One issue that came up during the vetting of Deputy Minister-designate for Tourism, Arts & Culture Mark Okraku-Mantey was Highlife music.
In the last couple of weeks, the conversation on Highlife as a unique music genre has been revisited following Shatta Wale’s State of the Industry Address.
Shatta Wale had in his address proposed that music stakeholders should come together to settle on Highlife as a unique music genre to sell Ghana globally.
He claimed that the idea came after he had a meeting with major record labels in the United States. Shatta Wale who won Highlife Song of the Year at the 2019 Vodafone Ghana Music Awards said he could not provide any answer when some music agents asked him what music genre Ghanaians can be identified with.
This triggered reactions from music stakeholders. While some agreed with his assertion, others held opposing views.
Bisa Kdei in an interview with the GNA remarked that “You and I both know Highlife is our identity and I have been preaching about this identity thing for a long time. I don’t know why Shatta Wale didn’t mention Highlife but I think it is a good course for all of us to come together and sell what we created.”
Highlife musician Kwabena Kwabena, on the other hand said Shatta Wale is ignorant about Highlife “because as I speak to you, Uncle Ebo Taylor is soaring. Uncle Ebo Taylor… does he [Shatta Wale] know him? Then he should revise his notes and come again. Highlife has always been there. Let’s respect. Highlife has always been there.”
During his vetting, Mr. Okraku-Mantey who has contributed immensely to Highlife and industry in many ways disagreed with the assertion that the genre is lost in Ghana’s industry after the rise of other music genres.
He said: “We still enjoy highlife, we are still producing highlife but it is in a different form for the youth of today. It will be difficult for highlife to die, because most of the music we listen to today, even the dancehall, or other genre of music, they all have the rudiments of highlife.”
“If you listen to the 1970s Nana Ampadus, then it came to George Darko who changed it using burger beat, making it burger highlife. Then over time, we heard people like Charles Amoah also coming in with their type of Highlife, then Daddy Lumba, Kojo Antwi, Oheneba Kissi, then the Daasebere Gyamenas also came to change it.
“After that generation we got Ofori Amponsah. If you listen to all these rhythms, you will see that almost everyone comes with different rhythms. You will see that almost everyone comes with a different form of Highlife. So, it will be difficult to have a particular type of highlife play for about 20 years,” he added.
Mr. Okraku-Mantey further said: “Kuami Eugene is touted as championing Highlife but I’m sure some of you do not believe his kind of music is Highlife but it has evolved. King Promise, Wendy Shay, they all do a different form of highlife. But to go back to our Dr K Gyasi, Nana Ampadu and George Darkos, Mr Chairman, respectfully, ET Mensah will never come back.”