Today marks the start of a three part series of posts on Highlife, specifically Ghanaian Highlife. I do not intend to produce an academic style history of the genre; I am not qualified nor do I have the knowledge and inclination. I want to present you with three different tracks and hopefully convey to you why I love them and fingers crossed evoke similar feelings in you.
Highlife in Ghana, has it’s roots in Palm-wine, in both the fermented drink and the music that evolved as guitarists gathered under the palm, singing their songs where the sap was gathered and drank. Palm wine music originally came from Sierra Leone and Liberia, but spread throughout West Africa. The songs were often topical, political, moral or humourous, providing entertainment for the drinkers.
With the arrival of sailors from Europe and the military of the British in Ghana and with them the musical styles of the West, the music developed and took on the flavours of Jazz and Latin music and evolved into Highlife. The sounds spread throughout Anglophone West Africa. E.T. Mensah was one of the first musicians to incorporate brass into the traditional guitar music.
The genre changed a lot as music evolved and Funk and Rock reared their heads, having a profound influence on the style of the music, making it faster, grittier, with more complex arrangements. Highlife also spread from Ghana to Nigeria, with a lot of the Nigerian bands starting to record their own Highlife and Ghanaian bands moved across the border to record in Nigeria.
Opambuo International Band of Ghana were one such outfit, led by Leo Nana Agyeman. The band recorded several albums in the early 1980’s, and to my knowledge the song for today is from the first, Odo Yewu, which roughly translated from the Twi is “Love till Death” or “My Everlasting Love”.
I have chosen my favourite track from the album. It has great drums, a Rhodes and beautiful vocal harmonies. Great Ghanaian Highlife!
[audio http://k002.kiwi6.com/hotlink/nd470l4s2y/you_de_find_me_trouble.mp3]You De Find Me Trouble
Opambuo International Band of Ghana – Odo Yewu (1981) – Bonne Records/Niger Bridge (NRLP 004)