What is Highlife? Seems to be a question most Ghanaians are unable to answer correctly or completely, not even the pioneers of the genre though it originates from Ghana.
Today on “showbiz agenda” the topic of international recognition of Highlife was extensively discussed. Prior to the discussion, a renowned Ghanaian music producer and sound engineer, Posigee, posited that the Highlife genre is not internationally recognized because when Ghanaian Highlife artists upload their songs on various music platforms they tag it as Afrobeat instead of Highlife.
While some supported his point, others gave different points with enough facts to debunk his position. According to some of the pundits, when Highlife artists are uploading their contents on popular platforms like iTunes and others there is no Highlife category which leaves the artists with an Afrobeat option or world music. This makes it difficult for the genre to be projected.
Some also opined that in other to push Highlife to the rest of the world, the genre should generally be accepted in Ghana first. For a long time now Highlife music which originates from Ghana has highly been kicked to the curb as the foreign genres like hip-hop, dancehall and reggae have been accepted and projected by most of the big and upcoming acts. Which has left just a handful of Ghanaian artists claiming and pushing the Highlife agenda.
Furthermore, there hasn’t been a drastic thorough education on Highlife in schools and even in the industry for the old and upcoming artists. As a result, there has been a confusion of the genre where people pass other genres as Highlife and vice versa. Also, the few who are fond of the genre do not have much information about it. Generally, Highlife hasn’t been clearly identified and defined with specific elements that should be looked out for or that makes any music qualified as Highlife.
Other pundits also called on the government and other organizations like GHAMRO and MUSIGA to front and push the Highlife agenda. They explain that if these bodies are willing to make Highlife their major agenda by defining it and educating distributors and other key players of such digital music platforms on the reason to accept and recognize the genre, it will expedite the process of Highlife being recognized.
Award schemes and A-list artists were not left out of the discussion. It seems impossible to project Highlife to the world when the top artists in Ghana with their gigantic fan base stand for other genres. Ghanaians were then encouraged to support and push artists who are into Highlife like Kuame Eugene and King Promise so together with their influence and numbers hopefully, Ghana can push for that agenda. Credible and recognized award schemes like the VGMAS were also called on to vividly define the genre with clear makers as to what makes a song Highlife or otherwise, so it serves as a guide to others and artists.
In a nutshell, for Highlife to be acknowledged and accepted by the rest of the world like Afrobeat, Ghana needs to know what Highlife is and a conscious effort should be made to educate people on what Highlife is.