High Life and
Palm Wine Music
page into: FRENCH
Highlife Lecture -
Slides/Foils and notes from a highlife music lecture given at the State University of New
York (Purchase) by Alisdair MacRae-Birch
High Life is the dance music of Ghana and Eastern Nigeria.
The first real high life bands began in the 1920's. They were large dance band orchestras
fronted by horn sections, some of the more well known bands were:
|Accra Orchestra |
|Cape Coast Sugar Babies |
|Jazz Kings |
Highlife music derived from the blend of European foxtrots
and Caribbean kaiso, with African rhythms of Liberia (dagomba), Sierra Leone (ashiko and
goombe) and Fante (osibisaba). To satisfy the needs of society two main streams of
|Dance band highlife played at society and elite functions, such as ET
(Emmanel Tettey) Mensah's Tempo, Ramblers International and Uhuru Dance Band|
|Guitar band highlife played commonly in clubs and bars, Nana Kwame
Ampadu's African Brothers, Bobby Benson, Alex Konadu, Dr. K. Gyasi and his Noble Kings and
Notz High Life
Safari - Eric Agyeman.
This album is one of the all time classic high life albums. Originally released in 1978,
Eric mixes old and new Ghanaian and Zairean guitar styles, guitar band and dance band
sounds. Eric made his name as guitarist with Dr. K Gyasi and His Noble Kings. Earlier in
his career Eric developed a new form of music called Sikyi High Life. Developed from the
Ashanti practice of singing medleys of traditional songs accompanied by acoustic guitar,
calabash, finger bells and premprensua - a large wooden box with metal or bamboo keys.
Eric modernised the sound by replacing the premprensua with electric base, added keyboards
and wind instruments.This album was a big seller on the West Coast.
In The Air - George Darko.
In the late 70's many Ghanian musicians made their way to Germany to produce a very
sophisticated, hi-tech variety of highlife which was eventually dubbed "Burgher
Highlife". George has had many hits including "Akoo Te Brofo" which was
reworked in English as "Highlife Time". This is one of the few albums available
in the USA.
of Highlife - George Williams Aingo.
Recorded originally in the years 1927-1928 in Hayes, Middx, UK on the Zonophone label.
These recording present one of Zonophones premier artists. Aingo sings in Fanti and is
accompanied by guitars, castanets, corcertina, percussion and bottle and coin. Get it
while it is still available.
High Life Party - Sweets Talk and AB Crentsil.
Sweets Talk were the band in the early 1970s that gave highlife a new start. As Joe Mensah
says: " Sweets Talk was like a college for the musicians, most of them are stars and
leaders now in their own groups". Recorded in 1978 whilst on tour in the USA this was
thge final ( and finest ? ) album released by this great band
Sounds Of The Ramblers The Ramblers.
They were one of Ghana's longest running and most popular dance bands, lead by Tenor Sax
player Jerry Hansen. This album was originally released in 1975 after Jerry Hansen was
elected first president of the musicians union in Ghana.
Special - Prince Nico Mbarga
If you forget your mother, you have lost your life," croons Nigeria
highlife star Nico Mbarga in one of African music's biggest hits, the classic 10-minute
midtempo dance rave "Sweet Mother." Mbarga was the most successful translator of
West African horn-driven rumba to a guitar band.
Dombolo - Abdul Tee Jay Rokoto
From Sierra Leonne to
the UK, one of the top new stars of African Music
Palm Wine Music
Palm Wine music,
or as it's know in Sierra Leone, Maringa, dates back to the days when Portuguese sailors
introduced guitars to West Africa. Early African guitarists played at gatherings where
revelers drank palm wine, the naturally fermented sap juice of the oil palm. The
music with it's origins in the Kru-speaking people of Liberia combined elements from
Trinidadian calypso with local melodies and rhythms. The music was first made
internationally famous by Ebenezer Calender and his Maringar Band. He recorded dozens of
records in the 1950 and early 1960's sadly none of which are available on CD. Palm wine
guitarists had a tremendous impact on most of the West African music and their influence
can be heard in both High Life and Soukous guitar players. The songs were were mainly sung
in Krio, the creole English spoken in Freetown. Unfortunately, Palm wine music is on the
decline, the last well known exponent Sooliman ( S. E. ) Roogie died in 1994. The music
has been kept alive by a number of expatriate muscians living in London ( where S.E.
Rogie died ), such as Super Combo and Abdul T-Jay, although the excellent music they
have recorded is not maringa and Ghanian Daniel "Koo Nimo" Amponsah.
Notz Palm Wine
Don't Smoke Marijuana - S.E. Rogie.
This album was recorded when S.E. Roogie
was 68, just weeks before his sudden death. recorded in London in 1994, and features
British Acoustic Bass player Danny Thompson. A historic recording of Palm Wine music,
A great album featuring the roots of Sierra Leonnean music.
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