From its infancy as music for the urban elites to its heyday as the soundtrack for the liberation movement in Ghana, highlife music has remained the bedrock of West African popular culture. This is the story of a genre that has survived through generations and different trends to retain its unique identity amidst a host of contemporary influences
Cameroon has produced some of Africa’s best-known musicians, from Manu Dibango to Richard Bona, Francis Bebey to Sam Fan Thomas. Today the country is bustling with fresh young talent which, influenced by global trends, are playing a mix of contemporary rhythms, from Soul to Rhythm and Blues, House to Jazz and Hip-hop. But the current crop of artists are having to do it all on their own with no professional organization, very few gigs and limited airplay on radio and TV.
Taarab may be the oldest surviving genre of East African music, but what was initially a form of entertainment for the elitist classes has, today, evolved into the popular commercial realm with a sound that is widely borrowed by pop and hip-hop artistes in the region.
Hundreds of recordings by an early generation of Kenyan musicians are currently being returned to the communities in which these songs were made in the 1950s by an English ethnomusicologist to stimulate interest in Kenya’s musical heritage
The 2010 constitution prevents foreigners from owning land in Kenya, but as Kenyans have come to find out implementing these provisions are complicated by the ambiguous nature of the law and deliberate moves by the landed class to frustrate the process.
If the State can no longer guarantee your safety and security, what do you do? Well, if you’re middle class and live in Kenya, you get yourself a gun.