Music of Ghana

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There are many styles of traditional and modern music of Ghana, due to Ghana's [1] cosmopolitan geographic position on the African continent. [2] [3] The best known modern genre originating in Ghana is Highlife. [4] For many years, Highlife was the preferred music genre until the introduction of Hiplife and many others. [5] [6]

Sub-Saharan African music traditions

African music traditions exhibit so many common features that they may in some respects be thought of as constituting a single musical system. While some African music is clearly contemporary-popular music and some is art-music, still a great deal is communal and orally transmitted while still qualifying as a religious or courtly genre.

Ghana Republic in West Africa

Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2 (92,099 sq mi), Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana means "Warrior King" in the Soninke language.

Highlife is a music genre that originated in present-day Ghana early in the 20th century, during its history as a colony of the British Empire. It uses the melodic and main rhythmic structures of traditional Akan music, but is played with Western instruments.

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Traditional music

The traditional musicology of Ghana may be divided geographically between the open and vast savanna country of northern Ghana inhabited by Ghanaians of Gur and Mande speaking groups; and the fertile, forested southern coastal areas, inhabited by Ghanaians speaking Kwa languages such as Akan. [7]

The Ghanaian people are a nation originating in the Ghanaian Gold Coast. Ghanaians predominantly inhabit the republic of Ghana, and are the predominant cultural group and residents of Ghana, numbering 20 million people as of 2013. Ethnic Ghanaians make up 85.4% of the total population. The word "Ghana" means "warrior king".

Gur languages language family

The Gur languages, also known as Central Gur, belong to the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 70 languages belonging to this group. They are spoken in the Sahelian and savanna regions of West Africa, namely: in Burkina Faso, southern Mali, northeastern Ivory Coast, the northern halves of Ghana and Togo, northwestern Benin, and southwestern Niger; with the easternmost Gur language Baatonun, spoken in the extreme northwest of Nigeria.

Kwa languages proposed language family in Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Togo

The Kwa languages, often specified as New Kwa, are a proposed but as-yet-undemonstrated family of languages spoken in the south-eastern part of Ivory Coast, across southern Ghana, and in central Togo. The name was introduced 1895 by Gottlob Krause and derives from the word for 'people' (Kwa) in many of these languages, as illustrated by Akan names.

Xalam traditional stringed musical instrument from West Africa

Xalam is a traditional stringed musical instrument from West Africa. The xalam is thought to have originated from modern-day Mali, but some believe that, in antiquity, the instrument may have originated from Ancient Egypt. Many believe that it is an ancestor to the African American banjo.

Goje

The goje is one of the many names for a variety of one or two-stringed fiddles from West Africa, almost exclusively played by ethnic groups inhabiting the Sahel and Sudan sparsely vegetated grassland belts leading to the Sahara. Snakeskin or lizard skin covers a gourd bowl, and a horsehair string is suspended on bridge. The goje is played with a bowstring.

Talking drum hourglass-shaped West African drum

The talking drum is an hourglass-shaped drum from West Africa, whose pitch can be regulated to mimic the tone and prosody of human speech. It has two drumheads connected by leather tension cords, which allow the player to modulate the pitch of the drum by squeezing the cords between their arm and body.

Gold Coast period

During the Gold Coast era lexie, the Gold Coast was a hotbed of musical syncretism. Rhythms especially from gombe and ashiko, guitar-styles such as mainline and osibisaba, European brass bands and sea shanties, were all combined into a melting pot that became high-life.

Gold Coast (British colony) former British colony from 1867 until 1957, now Ghana

The Gold Coast was a British colony on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa from 1867 to its independence as the nation of Ghana in 1957.

Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, while blending practices of various schools of thought. Syncretism involves the merging or assimilation of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths. Syncretism also occurs commonly in expressions of arts and culture as well as politics.

Ashiko Tapered drum traditionally found in West Africa and part of the Americas

The ashiko is a drum, shaped like a tapered cylinder with the head on the wide end, and the narrow end open. It is made of hardwood and generally has a goatskin hide. It is played with the hands, and tuned by ropes. Ashiko drums – or variants thereof – are traditionally found in West Africa, as well as part of the Americas.

Mid-20th century and the invention of Ghanaian pop

Ghana became an independent nation in 1957. The music of Ghana often reflects a Caribbean influence, yet it still retains a flavour all its own. While pan-Ghanaian music had been developed for some time, the middle of the 20th century saw the development of distinctly Ghanaian pop music. High-life incorporated elements of swing, jazz, rock, ska and soukous. To a much lesser extent, Ghanaian musicians found success in the United States and, briefly, the United Kingdom with the surprise success of Osibisa's Afro-rock in the 1970s.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly from a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Guitar-bands in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s

In the 1930s, Sam's Trio, led by Jacob Sam, was the most influential of the high-life guitar-bands. Their "Yaa Amponsah", three versions of which were recorded in 1928 for Zonophone, was a major hit that remains a popular staple of numerous high-life bands. The next major guitar-band leader was E. K. Nyame, who sang in Twi. Nyame also added the double bass and more elements of the Western hemisphere, including jazz and Cuban music on the recommendation of his producer and manager E. Newman-Adjiri. In the 1960s, dance high-life was more popular than guitar-band high-life; most of the guitar bands began using the electric guitar until a roots revival in the mid-1970s.

Zonophone US and UK record label

Zonophone was a record label founded in 1899 in Camden, New Jersey, by Frank Seaman. The Zonophone name was not that of the company but was applied to records and machines sold by Seaman from 1899–1903. The name was acquired by Columbia Records, Victor Talking Machine Company, and finally the Gramophone Company/EMI Records. It has been used for a number of record publishing labels by these companies.

