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Highlife Music in West Africa

by Sonny Oti

A posthumous publication Highlife Music in West Africa is an excursion into the origins and development of Highlife music in West Africa. Although highlife music belongs to the entertainment genre, it is essentially an urban music. Its dynamism does not lie in the aesthetics of its form and style, as a dance music relying almost totally on western musical instruments; it lies more in its song-texts. Critics evaluate it as a popular music genre, but fail to emphasize that its critical song-texts are the major forces guaranteeing its development and interplay with factors which contribute to the search for even political as well as economic, and national growth and stability in Africa.

Highlife musicians may be referred to as modern African town-criers whose messages or song-texts, like drama and theatre texts, present not only Africa's culture but her social, economic and political problems. The presence of radicals and Pan-Africanists from the fifties in music has therefore lifted highlife musicians from the status of mere entertainers and nerve therapists to a more serious and responsible one, as African modern town-criers whose song-texts are communal messages, warning and counselling. Even, militant criticisms of the establishment are innovative. The musicians also alert the society on topical issues of significance as the press and the theatre do.

There is currently an appreciable transformation and "transfiguration" in highlife music. Its conventional dancers are giving way to audiences; because the highlife musicians preach political and social messages instead of the passion of dance in their audience. Thus, ears and the mind are now becoming more important, intellectually, than the sensual eyes and body ballroom motion.

ISBN 9789788422082 | 208 pages | 216 x 140 mm | 2009 | Malthouse Press, Nigeria | Paperback




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