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Title: Highlife  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Hiplife, Afrobeat, John Collins (musician/researcher), Nana Ampadu, Yentie Obiaa
Collection: African Popular Music, Ghanaian Styles of Music, Highlife, Popular Music
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


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. Highlife was associated with the local African aristocracy during the colonial period. By 1930s, Highlife spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia and Nigeria via Ghanaian workers, amongst other West African countries, where the music is now very popular.

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). Igbo highlife and Joromi are subgenres.[1][2][3]

This arpeggiated highlife guitar part is modeled after an Afro-Cuban guajeo.[4] The pattern of attack-points is nearly identical to the 3-2 clave motif guajeo as shown below. The bell pattern known in Cuba as clave is indigenous to Ghana and Nigeria, and is used in highlife.[5]

Top: clave. Bottom highlife guitar part.


  • Artists 1
    • Ghana 1.1
    • Nigeria 1.2
    • Sierra Leone 1.3
  • Highlife in jazz 2
  • References 3


Artists who perform the Highlife genre include:



Sierra Leone

Highlife in jazz


  1. ^ "Igbo Highlife Music". Pamela Stitch. 17 July 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Oti, Sonny (2009). Highlife Music in West Africa. African Books Collective.  
  3. ^ Davies, Carole Boyce (2008). Encyclopedia of the African diaspora: Origins, experiences, and culture.  
  4. ^ Eyre, Banning (2006: 9). "Highlife guitar example" Africa: Your Passport to a New World of Music. Alfred Pub. ISBN 0-7390-2474-4
  5. ^ Peñalosa, David (2010: 247). The Clave Matrix; Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins. Redway, CA: Bembe Inc. ISBN 1-886502-80-3.
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