Double bass Acoustic stringed instrument of the violin family

The double bass, or simply the bass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra.

The music of Cuba, including its instruments, performance and dance, comprises a large set of unique traditions influenced mostly by west African and European music. Due to the syncretic nature of most of its genres, Cuban music is often considered one of the richest and most influential regional musics of the world. For instance, the son cubano merges an adapted Spanish guitar (tres), melody, harmony, and lyrical traditions with Afro-Cuban percussion and rhythms. Almost nothing remains of the original native traditions, since the native population was exterminated in the 16th century.

Dance high-life in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s

Dance highlife evolved during World War II, when American jazz and swing became popular with the arrival of servicemen from the United States and United Kingdom. After independence in 1957, the socialist government began encouraging folk music, but highlife remained popular and influences from Trinidadian music. E. T. Mensah was the most influential musician of this period, and his band The Tempos frequently accompanied the president. The original bandleader of The Tempos was Guy Warren, who was responsible for introducing Caribbean music to Ghana and, later, was known for a series of innovative fusions of African rhythms and American jazz. Ebo Taylor, King Bruce, Jerry Hansen (musician) and Stan Plange also led influential dance bands during the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s, however, pop music from Europe and the US dominated the Ghanaian scene until a mid-1970s roots revival.

1970s: Head revival

By the beginning of the 1970s, traditionally styled highlife had been overtaken by electric guitar bands and pop-dance music. Since 1966 and the fall of President Kwame Nkrumah, many Ghanaian musicians moved abroad, settling in the US, and UK. High-life bands arose like Sammy Kofi's (also known as Kofi Sammy). In 1971, the Soul to Soul music festival was held in Accra. Several legendary American musicians played, including Wilson Pickett, Ike and Tina Turner and Carlos Santana. With the exception of Mexican-American Santana, these American superstars were all black, and their presence in Accra was seen as legitimizing Ghanaian music. Though the concert is now mostly remembered for its role as a catalyst in the subsequent Ghanaian roots revival, it also led to increased popularity for American rock and soul. Inspired by the American musicians, new guitar bands arose in Ghana, including Nana Ampadu& the African Brothers, The City Boys and others. Musicians such as C. K. Mann, Daniel Amponsah and Eddie Donkor incorporated new elements, especially from Jamaican reggae. A group called Wulomei also arose in the 1970s, leading a cultural revival to encourage Ghanaian youths to support their own countryman's music. By the 1980s, the UK was experiencing a boom in African music as Ghanaian and others moved there in large numbers. The group Hi-Life International was probably the most influential band of the period, and others included Jon K, Dade Krama, Orchestra Jazira and Ben Brako. In the middle of the decade, however, British immigration laws changed, and the focus of Ghanaian emigration moved to Germany.

The Ghanaian-German community created a form of highlife called Burger-highlife. The most influential early burgher highlife musician was George Darko, whose "Akoo Te Brofo" coined the term and is considered the beginning of the genre. Burgher highlife was extremely popular in Ghana, especially after computer-generated dance beats were added to the mix. The same period saw a Ghanaian community appear in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada. Pat Thomas is probably the most famous Ghanaian-Canadian musician. Other emigres include Ghanaian-American Obo Addy, the Ghanaian-Swiss Andy Vans and the Ghanaian-Dutch Kumbi Salleh. In Ghana itself during the 1980s, reggae became extremely popular.

Hip-life

By the late 1990s, a new generation of artists discovered the so-called Hiplife. [8] The originator of this style is Reggie Rockstone, a Ghanaian musician who dabbled with hip-hop in the United States before finding his unique style. Hiplife basically was hiphop in the Ghanaian local dialect backed by elements of the traditional High-life. [9] Ace music producer Hammer of The Last Two unveiled artistes including Obrafour, Tinny and Ex-doe who further popularized the Hiplife music genre respectively. Hiplife has since proliferated and spawned stars such as Reggie Rockstone, Sherifa Gunu, Ayigbe Edem, Samini and Sarkodie. Producers responsible for steering this genre to what it is today were Hammer of The Last Two, Ball J, EL and Jupitar Dancehall Artiste.

Hip hop

Ghanaian hip hop is a subculture and art movement which developed in Ghana during the late 1990's. The hiphop genre came into existence in Ghana through Reggie Rockstone, who is known as the hiplife father [10] and other notable musicians such as Jayso and Ball J .It first came to Ghana as Hiplife where Reggie Rockstone introduced a fusion of hiphop beats with African sounds to create a whole new genre known as Gh hiphop.

See also

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Jay Q music producer

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Gh hiphop

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References

  1. "Ghana Music".
  2. "Music of the Ashanti of Ghana" (PDF). Media.smithsonianfolkways.org. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  3. Salm, Steven J.; Falola, Toyin (5 July 2017). "Culture and Customs of Ghana". Greenwood Publishing Group. Retrieved 5 July 2017 via Google Books.
  4. "Ghana and the World Music Boom" (PDF). Helda.helsinki.fi. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  5. Adinkrah, Mensah (30 August 2015). "Witchcraft, Witches, and Violence in Ghana". Berghahn Books. Retrieved 5 July 2017 via Google Books.
  6. H. Osumare. The Hiplife in Ghana: West African Indigenization of Hip-Hop. Books.google.co.uk. p. 78. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  7. "Ghana's musical timeline". Timeout.com. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  8. "BBC NEWS – Africa – Timeline: Ghana's modern musical history". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  9. Micah Motenko (2011). "Highlife in the Ghanaian Music Scene: A Historical and Socio-Political Perspective". Digitalcollections.sit.edu. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  10. Banda, Rajaa. "Meet Reggie Rockstone, Pioneer of Ghana's Hip-Life Movement".