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West African Pop Roots

West African Pop Roots

John Collins
Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 382
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  • Book Info
    West African Pop Roots
    Book Description:

    "Collins-Lowry gives persuasive examples of how employment gains made by Blacks in the 80's were rather more marginalized than we like to think." --Publishers Weekly Against the backdrop of increasing ambivalence in the federal government commitment to race-based employment policies, this book reveals how African-Americans first broke into professional and managerial jobs in corporations during the sixties and offers in-depth profiles of their subsequent career experiences. Two sets of interviews with the most successful Black executives in Chicago's major corporations are used to demonstrate how the creation of the Black business elite is connected to federal government pressures and black social unrest that characterized the civil Rights movement in the sixties. Black Corporate Executives presents, first hand, the dilemmas and contradictions that face this first wave of Black managers and reveals a subtle new employment discrimination. Corporations hired these executives in response to race-conscious political pressures and shifted them into "racialized" positions directing affirmative action programs or serving "special" markets of minority clients, customers, or urban affairs. Many executives became, as one man said, "the head Black in charge of Black people." These positions gave upper-middle-class lifestyles to those who held them but also siphoned these executives out of mainstream paths to corporate power typically leading through planning and production areas. As the political climate has become more conservative and the economy undergoes restructuring, these Black executives believe that the importance of recruiting Blacks has waned and that the jobs Blacks hold are vulnerable. Collins-Lowry's analysis challenges arguments that justify dismantling affirmative action. She argues that it is a myth to believe that Black occupational attainments are evidence that race no longer matters in the middle-class employment arena. On the contrary, Blacks' progress and well-being are tied to politics and employment practices that are sensitive to race.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0497-8
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    West African Pop Rootsis the extraordinary and intimate story of the hidden roots of Africa’s popular music It traces the life and messages of Africa’s body music—body music transported across the Atlantic to the New World, where It was transposed into myriads of time- and mind-bending styles These styles reflect lifestyles generated from a common heritage, all pointing back to African roots

    This creative explosion crossed back to Africa, exposing Africans and blacks of the diaspora alike to a multitude of creative sources, from which new syntheses emerged Cross-over music from Africa and the diaspora has spread to...

  4. Section One Roots

    • 1 Traditional Cool and Hot Rhythms: African Music in the Space Age
      (pp. 1-16)

      In spite of slavery and colonialism, African dance music has spread to every corner of the world and is flourishing back home. What is so special about it? Where does it get its power and popularity?

      First and foremost, music in Africa is for everyone and for every occasion It is truly folk music, played by and for the people.

      Wherever you go in Africa, people play music and dance—from tiny tots to cool and collected elders There is music for all occasions—a woman pounding yams, a typist putting rhythm into the machine, a carpenter embellishing his hammering,...

    • 2 First Fusions—Orchestras and Brass-Bands: E. T. Mensah, the King of Highlife, and King Bruce
      (pp. 17-31)

      Traditional African music is flexible and ever-changing. There have been cross-overs and feedback, Western influences on African music and African influences on Western music

      Modernised traditional music and dance-styles that developed along the West African coast in the nineteenth century demonstrate the subtlety of the interaction between black and white music—styles such as gome (or goombay), ashiko (or asiko), timo, and osibisaaba rhythms that later were incorporated into highlife and juju music

      Even though no European instruments were used in these first fusions, the songs were sung in hymn-type harmonies European carpentry techniques were used for the construction of...

    • 3 Palm-Wine and Guitars: “Sam” (Kwame Asare), Kwaa Mensah, and E. K. Nyame
      (pp. 32-41)

      In spite of their prestigious beginnings, the large dance-bands and brass-bands have all but died out, and almost everywhere in Africa it is the up-dated palm-wine music that dominates the local music scene This is in spite of the fact that palm-wine music emerged from low-class seaport dives and palm-wine bars In fact the guitar became so closely associated with this African beer, brewed naturally from the palm-tree, that anyone playing the guitar was considered to be a drunken rascal

      Where sea shanties met African music, palm-wine music was born The lineup was a combination of local African instruments and...

