Hip life music: re-defining Ghanaian culture (1990-2012)
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African music is full of life ... we have different ethnic groups, different languages and cultures, moods, shades; it's so dynamic, and we have a message. (Diana Hopeson, p.c. 2006) My research documents the hip life popular music story from 1990 to 2012, from pre-through post-inception, as driven by rapper and dancer Reggie Rockstone. The histories of European colonization in Ghana, and its shaping. By highlife and American hip hop (via globalization) into hip life music are explored through an insider's lens. This is evidenced by the traditional influencing of the popular culture of hip life. In this 22-year development period, I interconnect the domains of ethnomusicology, African/cultural studies, anthropology, popular music studies, and dance ethnography, drawing on relevant theories. The few studies dedicated solely to hip life in the ethnomusicology discipline at this time precipitate this study. Artist apprenticeship, social impacts, formal education and peer transmission are explored against the backdrop of authenticity, reception, transculturation and mimetic models that shape the meanings of the discussions (traditional versus popular musics). The creativity, subgenres, and related agencies are treated here as well. Hip life has come to stay as Ghanaian popular music. It invokes the tradition's transformations into the modem: as evident in the works of artists from Obrafour, Obour, Tinny, King Ayisoba to Rockstone, the message of African storytelling through rap is deeply hinged on the anchors of the ancient court practice of libation ceremonies. Ghana's Adaha traditional music (of circa 1888) was a strong influence on highlife music through the 1920s, and later, on hip life, and can be seen as an encapsulation of Ghana's history. Ghanaian airwaves currently play a broad spectrum of sub genres of hip life music across the country. I explore the connections and collaborations among rap, traditional hip life, hip dia, dancehall hip life, soca hip life, rag life, twi pop, D-style, accapela hip life, gospel hip life. The hip life celebration comes at a juncture where we also mark the homecoming of hip hop- as traditional music from Africa, to America, and back. Hip life thereby invokes the transplantation of millions of enslaved Africans (with their musics) to the Americas over the generations. On the other hand hip life is thriving in an industry previously, dominated by highlife music. Hence a modem day generational shift and critical reception is experienced. The lyrical content and the use of proverbs by hip life artists (including Kwaw Kesse, King of the Street) speak loud and clear on contemporary social issues. This also is seen in the work of A Plus (in his Letter to the West), the Fela Kuti of hip life musical political commentary. Hip life is popular beyond the ten regions of Ghana. It has established roots globally and is distributed around the world to reach the diaspora. This entry of hip life into the world music spectrum has significantly increased the presence of Ghanaian identity to the body of popular culture and music.