The Performing Arts in Africa: Ghanaian Perspectives
Highlife, a popular West African genre, is easily the soundtrack to the life journey of the nation Ghana. And if there is one personality who has contributed the most to documenting it, it is Professor John Collins, a naturalized Ghanaian of British descent and a professor of music at the University of Ghana, Legon. Collins originally accompanied his parents to Ghana in 1952, when his father was setting up the philosophy department at the University of Ghana. Returning to Britain with his mother, Collins was educated in Bristol, Manchester and London, earning a science degree. He was also playing music and then he returned to Ghana in 1969 to study archaeology and sociology at the University of Ghana.
Eventually he himself became an academic teaching and researching popular music. This book captures the life and music career of Collins. What makes him an enigma is his personal involvement on the road as a guitar playing member of concert party bands. His working relations with Fela, E.T. Mensah, Kofi Ghanaba, Victor Uwaifo, Prof. J. H. Kwabena Nketia and many legendary names in the music space of West Africa make him a legend in his own right. This is the story of a “white man” man who came to Africa to legitimize the place of highlife as consequential to world music
Highlife is Ghana’s most important modern home grown dance-music that has its roots in traditional music infused with outside influences coming from Europe and the Americas. Although the word ‘highlife’ was not coined until the 1920s, its origins can be traced back to the regimental brass bands, elite-dance orchestras and maritime guitar and accordion groups of the late 19th and very early 20th centuries. Highlife is, therefore, one of Africa’s earliest popular music genres.
The book traces the origins of highlife music to the present – and include information on palmwine music, adaha brass bands, concert party guitar bands and dance bands, right up to off-shoots such as Afro-rock, Afrobeat, burger highlife, gospel highlife, hiphop highlife (i.e. hiplife) and contemporary highlife.
The book also includes chapters on the traditional background or roots of highlife, the entrance of women into the Ghanaian highlife profession and the biographies of numerous Ghanaian (and some Nigerian) highlife musicians, composers and producers. It also touches on the way highlife played a role in Ghana’s independence struggle and the country’s quest for a national – and indeed Pan-African – identity.
The book also provides information on music styles that are related to highlife, or can be treated as cousins of highlife, such as the maringa of Sierra Leone, the early guitar styles of Liberia, the juju music of Nigeria the makossa of the Cameroon/ It also touches on the popular music of Ghana’s Francophone neighbours.
There is also a section on the Black Diasporic input into highlife, through to the impact of African American and Caribbean popular music styles like calypsos, jazz, soul, reggae, disco, hiphop and rap and dancehall. that have been integrated into the highlife fold. Thus, highlife has not only influenced other African countries but is also an important cultural bridge uniting the peoples of Africa and its Diaspora.₵250.00