Music is an essential part of the culture in Ghana, which has both cultural and historical components. One of the most popular music styles is the so-called Highlife.
A few weeks ago we told you about the Reggae musician Black Prophet from Ghana. Today we want to talk about music from Ghana again and also take a closer look into the cultural meaning and the historical background of the music.
Characteristics and social significance of music in Ghana
The music in Ghana and Africa is much more diverse than it is often assumed in the Global North. Thanks to the stereotypes, we in the Global North immediately think of drums. However, in addition to different forms of music from different ethnical groups, the music often includes an important intercultural dialogue, which makes the music unique.
As in every culture, music has a key 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 drummers have an important role and are a significant part of the celebrations.
Beside the more traditional music, there is also a variety of modern music styles, which essentially shapes the everyday life of Ghanaians.
Historical context of music in Ghana
The colonial era had an influence on the development of music. So the music of Ghana and Nigeria are more similar to each other than the music of Ghana and the neighboring Ivory Coast. Another factor that has significantly changed the music is the process of acculturation and the activity of the church. Preaching was done against the “African” culture and the culture of the Global North was emphasized. This was accompanied by a rejection of local music – drumming was described as “pagan” behavior. This resulted in a mixing of the original music with that of the Global North and thus the “traditional” music changed a lot.
Development of music in the last years
The people of Ghana developed their very own style of music, which reflects the traditional, well-known and familiar rhythm. They played on musical instruments of the Global North. One of the modern music styles that emerged in Ghana from this 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 styles of African music. This music was played in clubs and bars for the high society, hence the name Highlife probably originates. The Highlife is considered to be the origin of the Afrobeat, which is a mixture of funk and jazz and is often accompanied by percussion.
Criticism of the African music of the Global North
Loud basses and rhythmic drums, a large area, high spirits – this is the image of an “Africa Festival” in Germany. In Ghana, the ” world music ” which is common in the Global North is heard rather rarely, often it is even produced especially for the Global North.
In general, music is never complete, no matter which genre is discussed. Especially the strong cultural aspect makes this clear in Ghana – music can be seen as a constant, changing process.