    • 4 The Man Who Made a “Traditional” Music Called Kpanlogo
      (pp. 42-46)

      In Africa the sharp distinctions and boundaries between folk and classical music, traditional and modern that Westerners have created do not apply For African traditional music was and is constantly being created and re-created, both affecting the growth of popular music-styles and in turn being affected by them This chapter, by focusing on one particular Ghanaian dance craze of the 1960s, the kpanlogo, will highlight this complex and dynamic situation in the African music scene

      Just as Europe has its anonymous folk music (the famous and prolific “anon”), so too in Ghana and other African countries there is a vast...

  5. Section Two Feedback

    • 5 Ragtime to Rumba
      (pp. 49-52)

      Since the end of the nineteenth century, black music has been prominent in the international arena—from ragtime to rumba and jazz, right up to today’s black and white fusions Dance music and drama originally from Africa were adapted to the New World, creating an enormous impact there and feeding back into the mainstream of music in Africa itself This double transformation, brought about by leaving and returning home, has created a truly international music-style in Africa, and yet one that is doubly African

      This black feedback extends far beyond the musical realm Freed black slaves from the Americas actually...

    • 6 Jazz Comes Home to Africa
      (pp. 53-57)

      The ragtime and minstrelsy craze in Africa was followed by Dixieland jazz, which became especially popular in South Africa during the 1920s. Many local Dixie bands were formed there, like the Dark Town Strutters and the Big Four of Johannesburg

      In Ghana, too, Dixieland became part of the repertoire of 1920s bands such as the Jazz Kings of Accra But it wasn’t until the 1950s that the king of Dixieland jazz, Louis Armstrong, played live in Africa

      It all started with Ed Murrow of the Columbia Broadcasting System He had made a film on Africa in 1955, calledSee It...

    • 7 Soul to Soul
      (pp. 58-66)

      In the early 1960s the international pop revolution reached Africa in the form of rock and roll, a commercialised version of rhythm and blues, a music created In the 1940s by American blacks who had migrated to the cities

      Not surprisingly, rock and roll, even though mainly played by white musicians, struck a vibration with African youth, who started to play the music of Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, and Cliff Richard One of the first African pop-bands was the Heartbeats of Sierra Leone, formed In 1961 by Geraldo Pino This band was to change the face of the music scene...

  6. Section Three Today’s Sounds and Personalities

    • 8 Fela and the Afro-Beat Revolution
      (pp. 69-84)

      The most spectacular musical figure to come out of Africa in the 1970s was Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, creator of Afro-beat—a fusion of jazz, soul, and West African highlife music. His new beat is pounding out everywhere in Africa, and is even catching on in the West. His blunt antiestablishment lyrics have made him the Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger of Africa.

      Everywhere he goes, people stop what they are doing, shout his name, and give him the Black Power salute Once, at the Surulere football stadium in Lagos, he received an overwhelming ovation, greater even than the head of state...

    • 9 The Juju Boom
      (pp. 85-93)

      If it’s slow, spacey music you like, then modern Nigerian juju music is for you Juju is a more relaxed guitar-band dance music than highlife It comes from western Nigeria, where it grew out of a fusion of local Yoruba music and highlife, like gombe, konkomba, and ashiko—a fusion that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s with juju pioneers like mandolin player Tunde King, banjoist Ojoge Daniels, and guitarist Ayinde Bakare

      In the 1950s the most popular exponents of Yoruba guitar-band music were the Blue Spots, whose leader, I K. Dairo, electrified juju music and recorded literally hundreds of...

    • 10 Osibisa’s Criss-Cross Rhythms
      (pp. 94-100)

      Rock music, from Elvis to the Beatles, became popular with the youth of Africa during the 1960s, and the rock craze was followed by the progressive rock of Santana, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly and the Family Stone

      At first, young African musicians simply copied rock and pop music, but later, especially with the influx of progressive rock, they began to experiment and fuse their local music with rock This is no surprise because, after all, rock and roll is based on black American rhythm and blues, the city version of the even earlier blues, hollas, and work-songs of the...

