E. T. Mensah




Emmanuel Tettey Mensah, born on May 31, 1919, in Accra, Gold Coast (now Ghana), was a prominent musician and a pioneering figure in the highlife music genre. Known as the "King of Highlife," Mensah led the acclaimed band, The Tempos, which toured extensively across West Africa.

From an early age, Mensah demonstrated a passion for music. His initial education took place at the Government School in Accra, where he began learning to play the flute in the school band at age 12. This musical journey continued with him playing piccolo and flute in the Accra Orchestra, a children's band led by teacher Joe Lamptey. Mensah also picked up the alto-saxophone and honed his skills while performing with the orchestra.

His elder brother, Yebuah Mensah, also played a significant role in shaping his musical career. Yebuah was the leader of a dance orchestra in the Gold Coast, and the brothers together formed the Accra Rhythmic Orchestra. This band won the Lambeth Walk Dance Competition in 1939 at the King George Memorial Hall (now the Parliament House in Ghana).

In 1946, Mensah joined the original "Tempos" band, which had initially been a group of European soldiers stationed in Accra. By 1947, the band had transitioned to an all-African lineup, with Mensah becoming its leader. Under his leadership, the group achieved international acclaim. In 1957, Mensah's musical career reached new heights when he performed with Louis Armstrong.

Despite a decline in the popularity of highlife music in the 1960s, Mensah continued to stay active in the music scene for many years. He collaborated with notable musicians such as Nigerian trumpeter Dr. Victor Abimbola Olaiya, further solidifying his legacy in West African music.

Mensah's influence on highlife music and his contributions to the cultural landscape of Ghana and West Africa remain enduring. He passed away on July 19, 1996, leaving behind a rich musical heritage that continues to inspire generations of musicians.


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