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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 April 2004

Columnist: Atoapem, Kwame

Highlife Music At Low Times ? A Rejoinder

I read the article referenced above (read), which appeared on the Web on 4/10/04 and which suggested the low ebb in Highlife, is due to the 1979 uprising with the exodus of the Seasoned Musicians. The article also suggested that even the few talent that was left toiled under the Gun and could not excel.

Much as I would agree, there are several other factors to this argument. There is no denying that highlife music is at its low ebb. I do agree that part of the problem is the lack of talented musicians partly probably because of the legacy of years of military rule where talent was not nurtured.

The problem is multifaceted. The present crop of musicians operate under the concept of instant gratification and do not spent time and effort writing good music and lyrics that appeal to all segments of the society. Their music is market driven and not necessarily quality driven.

The present Talent of highlife Musicians with the influence of Hiplife dwells too much on vulgar sexuality that is at times nauseating and alienates sections of the community. They are not original and the depth of their Lyrics is shallow.

To add to this, is the lack of sophistication to their instrumentation partly because of the computer generation of templates for the highlife music and lack of diversity. There practically no good and well trained new Guitarists that can take the Highlife music to New Heights. Contrast this with the Old Excellent Guitarists - George Darko, CK Mann, Nana Ampadu, Kwabena Okai, Sam to name a few. Hitherto Classic Highlife Music depended on the dexterity of the Guitarist leading the Band. Hence Onyina Dance Band, Kaikaiku Band, CK Mann his group, Ampadu?s Guitar Band, Koo Nimo, K. Gyasi, AB Crenstil etc. These legendary names were able to use the guitar to interpreter and dignify the Classic Highlife.

The emphasis shifted when Singers started leading the crusade. ? Pat Thomas, Lumba, Amakye Dede, Oheneba Kissi. Nana Tuffourr etc. These early Singers mentioned above were equally good and sang the music well and were backed by talented guitarists and other artists. The danger was that as good as they were ? Instrumentation began to suffer and computer generated templates began to be used as the basis for Classic Highlife. Then once again this led to the New Generation Highlife Musicians that were not tested and who rested solely on their voices. The net result was highlife music that was shallow with disgusting lyrics.

This coupled with Hiplife music has taken Classic Highlife to a new Low and this where we find ourselves today. The adulteration of Highlife with Hiplife has contributed to the slow demise of highlife music. The beat of highlife is dictated by the ?Frikyiwa? instrument and is on the three. i.e. 1, 2, 3. Hiplife is played on the 1. This conflict has not been resolved and further leads to the confusion and lack of identity.

The proliferation of Churches and Gospel Music is also another critical factor that has dampened Classic Highlife. Most of the New Highlife players have turned attention to playing and recording Gospel Music partly because of market demand and partly because of the shift of the mood of the Country. The composite result is that attention is not paid to writing and recording Classic Highlife Music. Besides the forte of Gospel Highlife music is not necessarily the quality of the music as opposed to the inspirational and the spirituality of the music. Thus any Tom Dick and Harry who think he or she has a good voice records Gospel music. This proliferation dilutes the market and further clouds any prospect for good quality Classic Highlife Music to emerge.

The Ghanaian Music Industry has to wake up and salvage this National Pride and Treasure ? Highlife Music. As a people our Music and our Language define us.

Professor Lucas a learned Nigerian Professor who had lived for a long time in Ghana once joked that he was ill in London and had an abnormal heart beat that could not be diagnosed by many Doctors. However one white Doctor who had also lived in Ghana after listening to his heart told him that his heart beat was not abnormal at all and that his heart was beating to the BEAT of HIGHLIFE MUSIC and that he was suffering from GHANAPHILIA ? the LOVE for Ghana. A whole lot of us are suffering from GHANAPHILIA and the demise of HIGHLIFE MUSIC is making us sick.

Kwame Atoapem ? Consultant in Highlife Musicology

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.