Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
African style of popular music emerging in Ghana and Sierra Leone by '20, subsequently having a dominant infl. for decades. A fusion of indigenous dance rhythms and melodies with Western sounds began in the coastal towns of Ghana, incl. regimental brass bands, sea shanties, hymns; instrumentation incl. African drums, harmonicas, guitars, accordions; the early styles were called Osibibisaba, Ashiko, Dagomba, but by '20 known collectively as highlife. During '30s three distinct styles emerged: ballroom dance style for the coastal elite, a village brass band style, and rural guitar bands playing a less Westernized style for a less Westernized audience. By this time bands were springing up all along the coast of West Africa, incl. Nigeria; during '30s--40s thousands of records were issued for the West African market and the music began to establish an international reputation. During WWII big-band jazz became an infl. and in '47 the most important post-war band emerged: E. T. Mensah and the Tempos Band toured widely with enormous impact, spawning hundreds of imitators. The '50s--60s were a golden age, with bands like the Tempos, Black Beats, Uhurus and Broadway in Ghana, Bobby Benson, Rex Lawson, Roy Chicago and Victor Olaiya in Nigeria; and the rural guitar bands had also flourished, in early '50s evolving the concert party, a fusion of highlife and comic theatre. Leaders in this style were E. K. Nyame, Onyina, Kakaiku and (in '60s) Nana Ampadu's African Brothers International Band. By the '70s highlife was perhaps past its peak; juju began to take over in western Nigeria, though highlife was maintained in eastern Nigeria by Celestine Ukwu, Osita Osadebe, Prince Nico, the Ikengas, the Oriental Brothers International Big Band. Even in Ghana highlife was affected by the disco invasion, though styles continued to be developed by C. K. Mann, the Sweet Talks and Alex Konadu. Not just an Anglophone African phenomenon, highlife infl. for example the modern Congolese sound; and the single most infl. African style to have emerged remains open to innovation.