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Make highlife national treasure — Veteran artistes

BY: Gifty Owusu-Amoah
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Mr Mike Eghan (2nd left), a pioneer broadcaster, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), and Prof. Amin Alhassan (right), Director-General of the GBC, unveiling the logo to officially launch the Highlife is Alive Fan Club. With them is Prof. Kwame Karikari (left), Board Chairman of the Graphic Communications Group Ltd. Picture: ESTHER ADJEI
Mr Mike Eghan (2nd left), a pioneer broadcaster, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), and Prof. Amin Alhassan (right), Director-General of the GBC, unveiling the logo to officially launch the Highlife is Alive Fan Club. With them is Prof. Kwame Karikari (left), Board Chairman of the Graphic Communications Group Ltd. Picture: ESTHER ADJEI

Veteran highlife artistes have stressed the need for a concerted effort to preserve that genre of music as a national art treasure and heritage.

That, according to them, was the surest way of preserving Ghana’s culture and heritage on the global music stage, in the face of the steady threat posed by new and foreign music styles, such as Dancehall, in Ghana’s music business.

At a gathering to discuss the way forward, some of these legends - A.B. Crenstil, Gyedu Blay Ambolley and Bessa Simons, said if efforts were not made to preserve highlife, it will come a time that the importance of it would be lost on the young generation.

The musicians made statements of commitment to the establishment of highlife as a national art treasure and heritage, since the genre had been a useful tool for the promotion of Ghana’s culture and tradition through music since its origin.

“ If care is not taken there will be a time when we do not even have an identity when it comes to music.

“When you listen to Stonebwoy, he sings in Jamaican patois, and some of them even call themselves Dancehall Kings, but how can you be a king over a genre you are not an originator?” Blay Ambolley said in a submission.

Inauguration

The Highlife legends and other stakers launched their advocacy during the inauguration of a fan club, ‘Highlife is Alive Fan Club’ set up to promote and help develop the musical art form.
The fan club is also aimed at pushing for the progressive cause of Highlife.

Speaking at the inauguration of the club at Studio 1 of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) in Accra yesterday, its Chairman, Nii Ayi Krotia I, said every nation worth its name promoted, developed, advanced and preserved its great achievements, inventions and contributions, of which Highlife was key in that regard.

He said for over a century, Highlife had been Ghana’s identity so far as music and culture was concerned, for which reason it was important to find useful ways to ensure the continued development, advancement and promotion of the unique national art form.

“It is time, we believe, Highlife was recognised and instituted formally as a national art treasure and heritage,” he said.

The inauguration, done in full observance of the prescribed COVID-19 safety protocols, attracted people from all walks of life who love Highlife, including the members of the club.

Notable among them were a pioneer broadcaster, Mr Mike Eghan; the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Graphic Commuunications Group Limited, Prof. Kwame Karikari; a former Chairman of the National Film Authority, Mr David Dontoh; a former Chairman of the National Media Commission, Nana Gyan Appenteng I, as well as a number of iconic highlife musicians, including Asabea Cropper, Pat Thomas, A.B. Crentsil, Pozo Hayes, Bessa Simons, Naa Amanua of Wulomei fame and Ackah Blay.

Also present was one of the budding Highlife stars, Kumi Guitar.

Some of these Highlife stars gave short renditions of their popular songs, as they affirmed their commitment to the cause of the Highlife is Alive Fan Club.

The Kwan Pa Band dished out some favourite songs which got guests singing and dancing along.

International Highlife Festival

Nii Krotia also advocated the establishment of a yearly International Highlife Festival to consciously make the genre gain roots in other parts of the world to further help its development and preservation, as well as serve as a boost for the tourism industry.

He said the club was tabling some proposals to the government which, when implemented, would help preserve Highlife and make it a global identity for Ghana, just as other countries were easily identified by other genre of music.

“Honourable Minister, we members of the club humbly ask for a favour in moving this proposal forward. We request that you seek an appointment from Jubilee House and lead a delegation of our executive members to present in person to His Excellency the President our letter proposing this project for his attention and consideration. Knowing our President’s love for the arts, we are confident that he will give us a positive response,” he said.

Pioneers eulogised

In a keynote address, Ambolley applauded the creative minds of highlife pioneers such as E.T. Mensah, King Bruce, C.K. Mann, Jerry Hanson, among others, who championed the good cause of Highlife.

While tracing the history of the music form and how it had been prominent in selling Ghana’s image and culture to the world, he encouraged contemporary artistes to compose Highlife music, since they could not be the best representatives of the foreign music styles they were engaged in.

“The establishment of the Highlife is Alive Fan Club is very pertinent in these times when Highlife is struggling for survival, but we are confident that its advocacy programmes will yield positive results,” he said.

The Chairman for the occasion, Mr Eghan, lauded the consistent efforts of GBC over the years to promote and make Highlife a truly Ghanaian national art form.

The Director General of GBC, Professor Amin Alhassan, reiterated his outfit’s commitment to preserve Highlife, saying it was necessary for the institutionalisation of Highlife as a national icon.

“Through programmes such as Weekend Rendezvous, Highlife Time and Music 4 Your Dancing Feet, we have projected it and we are privileged to have this collaboration with the fan club to bring back the Highlife feel,” he said.

Objectives of Highlife Alive Fan Club

The Highlife Alive Fan Club is registered at the Registrar-General’s Department as a voluntary, non-profit organisation with the objective of creating a common platform for Highlife artistes and lovers, industry players and media personalities to deliberate on conducive means of preserving, developing and promoting Highlife music.

Its mission is to organise training in Highlife music for young and interested musicians and promote it as an international art form.