Music and its meaning in Ghana

Musik und ihre Bedeutung in Ghana

Music is an essential part of the culture in Ghana, which has both cultural and historical components. One of the most famous music genres is the so-called Highlife.

A few weeks ago we told you about the reggae musician Black Prophet from Ghana. Today we want to report again on the topic of music from Ghana and also take a look at the cultural significance and historical background of the music.

Characteristics and social significance of music in Ghana

Music in Ghana and Africa is much more diverse than often assumed in the Global North. Thanks to stereotypes, we in the Global North immediately think of drum music. However, in addition to a wide variety of musical forms from different ethnic groups, the music often includes an important intercultural dialogue that makes up the music.

As in every culture, music has a central role in everyday life in Ghana, but also in the cultural context. Drumming is an essential part of the culture and transports stories as well as traditions. Especially on festive occasions, the drummers have an important role and are a significant part of the festivities.

In addition to the more traditional music, there are also a variety of modern music styles that characterize the everyday life of Ghanaians.

Historical classification of music in Ghana

The colonial period had an influence on the development of music. For example, the music of Ghana and Nigeria is more similar than that of Ghana and the neighboring Ivory Coast. Another factor that has significantly led to the change of music is the process of acculturation and the activity of the church. Preaching was done against "African" culture and the culture of the Global North was emphasized. Along with this came a rejection of local music - drumming was labeled "heathen" behavior. This resulted in a blending of the original music with that of the Global North, and thus "traditional" music changed greatly.

Development of the music in the last years

The people of Ghana developed their own style of music, reflecting the traditional, well-known and familiar rhythm. Played on musical instruments of the Global North. One of the modern music styles that emerged from this in Ghana is the so-called "Highlife". Highlife was created by the fusion of the music of the Global North and the traditional music in Ghana and consists of a mixture of jazz and different directions of African music. This music was played in clubs and bars for high society, which is probably where the name Highlife came from. Highlife is considered the origin of Afrobeat, which is a mixture of funk and jazz, often supported by percussion.

Criticism of African music of the Global North

Loud basses and rhythmic drums, a large area, an exuberant mood - that is the image of an "Africa Festival" in Germany. In Ghana, one rarely hears the "world music" that is so common in the Global North, often it has even been produced especially for the Global North.

In general, music is never finished, no matter what style is spoken of. Especially the strong cultural aspect makes this clear in Ghana - music is a constant, changing process.