Music is dynamic and changes with the years and seasons. There are genres of music, and for reasons of dynamism, it would not be surprising to get up one morning to hear various other sorts that supplement existing genres.
Widely known genres include: Afro Pop, Country, Soul, Funk, Jazz, Calypso, Rhythmz and Blues (R&B), Reggae, Reggae Dancehall. It is obvious that, a great many people keep on listening to music, not only because of the genre, but additionally in light of its masterpiece.
And if you need a greater amount of these exceptional innovative works, Ghana’s Hi-Life music is one of them.
One of the groups that also sold this genre all throughout the world is Osibisa, a Ghanaian music band that carried Hi-Life beyond Africa to the world’s lounge with exciting performance.
Agya Koo Nimo, Nana Kwame Ampadu, CK Mann, Thomas Frimpong, Alex Konadu, Pat Thomas, Gyedu Blay Ambolley, George Darko, Afro Moses and numerous others are a portion of the Hi-Life hotshots who have made this genre well known.
Hi-Life originated in Ghana in the early 20th century and has been a British colony throughout its history. This is a remarkable music genre that has actually been there, and still exist up until today. In Ghana and on the African continent, Hi-Life is perceived as extraordinary compared to other music genre.
At first, HighLife was perceived to be for some sort of people who are wealthy, as a result of the deep melodious content. Today the youth join in admiration. In fact, there are other forms of pop music that was very common before Hi-Life. It’s called Palm Wine Music.
There is another form of music played by guitar and concertina. This was very common in rural Ghana. It’s actually a combination not only from the guitar and concertina, but also from the drum (boxdrum and music video) plus fine vocals.
It is usually made in places where palm wine or akpeteshis (local brandys) are sold. Through this local performance, Palm Wine Music gradually developed into a larger guitar group and even appeared in popular theater shows.
Many people are addicted to Hi-Life because of the use of melodic and rhythmic structures of traditional music of Asante music. It is played with western instruments.
This music lives on from the story and love of authentic Africa. The resulting rhythm is phenomenal, which is why it was quickly adopted by the majority of African families in the 1950s.
Hi-Life music features jazz horns and several guitars that lead the band. Lately it has received synchronous sound. When you listen to these songs, there is no doubt that you will immediately fall in love with them because of the beautiful vocal abilities behind them.
In the 1920s, Ghanaian musicians recorded foreign influences, including slow and fast rhythms and Calypso with Ghana rhythms. Associated with local African aristocracy during the colonial era, Hi-Life has been played by many bands, including jazz kings, Cape Coast Sugar Babies and the Accra Orchestra along the coast.
It’s amazing that high class members who enjoyed music in certain clubs at that time gave this music the name. Dance orchestra director Yebua Mensa (Mensa’s older brother), told music expert John Collins in 1973 that the term Hi-Life was a catch-phrase for local songs played at the clubs of early dance bands such as Jazz Kings, Sugar Babies of Cape Coast, Secondi Nanshamang and then the Accra orchestra.
Interestingly, during club days in Ghana, some people outside the club called it Hi-Life because they were not synonymous with the high-profile personalities who joined the club. These people couldn’t afford the relatively high entrance fee of around seven shillings and six pence. And all they could say was, “These guys are really having a High Class -Lifestyle,” thus the name Hi-Life.
Since the 1930s, Highlife has spread through Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Gambia and other West African countries where Hi-Life has become increasingly popular. A year later (1940), Hi-Life music split into two separate streams: the highlife dance group and the highlife guitar group.
Guitar Band Hilife featured small group of bands and were most commonly found in rural areas. During the tour through the landscape, these Hi-Life musicians combined instruments such as “Seprewa” and guitars with their bands to add high-end sound.
Other traditional African instruments, such as Harpe-Harp-Lute and Gankogul Bell, were combined with European harmony and guitar when people express themselves through this song. One band that performed almost everywhere during that time was the Guitar Band Hi-Life.
The group, who could sing with drums and claves, was led by the great singer E.K Nyame and his trio of Akan. And these people released more than 400 recordings, making it one of the most popular siding bands out there. In contrast, another band, the Dance Band Hi-Life, was anchored in an urban environment with an appalling Hi-Life performance.
Shortly after the war, foreign troops began to move from Ghana to their country, so the mainstream audience and the music changed according to their taste.
Legendary American musician Louis Armstrong was invited to Ghana and played in May 1956 with Ghana’s own E.T. Mensah in Accra. This collaboration catapulted his name to the world and earned him the nickname “The King of Highlife”.
There were a number of other Hi-Life bands that entertained audiences in the 1950s with good tunes. These include King Bruce, leader of the Black Beats, Red Spots, Rhythm Aces, Rambler International Band and the Broadway group Uhuru.
Between the 1970s and 1980s, a new generation of hi-life superstars also wore early legendary robes and performed very well. Some of these artists still perform and produce very good singles and albums. The following artists have also helped in projecting HighLife with great productions; and they include:
Nana Aboagye Da Costa
Nana Nsia Piesie
Marriott’s International Band
Amandzeba Nat Brew
A. B. Crentsil
Senior Eddie Donkor
Alhaji K. Frimpong
Messy Mike Gyamfi
E. T. Mensah
Kaakyire Kwame Appiah
And so forth
From the above age, comes more young Hi-Life artists of today, who are also doing extremely well.
Naa Agyemang Ofori Amponsah, Kofi Bee, Kofi Nti, KK Fosu, Kwesi Pee, Bless, Bisa Kdei, Kumi Guitar, Kwabena, Kwadwo Akwaboah Jnr., Kuami Eugene, King Promise, Kidi, Quabena Benji, Nene Joojo, Kay Wusu, Odehyieba and several others have created awesome Hi-Life tunes, which are mixed with current beat patterns. This is a continuous advancement of the current Hi-Life in Ghana.
Hi-Life is traditional African music combined with pleasant rhythms. And many music researchers, including British-born guitarist, accordionist and drummer John Collins, endorsed it.
Guitarist Sonny Sharrock has a song called “Highlife” on his 1990 album too. Craig Harris (trombone) also had a song called “High Life” in 1993 on his album F-Stops.