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Opinions of Tuesday, 23 December 2003

Columnist: Atoapem, Kwame

Hiplife Music And Sex

I am writing to express my avulsion at the sexual content of the lyrics our Hip-Life Music and the pervasiveness with which it is accepted and taking roots in our society. Is this a reflection of the Moral Decay of our society? Or purely because of the simple economic fact that “SEX SELLS” and that these artists are taking advantage of this fact.

This sexual exploitation of the Hiplife music is coming in at the height of the Boom of the Church Revolution in Ghana and also at the time when HIV AIDS is the greatest scourge of the African Continent in general and Ghana in particular. The depth of the problem can be appreciated against the background of teenage pregnancy, unemployment, decay of the educational system. Does the mere mention of sex in a music stream mean one has to jump to bed and probably without a condom? Probably not. But coupled with unemployment, lack of education, alcohol, drugs, lack of good morals, the desire for instant gratification, the tendency to raise capital through sex and the sensuality of the music itself, this heavy sexual content of the Lyrics of Hiplife cannot be ignored.

Those of us who are ardent followers of HIGHLIFE MUSIC have always appreciated and admired the ingenuity of the music. LEGENDS of highlife music used this medium to discuss LOVE, MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, CORRUPTION, WORK ETHICS, DEATH and other social problems without a crude and nauseating mention of sex and the vagina and even when they should it was done in ways that never insulted ones integrity and done with such subtlety that made it simply admirable. Did you remember the “Red sea with burnt apple trees at the banks” as was told by Smart Nkansah. Was this a reference to any human part? Subtle isn’t it? And talk about Smart Nkansah. For years he played and sang and discussed politics, marriage, adultery etc.

The Godfather of Highlife Music SAM – sang about divorce in his piece “Yaa Amponsah” and the GUITAR piece he played in that music has become the gold standard of highlife. Kaikaiku, Onyina, EKs, all played and sang highlife music with such wanton abandon and with such poise and respect for language that was simply admirable.

Odwomtofo NANA KWAME AMPADU sang highlife music using Ananse stories and Animals to illustrate problems such as Family life, Divorce, Love, Human Relations, Poverty etc without any crude reference to sex and sexuality. And believe me his music sold million of copies and was admired beyond comparison. Who could forget his pearcing voice referring to “Okwaduo wode woko na wo nuanom” in his interpretation of human relations, “Obiba Broke” Abusua nye Asafo na yeabo agyae”, “Petition please – point of Order” as he made reference to Tyranny in society. Or who can forget “ “” as he sang on the pain of Death.

The LEGENDARY GEORGE DARKO the founder of BOGA highlife and probably one of the best highlife guitar players Ghana has known plays and sings without such nauseating references to human sexuality. He uses an in-depth traditional and proverbial language. “Osebo to nsu mu a ne ho na efow” “Akoo te Brofo a “Wone asase aye aka nso wodidi apotoyowa mu” Those were the days.

Then comes HIPLIFE and all these measures have shrunk to little measure. I am writing to implore the New Generation of Musicians to exercise good judgment with their lyrics and tone down the sexual content of their music. It is not doing the society any good and only a reflection of the moral decay of the society as a whole. I am not advocating censorship but I believe music can be admired without any nauseating sexual content.

Once again I would emphasize that at a time when illiteracy, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, unemployment, decay of the educational system are at their lowest ebb we cannot underestimate the devastating impact of such pervasive references to sex in our music.

Kwame Atoapem (New York)

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