Musical styles evolve and change, and out of the rubble a new music is often born. Highlife was big in Ghana from the late 1940’s right up until the late 80’s. During this period the sound developed as new electronic instruments came to the fore and the sound moved away from early Palm-Wine style of E.T. Mensah towards a more modern sound, that made use of electric guitars and synthesizers.The influence of America music moved the genre further away from its traditional roots and more toward Funk, Jazz and Soul.
Ghanaian musician Gyedu-Blay Ambolley is often named as an early pioneer of the most popular music in Ghana today, Hiplife, which mixes R’n’B, Jamaican Dancehall and Hip-Hop with Highlife. His 1973 track Simigwado, contains arguably the earliest recorded Rap, that was to later become so popular in Hiplife.
The track was even sampled by Hiplife artist Replay and Ambolley was invited to perform in the video. Music has a habit of coming full circle with artists, who usually look to America, coming back to home grown sounds:
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Ambolley started playing with legendary guitarist Ebo Taylor in The Uhuru Dance Band, a more traditional Highlife band, and The Apagya Show Band, which explored the Funk sounds of James Brown. His voice is well suited to this style as he is able to produce smooth soulful lines as well as gruff and high-pitched call and response vocals. Both Taylor and Ambolley eventually went their separate paths to to record individually, and both are still active today, with Taylor bringing out his latest album in 2012 and Ambolley about to release an album collaborating with the biggest names in Hiplife.
Today’s selections are from Ambolley’s rare 1985 LP Cut Your Coat. The track Highlife is pure disco and demonstrates his vocal range. Walking Down the Street is a great smooth funk track that gently simmers.
[audio http://k003.kiwi6.com/hotlink/0d609f4kp2/highlife.mp3]Highlife – Gyedu Blay Ambolley
[audio http://k003.kiwi6.com/hotlink/s3o00vdbu9/ghan2.mp3%5DWalking Down the Street – Gyedu Blay Ambolley
For a wonderful interview with Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, where he talks about Ghanaian music and his career have a look here.