Highlife is a genre of West African popular music that originated in Ghana and Nigeria. It has been described as “a happy, carefree sound that’s often heard at parties or special occasions. The term Highlife was coined by C. K. Mann in reference to the popularity of this type of music among urban elites in Ghana during the 1940s.

The origins of the genre can be traced back to the late 19th century, when European-style brass bands became popular throughout West Africa, as they were able to provide music for both local ceremonies and international tourists.

These ensembles consisted primarily of European instruments such as trumpets, saxophones, and trombones, which were eventually replaced by local stringed instruments such as guitars. By the early 20th century, these bands had become known as “jazz bands”.

Notable Artists

Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti is one of the most well-known Highlife artists. He was born in Nigeria and moved to Ghana when he was 12 years old. In 1958, he formed a band called Koola Lobitos that played jazz music with African roots and rhythms.

In 1966, Fela started a new band called Africa 70 which became popular for playing Afrobeat music that combined jazz with funk and rhythm & blues sounds from America. His most famous song is “Shakara” which means “noise.”

Kwesi Arthur

He was born in Ghana and raised in London. Kwesi is known for singing Highlife songs that talk about love and life in Ghana. He has released three albums, including his first album “Reggae Meets Highlife” which won him the Best African Artist Award at the African Music Awards in 2012.

The Highlife Sound

Highlife music uses many instruments including drums and guitars as well as traditional African instruments like kalimbas (a type of xylophone) or talking drums (also called gankoquins). The combination of these sounds makes for an exciting sound!

Highlife Music in the Digital Age

In the digital age, Highlife is available to listen to online. There are several ways to access new music:

Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music allow users to listen to any song they want at any time, as long as they have a subscription.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter allow people to share their favorite songs with friends and family members around the world. This allows people who might not otherwise have access to hear new sounds from other cultures or even just their own country!

The Influence of Music on Other Genres

Highlife music has had a huge influence on other genres, more on Afrobeats and hip hop.

Afrobeats is a genre that arose in the 1990s as an offshoot of Highlife music and was popularized by artists like Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade. The style grew out of Nigeria’s rich musical history, which includes influences from both traditional African styles and European colonial influences (such as jazz).

Hip hop also owes much to Highlife: many rappers use samples from old Ghanaian records when making their own songs.

Highlife Music in Nigeria

Highlife music was introduced to Nigeria by the British in the early 20th century. The genre quickly became popular and was played at parties and festivals across the country. Musicians often played instruments like guitars, drums, horns, and piano while singing about love or social issues.

Highlife music can be heard in many Nigerian films today, it’s typically used as background music during scenes that take place in rural areas where people live off of farms or plantations.

The Impact on African Culture

The music has had a significant impact on African culture. It’s been used as a tool of social movements, unifying effect and representation of African identity.

The first Highlife musicians were influenced by Western music and incorporated elements into their own songs, which made them stand out from other genres of African music at the time.


Highlife – is a music that has a long history and continues to influence other genres. It’s also an important part of African culture, which means that it’s likely to continue growing in popularity as the world becomes more connected through technology.

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