Growing up in the 80s, 90s and early 2000, many were exposed to a ‘melting pot’ of highlife music being the main forces in a typical Ghanaian household.
As we celebrate ‘The Ghana Month’, it can be said that just like other aspects of national life, Ghana’s music industry has undergone many phases with contributions by these legends.
Culturally rich with historical mythologies and traditions with a medley of sounds originating from Palm Wine Music, their kind of music was just the ‘right food for the soul.’
Their lyrics often revealed important messages and stories passed down through elders.
One can boldly say that, indeed! It was a time when music had the power to deliver wisdom, social commentary, and effect change.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some highlife legends of all time:
Touted as Ghana’s biggest music band of all times, Osibisa was originally founded in London in 1969 by four Ghanaian expatriates and three Caribbean musicians.
Their songs have been well documented with many hits including ‘Welcome Home’, ‘Coffee Song’, ‘Woyaayaa’, ‘Sunshine Day’, ‘Warrior Song’, ‘Pata Pata’, among others.
A. B. Crentsil
A.B. Crentsil has been active on the music since the 1960s. Well-known for his very controversial lyrics, Crentsil carved hits like Moses, Atia, Sokoo, Devil, Angelina, Adwoa, among others.
The 78-year-old legend is one of the big Ghanaian vocalists of all times, he has won numerous Ghanaian music awards, including the Fontomfrom Evergreen Award, a special honour bestowed upon a musician with 15–20 years of continuous music experience.
Abrantie Amakye Dede started his music career in 1973 with the Kumapim Royals which was led by Akwasi Ampofo Agyei (AAA).
After returning from Nigeria, Amakye Dede dominated the highlife scene in the 1980s and 90s.
The high-life legend has since dropped back-to-back hits including Bebrebe Yi, Iron Boy, Odo Da Baabi, Kae Dabi, Sufre Wo Nyame, etc. His ‘Akwadaa Wesoa’ hit is particularly one of the most recognizable highlife tracks ever.
J. A. Adofo
Obuoba J. A. Adofo rose to fame from his early days as a lotto staker.
He would go on to become arguably one of the best live dance band performers in Ghana with his City Boys Band.
He has several hits including the most popular ‘Ankwanobi’, ‘Yaa Boatemaa’ ‘Owuo mpaso’ which are all-time favorites for many Ghanaians.
The late Awurama Badu was the first-ever female to gain mainstream success as a highlife artiste.
Having started as a singer with the Ghana Police Band, she managed to establish herself in a male-dominated music scene.
Awurama who passed away in 2018, had hit songs like Medofo Adaada Me, Komkom, Odo Tie and “Obaatan Refre Ne Mma”, among others.
George Darko started the ‘burger highlife’ movement with his ‘Ako Te Brofo’ hit in 1980. He also released many other hits including ‘Highlife Time’, ‘Obi Abaayewa’ and ‘Money Palaver’.
E. T. Mensah
The late E. T. Mensah is regarded as the ‘King Highlife’ as he is believed to have popularized the genre in the 1950s and 60s. His hit songs ‘All for You’ and ‘Ghana Freedom’ are still very popular today.
With his story-telling style of music, Nana Ampadu is regarded by many as one of Ghana’s greatest musicians ever.
After winning a nationwide competition that saw him crowned as ‘Odwontofoohene’, or “Singing Chief” in the early 90s, Nana Ampadu is said to have composed over 8000 songs.
He has many hit songs including: ‘Ebi Te Yie’, ‘Agartha, Drivers’, Akwantifi Wuo.
C. K Mann
The late C. K. Mann was the pioneer of Fante highlife music.
As the leader of the famous ‘Carousel 7’ band, C.K. Mann churned out all-time hits like ‘Adwoa Yankey’, ‘Fa W’akoma Ma Me’, and ‘Asafo Beeson’.
Ebo Taylor is one of the highlife musicians who marketed Ghana music globally in the 1960s.
As a guitarist, composer, bandleader, producer, and arranger, Taylor mastered in highlife and afrobeat music and even had a collaboration with Nigeria’s Fela Kuti as far back as 1962.
Taylor’s international image is characterized by the fact that in 2009, American singer Usher used a sample from his song, Heaven, for his ‘She Don’t Know’ track.