A Brief History Of Ghana Music

August 6, 2014

African Drum and Dance is a popular area event in many parts of the world. Many of the drummers and dancers who frequent these different events are visiting drummers from Africa. It is interesting that most of the rhythms used at these events are derived from Ghana music whether authentic musicians are present or otherwise. In some areas, there are weekend seminars and workshop related solely to Ghanian drum and dance found in Ghana and other regions of Africa.

North and South Ghana have very different musical taste. Northern traditions come from Sahelian traditions. Sahelian features a combination of melody and stringed instruments. Some common instruments in the North and South are the kologo lute and the gonjey fiddle, wind instruments, voice, drums and percussion.

Set to a minor chromatic or pentatonic scale, notes flows almost effortlessly with these combination of instruments and voice. Praise singing is also a popular form in the area. Griot, somewhat like mild chanting or story telling is also quite popular. Most often, regardless of style, vocals are accompanied by some type of drums, bells or stringed instrument.

Northern styles are set to a minor pentatonic or chromatic scale and melisma plays an important part in melodic and vocal styles. There is a long history of northern styles also being inclusive of the griot and praise-singing traditions.

Social functions like funerals, graduations, weddings and the like are often met with coastal style music. This style requires complex patterns be played on a variety of percussion instruments. These instruments often include bells, cowbells, drums, gourds, sticks and other percussion based instruments.

Coastal tunes can also be associated with many traditional religions. One exception to this rule is material from the Seperewa harp-lute whose origins are in the stringed harps of the North and West. The most well known drums of southern Ghanian drum traditions is that of the adowa and kete drum ensembles with bells.

Ghana won her independence in 1957. Ghana while rich with Caribbean flavor, still retains its own musical identity. The 20th century saw the onset of pop. A style that became known as High-life became quite popular. Pop-dance has been quite popular since the 70s. Like many other genres, it too has been known by many different names over the years.

Highlife, or High-life is a combination of soukous, jazz, rock, ska and swing. Both of which are more dance focused than styles which were popular in the earlier days of the country. Hip-Life and Highlife can be thought of as similar to the dance, rock and jazz genres alive and well in other parts of the world.

Guitar bands and other genres were popular during the 70s. Prior to that time, music of the depression, 40s, 50s, and 60s was often more easy listening than rock and roll. Later, when German-Highlife took over the scene, a rendition of burger-highlife was also founded by Ghanian based Germans. George Darko has always been one of the best known musicians of Ghana, partly because he founded this new genre of polka like rock and roll.

You can visit www.ghanamotion.com for more helpful information about Ghana Music Through The Ages.

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posted in Music by Imelda Reid

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