    • 11 Afro-Rock Catches On
      (pp. 101-111)

      Osibisa isn’t the only group to have influenced the growth of rock in Africa in Nigeria another stimulus in this direction has come from British drummer Ginger Baker, who played with two of Britain’s top rock bands of the 1960s, Cream and Blind Faith.

      In 1970 Ginger, by then running a band called Airforce, visited Nigeria He traveled via Ghana, where he stayed for a time with famous Ghanaian Afro-jazz drummer Guy Warren (Kofi Ghanaba) In Nigeria Ginger was given a big welcome by Afro-beat king Fela, and they jammed together at the Afro-spot Also playing was one of Nigeria’s...

    • 12 Afro-Disco
      (pp. 112-121)

      The disco dance craze and the maxi single burst into the mid-1970s at a time when pop fans in the West had stopped dancing and were sitting, listening in stoned-out passivity to the psychedelic music of rock superstars It was the cross-rhythms of Osibisa that first got them on their feet, until this band’s natural rhythms were eclipsed by black American soul and funk, mechanised into disco by German musicians-cum-computer-operators like Kraftwerk. A similar German band, Munich Machine, backed Donna Summers at exactly 154 beats per minute Boney M also first hit the jackpot in Germany

      This German man-machine fusion...

    • 13 Victor Uwaifo, the Guitar Boy
      (pp. 122-127)

      Victor Uwaifo is one of the most dynamic of Africa’s modern musicians He has released over one hundred singles and a dozen albums since he formed his Melody Maestros in 1965 His music has a driving beat based on the local folk music from the Bendel State of Nigeria, merged with a modern touch

      It all started in 1966 when he and his band released three smash hits on the Phonogram label. These singles were “Sirri-Sirri,” “Joromi,” and “Guitar-boy.” “Joromi,” based on the story of a legendary hero of Benin City, was so popular that it earned Uwaifo Africa’s first...

    • 14 The Drums of Kofi Ayivor
      (pp. 128-133)

      For the last twenty-five years Kofi Ayivor’s drumming has been heard all over the world, even in the Arctic Circle Kofi has backed many top musicians and groups such as E. T Mensah, Miles Davis, Eddy Grant, Alexis Korner, Osibisa, and even a Turkish band In fact, Kofi is so well traveled that he has fifteen passports He presently lives in The Netherlands with his Surinamese wife, where he teaches drum and runs his own record company, Ivory Records

      But let’s go back to the start of Kofi’s chequered musical career One of Kofi’s parents was Ghanaian, the other Togolese,...

    • 15 The Afro-Reggae of Sonny Okosun and Alpha Blondy
      (pp. 134-142)

      One of the most successful African sounds is that of Sonny Okosun from Nigeria. Sonny has pounded out a series of distinctive styles, a blend of the local roots music of the Bendel State and Western rock and reggae

      His first sound, which came off the production line in the early 1970s, was the ozzidi beat, in which he combined the highlife music of his hometown of Benin City with a touch of Santana-like guitar. Then, from 1977, he began releasing his Afro-reggae hits and then his own special type of disco music his music is now heard all over...

    • 16 Guitar-Band Explosion: Highlife, Maringa, and Makossa
      (pp. 143-157)

      Everywhere in West Africa people are dancing to highlife music, a close cousin of West Indian calypso If not highlife, then they’re grooving to dance-styles related to or derived from it, like juju music, Afro-beat, and kpanlogo

      The name “highlife” was coined in the 1920s when local African melodies were first orchestrated by brass-bands and stylish black dance orchestras Later on it was “jazzed up” by famous Ghanaian trumpeter E T. Mensah, the “King of Highlife,” whose Tempos band spread this music around West Africa in the 1950s But even though highlife started off in the coastal towns, it soon...

