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Highlife Music In Ghana

Music, as it is said, is food for the soul. Music, as a universal gift with its connective power is unquestionable and quite incomprehensible. Indeed, how would the world be without music?; so raw and quite peculiar. What at all is music?

Music is an initialization of Mind Uninterrupted Soulful Intriguing Caravan . Music is the vocal or instrumental sounds combined in such a way, as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion. Music is also defined as the art or science of composing or performing pleasantly or the art of sound in time that expresses ideas or emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, and color.

Music as broad as it is, can be grouped into many categories such as art music, folk music, and popular music. One relevance music plays in social life is that it creates social cohesion when the piece of art resonates deeply with its listeners thus bringing comprehension into the punchlines in that art.

Music has different genres which tend to coincide at times through many of its styles and tend to seem similar at times. The genre of music can be defined as a conventional category that groups pieces of music sharing a set of conventions or traditions. The main genres of music include rock, pop music, popular music, and rhythm and blues.


Rock also known as Rock and Roll, has been a popular music genre since the early 1950’s. Rock music has its roots in string instruments. However, currently, this genre includes modern instruments, therefore it is quite an issue when giving it an accurate definition. It is characterized by loud strong guitars and charismatic rock stars; this genre of music paved the way for many artists in terms of fame. So they were called rock stars.

*Pop music

The term pop music is derived from the word popular. Pop music is a music genre that contains music that is generally favored in society. Pop has its roots in rock and roll pop music, including influences from many other genres. Drums electric guitars, and synthesizers are all instruments commonly used in pop songs.

Artists like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber are all considered pop music starlets…

Rhythm and blues 

A musical style born in the 1940s as a derivative of blues and related to Jazz, soul, and gospel; It is characterized by being a mainly vocal genre, typical of solo singers or grouped in quartets or quintets that accompany their voice with interventions of a choir.

Reggae Music

Reggae music is a type of music genre of Jamaican origin derived from rock whose songs are characterized by a happy, repetitive, and marked rhythm, soft melodies, and committed lyrics in favor of peace, and aid to the third world.

Coming down to the habitats of the black race, specifically, Ghana, in West Africa, music is classified in so many ways. Like in Nigeria, the activities of British Colonial administrators, missionaries, and teachers helped to introduce and consolidate the practice and consumption of European liturgical Christian music as well as European Classical music. The origin of music is unknown but can be considered based on prevalence in certain areas and localities. The four main types of music include; Contemporary music, Traditional music, Gospel music, and Imported music.

The genres of Ghanaian music include;

. Highlife

. Hiplife

. Azonto

. Afrobeats

. Afro-fusion

These are each a refined version of its sonic predecessor, and thus ironically, fusion prototypes. Let us take into consideration HIGHLIFE MUSIC.

Highlife Music

This is a music genre spawned in Africa, West Africa, to be precise along the coastal cities of present-day Ghana in the 19th century along the coastal cities of the present day Ghana, during its history under British colonial rule and through its trade routes along the coastal areas. It describes multiple local fusions of African meter and Western jazz melodies.

It later spread to Western Nigeria and flourished in both countries in the 1950s. The two countries are known for delivering inspiring highlife music. Formerly, there were three forms of Ghanaian highlife;


Fanti Osibisaaba

Palm-wine music

The early headlights of Ghanaian music include Orchestra, Cape Coast Sugar Babies, Jazz King, and the like….

Formerly, the instruments used to harness this music genre included guitar, local drums, claves, and castanets (apreprensiwaa) also called the Akan Hand Piano.

Highlife has its stylistic origins in palm wine music, Akan music, Akan folklore, and other music genres. It is characterized by jazzy horns, and multiple guitars with its derivatives being Makossa, Afrobeat, as well as Hiplife.

Palm wine music featured more traditional and indigenous instruments played by musicians in the rural parts of Ghana.

Who is the father of Highlife?

There are many highlife artists and notable among them are Osita Osadebe, Oliver de Coque, Victor Uwiafo, Fela Kuti, Soukou Soul, Bisa Kdei, Jembaa Groove, E.T Mensah, Kojo Antwi, Chief Stephen, Osita Osadebe, Celestine and many more.

The father of highlife, or better The King of Highlife, is regarded as our very own legendary Emmanuel Tettey Mensah, or E.T Mensah. Known throughout West Africa as the King of Highlife, was the founding father of the style, enjoying a career that stretched back to the mid-’30s. Mensah’s name soared after he played with Louis Armstrong in Accra in May 1956, and he eventually earned the nickname. He pioneered the development of the swing-jazz-influenced highlife dance bands that were so popular throughout West Africa in the 19th century. Indeed, these urban dance bands became the musical zeitgeist of the optimistic period of early independence.

Who founded Highlife?

Mensah King Bruce is Ghana’s key figure in the development of the dance band Highlife. His career spans nearly forty years.

Ghanaian Highlife musicians have put their all in delivering the best music style in order to put the country at the fore front of the continent’s music. It would be very thoughtful if all these legends are appreciated.

written by Ruth Ama Onumah



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