Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Highlife

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In Ghana and Nigeria, highlife was one of the main popular musics of the 20th century, made for dancing. While this collection doesn't reach back to the very early days of highlife, it does cover a fair number of classic artists, including the great E.T. Mensah, acknowledged as the King of Highlife. Joe Mensah (no relation), offers a jazzier take on highlife with the lengthy "Bosoe." While essentially guitar music, saxophone is often featured, as in Celestine Ukwu's "Igede." The incessant groove swirls all through these tracks, about the only common denominator between the pieces and the times. Unfortunately, no dates are given for the tracks, with the exception of George Darko's "Hilife Time" from the '80s, where the rigid drum machine and keyboard work against the flow of the music rather than with it; this needs a human touch to make it real. More than half the tracks here are unavailable on either vinyl or CD, making this a treasure trove for anyone remotely interested in the percolating music. And the excellent sleeve notes give a short history of the style.

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