    • 17 “F” Promotions Ghana’s Melting Pot
      (pp. 158-166)

      One of the main catalysts in the Ghanaian music scene has been impressario and producer Faisal Helwani His Napoleon night-club in Accra has been a central melting pot for musical talent from home and abroad, and from there a stream of top bands has moved into the international field

      Faisal was born in Sekondi in 1946. He has been fascinated by music ever since he launched his “F” Promotions in 1964, when he began organising student pop competitions or “opo chains” In 1968 he formed his first group, the El Sombraros, led by Alfred Bannerman and Johnny Acheampong, and started...

    • 18 Life on the Road: Modern African Minstrels, the Jaguar Jokers
      (pp. 167-181)

      Drama in Africa is associated with music, dance, and works of art Together they form a holistic art crucial to society, cementing it together, lampooning it, and accommodating social change through a fusion of creative energy and social process. For example, there are the traditional roving minstrels and troubadors of West Africa, who are historians, praise singers, and entertainers Then there are the masquerades found throughout the continent and even in the New World, such as the masked Jamaican carnival and the mardi gras The Ashantis of Ghana also have their dramatised Ananse stories—satirical morality tales that have found...

    • 19 The African–French Connection
      (pp. 182-193)

      Before the emergence of congo music in the 1950s, the French-speaking countries had no modern AFrican dance music There was plenty of traditional music and imported French music, but the two never influenced each other. The French colonial policy was to keep the indigenous and French cultures separate This is the exact opposite to the British attitude, which encouraged a more flexible approach to the mixing of cultures This is probably why highlife and juju music appeared so much earlier than congo music, which only exploded onto the African continent in the 1960s

      E. T Mensah, the famous Ghanaian “King...

    • 20 Pushed Out by Apartheid
      (pp. 194-202)

      Although thousands of miles separate West Africa from southern Africa musical influences easily span such distances Since the late 1940s beginning with South African penny-whistle kwela music and the kwelalike “tsaba tsaba” guitar music of George Sibanda from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe musicians and music forms have come to West Africa from regions to the South Some South African artists have toured West Africa, such as Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, and Hugh Masekela, who worked in Ghana during 1974.

      The South African music scene is quite different from that of the rest of Africa The local black music (township jazz and...

    • 21 The Liberian Pop Scene
      (pp. 203-208)

      In September 1984 I spent several weeks in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, as the guest of Ghanaian producer Faisal Helwani, who had just set up the country’s first multitrack recording studio He wanted me to do some interviews and publicity on some of the thirty-six artists he had recorded there in the space of ten months So I flew from Ghana to Liberia with Faisal and his graphic designer Sammy (Slim) Bentil (whom I had once been in an Achimota school band with) We landed in a typical Liberian rainstorm (everyone carried umbrellas there) and headed for Faisal’s eight-track...

    • 22 Francophone West Africa and the Jali Experience
      (pp. 209-244)
      Flemming Harrev

      On a night in 1983, it’s almost 11 pm when I arrive at Dakar’s marina. Outside are several hundred bystanders Sold out? Is it too late?

      I make my way to the small lattice gate leading into the courtyard behind the wall People, mostly boys and young men, are drifting around outside I pay 3,000 francs CFA (U S $12) for my ticket, slip through the gate, and pass two guards in uniforms who close quickly behind me For the people in the street, it crosses my mind, the entrance fee must equal several days’ wages They can’t afford a...

  7. Section Four Music Business

    • 23 The African Recording Industry
      (pp. 247-255)

      The African record business goes all the way back to 1907, when records were first sold in South Africa at two shillings each. The main companies were the French-owned Pathe and British-owned Zonophone. By 1914, one hundred thousand records a year were being sold there

      In the 1920s, other foreign companies came onto the scene His Master’s Voice (HMV), for instance, sold over one million records in South Africa in 1927 HMV started recording “native” songs at about the same time as Zonophone and Brunswick

      During the 1930s, black South AFrican close-harmony and ragtime groups modeled on Afro-American groups became...

