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The Hiplife story: Stop ‘shouting’ & fix it!
Reggie Rockstone

The Hiplife story: Stop ‘shouting’ & fix it!

The BBC has released a close to 30 minutes documentary on the once-very-popular Ghanaian music genre, Hipilfe, tagged, Hiplife Rewind —and as highly anticipated, there’s been an admixture of reactions that have greeted the said textual.

Obviously, not every industry person would be smitten by the project, so, it is okay to have persons express their appreciation or misgivings about the project, but what is quite bewildering is to see and hear some connoisseurs of the genre pass their opinions on the documentary.


For some of these enthusiasts, the documentary was not a true reflection of the actual story of the genre; others are grousing that it lacked facts while some are also decrying the lack of participation of some true pioneers of the genre.

The intriguing bit of all the cacophony that has ensued after the BBC release is the fact that, most of these complainants, the connoisseurs of the genre have been and are still in a position to offer the true depiction of the actual happenings of Hipilfe as they deem it fit, yet, they have been cavalier all these years but quick to quip about the supposed failings of others who have made efforts to tell the story.

There’s nothing like ‘perfect’ so, the BBC were not expected to get it 100 percent right but some of the complaints are unfounded, exaggerated and misplaced.

Why Blame the BBC?

Okyeame Quophi, one half of the Hipilfe group, Akyeame, has repudiated the documentary stating, “I watched this Hipilfe documentary on YouTube yesterday which is produced by the BBC and now fully understand why HIPLIFE IS DEAD. The 30 minutes plus presentation lacks the facts and very misleading. Apuuu. Wei!”

On Peace FM, legendary producer, Hammer of the Last 2, had misgivings of the documentary. Artiste Manager, Bullgod, has also expressed some disdain about the project and Andy Dosty, the famed DJ and a stalwart of Hipilfe, also on Hitz FM, raised issues with some personnel who were not featured in the documentary.

Directed and produced by Akwasi Sarpong and Keyvah Cardoso for the BBC, the international media house, in a very short documentary, tried to explore the story of Ghana’s influential music genre through personal accounts of key artistes and creatives in the scene.  It attempted to figure out the trajectory of the music genre and the industry’s playful, ongoing ‘rivalry’ with Nigeria on which country discovered Afrobeats; and whether the now-popular genre sprung from Ghana.

In that short documentary, the BBC cannot feature every player; it had to be strategic and selective of the cast—persons who were present at the emergence of Hipilfe, those who were influenced by the genre and how they transitioned to Afrobeats, and yes, they got it right!


The Documentary Not Bad, No!

In that short spate of time, the BBC tried to chronicle the influence of Hipilfe, its lack of sustainability and the takeover of Afrobeats.

For many of the naysayers, their biggest worry is the fact that, the documentary failed to present the actuality of Hipilfe but they (critics) are wrong in that regard. The project, although tagged, Hiplife: The Rewind, was not solely on the history of the genre. It sought to address three (3) core subjects in a limited duration and generally, they fulfilled that aspiration.

The concept of the project is the reason Panji talked about taking his group, NFL, a Hipilfe group to Atlantic Records but were rejected but the same label accepted and validated Burna Boy, an Afrobeats artiste.

In relation to the personnel cast in the documentary, especially for the pioneers of the genre, they did not get their selection wrong. Gyedu Blay Ambolley is the right person to speak on the genesis of rap.  Reggie Rockstone is the best fellow to speak on anything related to the Hiplife. Abraham Ohene-Djan, a luminary in the audio-visual space and the entire Ghanaian music industry is the right person to speak on how they were able to put visuals to the Hipilfe emergence.

The likes of Eno Barony, M.anifest are the right fit to discuss how Hipilfe influenced their respective careers and Kuami Eugene and KiDi are obviously the right guys to talk about how they got influenced by Hipilfe but are now tinkering with Afrobeats.

At the end of the day, the project highlighted how the well-accepted Afrobeats got its influence from Hipilfe and that’s the story it sold to the rest of the world – and interestingly, on YouTube, viewers of the documentary are super excited about the project, offering rave reviews and all.


The Nigerians Are Not Sleeping

Last year, DW-TV got interested in the story of Afrobeats, put together a concept and a budget and made a move to shoot a documentary on Afrobeats. Three years ago, BBC made a project on the history of Afrobeats, spoke to some players of the genre, packaged it and projected it.

The Nigerians did not take those documentaries that spanned a duration of 25 minutes each as the Bible of Afrobeats; they took control and decided to tell their story as they deemed it fit and sold it to the rest of the world.

On June 29, 2022, streaming platform giant, Netflix, premiered their first- ever Afrobeats documentary, Afrobeats: The Backstory. The Africa-led music movement has arguably been the fastest-rising cultural phenomenon of the 2020s, therefore it made all sense for the streaming company to acquire Ayo Shonaiya’s work and push it.

In a 12-episode textual which had its own backlash after its release, Ayo Shonaiya, the Nigerian filmmaker, gathered footage from over 20 years of real time experiences. At the time when memories were being created, Shonaiya was making sure to create a visual representation of these moments.

At the time, Afrobeats was still coming up and no proper structure had been put in place but the clips collected by Shonaiya has given the body of work more meaning and amplified the storytelling, making the consumption of the documentary a lot easier. The documentary did justice to highlighting the relevance of what is being experienced now and its importance to the future.

Even in a bid to tell the Nigerian perspective on Afrobeats, the documentary still gave credence to the influence of Ghanaian Highlife and Hipilfe and even with that, some Ghanaians still had issues.



Hiplife Aficionados Sleeping, As Always

The Hipilfe story is such a refreshing one; a history that has so many personalities involved, a genre that influenced and altered the culture of an entire generation. A genre that saved the lives of a multitude and served as a livelihood to so many people. That genre is such a sellable product when packaged right!

Some of these connoisseurs are always nitpicking about every documentary that touches on Hipilfe, always quick to express how they lack facts and details and all that rhubarb. Some even argue that, since they were part of the emergence of the genre, they are not in that right positioning to tell the story. Others also claim that, they lack the resources to shoot and project the story, as it ought to be told right. It’s always one excuse or the other.

Ayo Shonaiya was just not a filmmaker; he was part of the story, part of the birth and growth of Afrobeats—having managed the likes of D-Banj, Don Jazzy and ElDee and many others who laid the foundation for the genre.

Some of these experts would not make a move, but let somebody garner interest in anything Ghanaian, gather personnel and resources to plan and execute and project the concept, then they (experts) will be on the sidelines—yelping how inappropriate the project was and how well it should have been done.



We Can Fix It

Yes, we can talk all we want and express varied opinions on projects executed by others and nothing should stop anybody from raising genuine issues on anything Ghanaian when there are shortcomings, but at the end of the day, what are you also doing with what is claimed as the authentic story?  Why are you not telling the story and selling it, as it should be? What are you waiting on?

Panji Anoff, Mike Cooke, Zapp Mallet, Mark Okraku Mantey, Hammer, Abraham Ohene Djan, DKB, Andy Dosty, Okyeame Quophi, Okyeame Kwame and the deluge of astute personalities who engineered the success story of Hipilfe are all in some capacity to put their efforts and resources together to project the Hipilfe story as it should.

Nothing should stop these ‘fine brains’ from assembling in any room to draw up a plan, a proposal and to solicit for any form of succour in a bid to project the so-called true Hipilfe story.

Stop chirping, get off the sidewalks and fix it!

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