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Highlife music

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Title: Highlife music  
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Subject: Enugu, Orlando Owoh
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Highlife music

For other uses, see High life (disambiguation).
high life
Stylistic origins Afro-pop - African music
Cultural origins 1900s (decade), Ghana
Typical instruments Guitar - horns - vocal

Highlife is a music genre that originated in Ghana at the turn of the 20th century and incorporated the traditional harmonic 9th, as well as melodic and the main rhythmic structures in traditional Akan music, and married them with Western instruments and ideas. Highlife was associated with the local African aristocracy during the colonial period. Highlife spread to Sierra Leone and Nigeria via Ghanaian workers, among other West African countries, by the 1930s. It is very popular in Liberia and all of English-speaking West Africa, although little has been produced in other countries due to economic challenges brought on by war and instability.

Highlife is characterised by jazzy horns and multiple guitars which lead the band. Recently it has acquired an uptempo, synth-driven sound (see Daddy Lumba). Joromi is a sub-genre.[1][2]

This arpeggiated highlife guitar part is modeled after an Afro-Cuban guajeo.[3] The pattern of attack-points is nearly identical to the 3-2 clave motif guajeo shown earlier in this article. The bell pattern known in Cuba as clave is indigenous to Ghana and Nigeria, and is used in highlife.[4]


Artists who perform the Highlife genre include:

Highlife in jazz

  • Saxophonist Pharoah Sanders recorded a song called "High Life" on Rejoice (1981).
  • Pierre Dørge and his New Jungle Orchestra played in the highlife style, e.g. on Even the Moon Is Dancing (1985).
  • Guitarist Sonny Sharrock had a song called "Highlife" on the album of the same name (1990).
  • Craig Harris (trombone) had a song called "High Life" on the album F-Stops (1993)
  • High Life is an album by jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter that was released on Verve Records in 1995.
  • Pianist Randy Weston recorded an album called Highlife in 1963, featuring compositions by West African musicians Bobby Benson ("Niger Mambo") and Guy Warren ("Mystery of Love").


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