Guitar-bands – Ghana Post Independence

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The end of the Second World War brought a dramatic change in the lifestyles of Ghanaians. Most Ghanaians had achieved various levels of education, formal education and training. Included in these classes were the war veterans, civil service personnel, and employees in the private business sector.

The 1950’s, 60’s and the 70’s also sensitized the continent of Africa for freedom from colonial rule. Great names like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, to name but a few, emerged. It was a time that cried out for change.

The stage was also set on the music scene for experimentation between the traditional songs and rhythms with modern instruments, which included the introduction of the spanish guitar. Its attendant dance was a mixture of the African religious and recreational dances and the introduction of foreign dance steps such as the Cha-Cha-Cha, the Watusi, Calypso, Soul and Reggae. In Ghana the highlife music also went through many experimentation with the blending of foreign electronic sounds, lyrics and non-computerized sounds. Not only did the urban centres become immersed in this new trend of modernity in the ballrooms, hotels, bars and night-clubs, but the villages also experienced this wave of change of modern social life. Some pioneers of this change were E.T. Mensah, King Bruce, etc. In theatre, satirical concert shows were performed on political themes, Ananse or Spider stories as well as social events. The Axim Trio, Kakaiku’s band, E.K’S and Onyina’s Guitar Bands were forerunners of this popular folk concerts.

Most of the big band highlife groups of the 1950’s and 60’s such as the Stargazers, E.T. Mensah and his Tempos Band, that used western musical instruments evolved out of the dance orchestras, a product of the Second World War. Before then small swing bands were established to cater for foreign servicemen and composed of white musicians as well as Gold Coasters (Ghanaians since 1957) recruited from the local dance orchestras. E.T. Mensah belonged to the Tempos Band, which was totally African after the foreign soldiers were demobilized and had left to their various countries. E.T. Mensah became the leader. His Trumpet fusion of swing, calypso and Afro-Cuban music with the highlife became so successful that the Tempos Band became the prototype for numerous West African Highlife Dance Bands. These included the Red Spots, The Black Beats, Ramblers, Stargazers, Broadway and the Uhuru dance bands to name but a few.

Source : fondation-langlois.org

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