Category: Music

Our Music – The 1970’s

Ghanaians listen to hiplife, highlife, Gospel, Raggae and other African music. Musical trends have reflected changes in Ghanaian society over the last half-century. (1950s – 2000s)

By the start of the 1970s, highlife had been overtaken by pop music and electric guitar bands.

The music produced by African Americans began to exert a heightened influence over Ghanaian music.

In 1971 a musical festival called Soul to Soul was held in Accra featuring performances from a number of US artists, such as Wilson Pickett as well as Ike and Tina Turner.

Soul to Soul
Tina Turner @ Soul to Soul Concert in Ghana 1971
Album Art, Soul to Soul 1971
Soul to Soul, 1971 Album Art
soul to soul ghana
Soul to Soul in Ghana, 1971
Soul to Soul Concert Advert

Subsequently, US-inspired musicians such as the Ashanti Brothers and the City Boys rose to prominence.

ashanti brothers
Ashanti Brothers, led by Osei Vasco
City boys ghana music
City Boys Band, led by J. A. Adofo

Afro-pop band Osibisa, became the country’s biggest export.

The band, whose name means “criss-cross rhythms that translate with happiness”, was formed in London in 1969 by three Ghanaian musicians and the same number of Caribbean artists.

The Ghanaian band members were highlife artists in Accra before moving to London after Nkrumah’s regime was overthrown.

Osibisa originally produced instrumentals which were interlaced with African chanting amidst a backdrop of percussion instruments and a horn section.

Osibisa
Osibisa

The band’s rise to prominence created an interest in African music among European and American listeners, raising the profile of Ghanaian music worldwide in the process.

Ghanaians listen to hiplife, highlife, Gospel, Raggae and other African music. Musical trends have reflected changes in Ghanaian society over the last half-century. (1950s – 2000s)

1960s

In the early years of Ghanaian independence the popularity of highlife was maintained.

A number of guitar highlife outfits formed following the success of The Tempos, including Nana Ampadu and his band the African Brothers and A.B. Crentsil.

Nana Ampadu
Nana Ampadu
A. B. Crentsil
A. B. Crentsil

E.T. Mensah continued to perform, as did other highlife bands such as Ramblers International and the Professional Uhuru Dance Band.

Ramblers International Band
Ramblers International
Professional uhuru dance band
Professional Uhuru Dance Band

The rise of Congolese music in the 1960s resulted in a decline in the popularity of the genre.

President Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana into independence, was overthrown by a military coup in 1966. The upheaval saw many Ghanaian musicians that had flourished in the 60s emigrating. Many moved to the US, UK, Nigeria and Germany, among other countries.

kwame nkrumah

By the end of the decade pop music from the US and, to a lesser extent Europe, had come to dominate Ghana’s music scene.

Our Music – The 1960’s
Our Music – The 1950’s

Ghanaians listen to hiplife, highlife, Gospel, Raggae and other African music. Musical trends have reflected changes in Ghanaian society over the last half-century. (1950s – 2000s)

1950s

A musical genre that originated in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, fused African rhythms with western music. The sound, of which there were a few variations, generally combined multiple guitar rhythms with a brass band backing, as well as various percussion instruments.

Its roots can be traced back to the 1880s to the music of marching bands and sailors’ palm wine groups.

The term ‘highlife’, which was coined in the 1920s, is thought to be a reference to parties by the European upper-class. Local bands played the musical accompaniment to the lavish events to which people aspired.

Two main forms of highlife had emerged by the middle of the 20th Century. Dance orchestras played at the parties of the elite, while poor, rural musicians played a guitar-orientated version of the music.

The guitar-based style of music rose to prominence in the 1950s and became associated with a pre-independence sound as it came to incorporate elements of swing, jazz and Cuban rhythms with the emerging guitar styles of West Africa.

During World War II swing was introduced by UK and US servicemen based in Ghana, giving way to smaller highlife bands.

Describing this melting pot of sounds, Professor John Collins – a musicologist at the University of Ghana – wrote: “By combining…so-called high-class music with local street tunes, a totally different type of music was born – the highlife we know today.”

Professor John Collins “ a musicologist at the University of Ghana
Professor John Collins “ a musicologist at the University of Ghana

This music became the soundtrack to the birth of an independent nation in 1957. During that time trumpeter E.T. Mensah became the most famous proponent of the sound – first with his band The Tempos and later as a solo artist.

E. T. Mensah
E. T. Mensah
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