This Rough Guide is jam-packed with some of the biggest hitters in highlife history. Enjoy Victor Uwaifo’s Nigerian joromi stylings, the gentle Ghanaian palm-wine of Koo Nimo, and even an early recording of Afrobeat superstar Fela Kuti presenting a firmly highlife vibe.
Highlife originated in Ghana and Sierra Leone in the early twentieth century and was born out of a fusion of American jazz rhythms and myriad African roots musics. Originally dance orchestras played the music to entertain the colonial elite in high-class clubs along the coast, thus garnering the nickname ‘highlife’. As the twentieth century ploughed on, social and cultural changes across West Africa were reflected in, and disseminated via, highlife and its derivatives; guitar-band highlife, gospel-highlife and disco-highlife are just a few of the styles that emerged. This compilation focuses on hand-picked gems from the highlife archive. The roll call includes some of the biggest highlife hits from stellar names, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, Celestine Ukwu, Dr Victor Olaiya. Nestling alongside those golden sounds, other quirky tracks are gems are to be uncovered.
Most strikingly the punchy party number that opens this Rough Guide features none other than the Nigerian legend, Fela Kuti singing out, ‘Its highlife time’. These days everyone knows Fela as the Afrobeat superstar supreme. But, in fact, during his early career Fela played with the band Koola Lobitos, peddling a different sound: the highlife vibe heard here.
The package includes a bonus CD by Seprewa Kasa, exploring the origins of the genre via their use of the seprewa, a rare stringed instrument nicknamed the ‘soul of highlife’.
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