#MusicMatters Episode 1 (2017): Highlife Music – The Ghana/Nigeria Connection & Controversy

Being a brand ambassador for #Ghana
October 7, 2017

#MusicMatters Episode 1 (2017): Highlife Music – The Ghana/Nigeria Connection & Controversy

#MusicMatters is back after a little over a year of no activity. Apologies for the long hiatus. I’m glad to be back with the podcast and I worked on the audio quality – set up a mini studio just for #MusicMatters so be rest assured that the coming weeks will be musically charged.

In this episode, I basically try to get my groove back by sitting behind the console to serve some music.

The podcast primarily explores the Ghana/Nigeria connection and controversy when it comes to music. I felt I needed to tackle this subject following Mr Eazi’s tweet and the reacction it received on twitter.

He tweeted that “Ghana’s influence on present day “Naija Sound” cannot be over emphasized!!!”

He’s been taken to the cleaners by some Nigerians on social media, with some threatening to boycott his music and concerts.

Some Ghanaians waded into the issue and claimed Highlife as originally Ghanaian and so on.

I need to make some things clear. Highlife is West African, powered by Ghana and Nigerian but with origins from Ghana.

Yes, I said it!

Though the term Highlife gained prominence in the 1920s, the music form had existed way before that in Ghana with groups like the Cape Coast Sugar Babes and others doing amazing stuff musically then.

In his book titled Highlife Time, Prof. John Collins writes:

This Ghanaian trans-cultural popular music developed during the 19th and early 20th century  as a blend of   three elements: the indigenous African, the European and the New World music of the Black Diaspora. As the imported influences first came to West Africa via European and American ships, early popular music styles grew up in the coastal areas, before moving island.  Although the term ‘highlife’ was not coined until the 1920’s it existed well before then under various names and its creation took place within three musical contexts: music coastal military-fort brass bands, the music of seamen and fishermen, and the local dance orchestras of the western-educated and christianised African elites of port towns such as Accra, Cape Coast and Winneba.  Let us look at each of these contexts in turn.

The first was the local ‘adaha’ brass-band music that appeared on the Fanti coast in the 1880’s, triggered by the regimental bands of six thousand West Indians soldiers who were stationed at Cape Coast and El Mina Castle by the British colonialists. Adaha music subsequently spread like wildfire throughout southern Ghana. And for those small towns and villages that could not afford expensive brass instruments, a ‘poor-man’s’ drum-and-voice version called konkoma (or konkomba)  developed in the 1930’s that spread as far eastwards as Nigeria.

Fela Kuti, one of Nigeria’s most revered music legends, an African music colossus, studied in Ghana. Hugh Masakela, the South African music legend, did same.

Fela acquired his African-style percussion while studying in Ghana. Afrobeat was born as a result.

Though Ghana is the origin of the sweet sound of Highlife, Nigerian musicians have contributed immensely in its transformation.

King Sunny Ade of Nigeria and others have played key roles in the evolution of the sound of Highlife and the training of many legends including Ghanaians.

In recent times, Ghanaian musicians have worked with their Nigerian counterparts to create new material that has consolidated West Africa as the home of the new sound of Africa.

Reggie Rockstone worked with 2 Face and Beenie Man about a decade ago. Tic Tac in his bid to go beyond the borders of Ghana worked with Toy Tetuila. R2Bees, Obour, Okyeame Kwame, Stonebwoy and a whole lot of GH acts have worked with the likes of Wande Coal, Shanti, Timaya, Patoranking etc.

The sound of Ghana is gradually fusing with that of Nigerian in a way that warms the heart and puts us in a position to build an industry that could very soon take its fair share of the over $2500 billion global creative arts industry.

Ghanaians and Nigerians lay claim to Highlife. They are right. Highlife belongs to West Africa, to Ghana and Nigeria.

Historically, both countries have emotionally guarded Highlife and ensured no other geographic region in the world lays a claim to this cherished music genre that has inspired generations and brought great pride to a people.

We are so lost in creative wars that we would would rather fight over who owns what, instead of developing and marketing Highlife to continental and global domination.

It’s time to channel our collective energies into creating timeless music and supporting an industry to lift millions of people out of poverty.

See a list of the songs featured in this podcast.

Enjoy the podcast and feel free to share your comments.


Sarkodie – Choices (Number song in Ghana, 2016 year-in-search on Google)

Mr Eazi – Skintight ft. Efya (Mr Eazi ‘suffered’ in Ghana before his breakthrough. He was called Eazi Nakamura in his early days and worked with producers both in Kumasi and Accra.

Fra! – Happy Yourself ft. Kyekyeku (The Fra Band is the new ish. Managed by Vision Inspired Music, this band works with Adomaa and a host of rising stars and they are set to rule the world. I have their permission to use this song as my sigtune for #MusicMatters)

Kofi Kinaata – Confessions (Arguably the song of the moment in Ghana, produced by Kin Dee. Kin Dee has cooked some of the best songs in Ghana in the past two years. Kudos man!)
Efya – Getaway (Once an athlete, Efya’s passion for music has seen her win the best female vocalist in Ghana three or so times. Way to go girl)
Becca – Hwe (Go-getter and hardworking songstress. Rebecca Akosua Acheampong sings about love. She worked with Hugh Masakela on some of her earlier records)
Rocky Dawuni – African Thriller (I think he’s currently Ghana’s biggest global music export. He’s featured on the FIFA World Cup soundtracks for two consecutive World Cups. If you love playing EA SPORTS Fifa Games, you’d hear songs by this Grammy star from Ghana)

Diamond Rio – Kissable, Huggable (I added this song to the list because I’m in love with a huggable damsel)
Fela (Read Up)
Reggie Rockstone – (Reggie sampled Fela’s song for Do Da Do…..read up)
Ramblers – Auntie Christie (I just couldn’t help but add one of my favorite Ramblers songs to the playlist)
E.T. Mensah & the Tempos – 205 (Just enjoyed. I have a full episode on ET Mensah coming up in the weeks ahead)
Rex Gyamfi – Efiri Makoma Mu (Okyeame Kwame says this is his favorite Burger Highlife song. I agree. It’s dope!)
Tic Tac – Fefe NaFe  ft. Tony Tetuila (This song is one of the most successful Ghana/Nigeria collaborations in history)
Kwadwo Seidu’s Band – Otan Nni Aduro (I couldn’t possibly make a good case for Highlife without a song from the ‘Ghana 1931 -1957 Popular Songs’ selection. The early singing bands played they role in the development of Highlife)
Osu Selected Union – Homowo Ese (The Osu Selected Union was known for their activities in Osu. They also feature in the ‘Ghana 1931 -1957 Popular Songs’ selection)

I also explored ‘Highlife Music – The Ghana/Nigeria connection and controversy’….

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