    • 24 African Music Unions
      (pp. 256-261)

      There are no musicians’ unions in South or East Africa, but in the West African countries of Ghana and Nigeria, there has been a series of unions since the 1950s

      The first was the Association of Gold Coast Musicians, set up in Ghana in the mid-1950s This was short-lived and was followed in 1961 by the Ghana Musicians’ Union At this time, the socialist government of Doctor Nkrumah was encouraging unionisation Government ministers Techie-Menson and E. K. Dadson were actually involved in the launching of the Musicians’ Union E KDadson had been the lady impersonator and singer for the famous...

    • 25 Running a Band and a Music Studio in Ghana
      (pp. 262-282)

      After working sporadically for several years with the Jaguar Jokers and jamming with Sammy (Slim) Bentil, Andy Quist, and Glen Warren (son of Ghanaba) in an Achimota school band, I began running my own band in 1971. It was called Bokoor (the Spirit of Coolness) and I ran it together with Robert Beckley, a Ghanaian, and Peter Wilks, an English friend, when I was in my second and third years at Legon University. We were the second band of the famous Uhurus (Freedom) dance-band of Ghana and played everything from Hendrix and Santana to highlifes The band finally folded when...

  8. Section Five Cross-Overs

    • 26 Africa Goes West
      (pp. 285-286)

      Most people know that jazz, blues, and Latin-American music partly came from Africa, but do not realise that these dance-styles were not only taken back to Africa, where they became incorporated into the local music, but that these local fusions then crossed back over the Atlantic

      There are many early examples of these cross-overs of modern African music and its musicians For instance, the Gold Coast Police Band introduced live highlife music to England in the late 1930s at the coronation of King George VI Then, in the 1940s and 1950s, African musicians played with top American and British dance-bands...

    • 27 The Original African Cross-Overs: Ghanaba and Kwesi Asare
      (pp. 287-297)

      One of the earliest and most famous of the cross-over musicians is Ghanaian ace drummer Guy Warren, or Kofi Ghanaba as he is now called In his early days he was influenced by jazz and took his Afro-jazz fusions to America in the 1950s, where they caught on with black Americans He met and played with most of the top black jazz musicians in the States and influenced them to turn back to their African roots

      I first met Ghanaba in 1974 at his palatial home built from the royalties from his record releases. Being in advance of his times...

    • 28 Roots, Rasta, Reggae: Stepping-Stones back to Africa
      (pp. 298-304)

      In the West, “progress” is no longer taken for granted On the ond hand, it is no longer automatic because of limited resources and the claims of the underdeveloped world to basic human rights and to a fair division of the world’s resources On the other hand, the negative effects of progress through overmechanisation cannot be turned off These negative effects include technological determinism, squandering of resources, industrial serfdom, and redundancy This has led to a basic questioning of the tenets of technological civilisation and a reevaluation of cultural traditions An example of this quest is the immense success of...

    • 29 Africa and New Wave
      (pp. 305-307)

      New wave and punk music have turned toward Africa for inspiration Perhaps the West has run out of ideas or wants to get back to a balanced body music again Maybe it is just the general disillusionment with Western civilisation’s unemployment, pollution, the arms race, and creative disintegration

      New wave and punk originally emerged in the mid-1970s as a reaction to the optimism of 1960s rock, with its gurus, superstars, and stoned-out, passive audiences.

      Punk brought this rarefied music down to earth, and got the fans on their feet, dancing to live and immediate music They did this by getting...

    • 30 Black and White
      (pp. 308-330)

      So much has been happening recently in the African music scene of Europe and America that I will finish off this musical cross-over section of the book with a brief look at the African music bands in the West, country by country Some are composed solely of Africans, some are mixed and a few are completely white

      Britain is a major focus for African music at the moment, especially since the World Festival of Music and Dance (WOMAD), held in 1982 at Shepton Mallet in the west of England, at which many African and Afro bands played, like the Konte...

  9. About the Author
    (pp. 331-332)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 333-334)
  11. Index
    (pp. 335-350)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 351-351)