The poetry of Ghanaian high life songs: a study of the wordtext

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It is axiomatic to say that African culture generally means a lot to Africans. As a Ghanaian scholar and, for that matter, an African scholar, I have reason to be involved in the promotion of African culture. I am, therefore, using literary theories to advance this cause. This work adds more value to contemporary Ghanaian culture by academically investigating Ghanaian contemporary music as an art piece in a class of its own. High life evolved from primary oral literature. It is, therefore, essentially a secondary oral literature. We have to look at the evolution of our culture from the primary oral literature to the present form (secondary oral literature). A study of this evolution will give us the opportunity to have a fair idea of the development of the oral literature of Ghana. It is time we Africans started to appreciate our own culture and tell stories about ourselves from our own perspectives. This would go a long way to help our culture and our mind to grow. Most African intellectuals speak about African culture using an academic, codified and pedantic language, and thus making it almost inaccessible to those outside the university walls. The high life musician, on the other hand, uses a plain and direct language and reaches out to almost every Ghanaian and this is why he deserves attention. Again, it must be emphasized that high life music is an art form Ghana has bequeathed to the whole of West Africa and everything must be done to protect its survival and to ensure its international promotion. This work sets out to do just that. We should remember that Shakespeare and many Western poets did not get the opportunity of university education but are considered as literary giants. This is because their works were documented. If we, Ghanaians, also document the works of our poets, regardless of their academic background, we will gain considerably in future. This work is divided into four chapters. The first chapter looks at the colonial high life songs along the lines of whether they are panegyric, lyric or elegiac. The second chapter investigates certain sociological details of Ghanaians, especially the Akans, by way of looking at the themes of Post—colonial high life music. This chapter also demonstrates that some of the songs are products of conscious composition. Chapter three is a study of “burger” high life and the various themes it presents. Prominent among these themes is the travel theme. The poets, through their music reveal the real situation of the Ghanaian immigrant by providing a description which is contrary to what Ghanaians expect. The fourth chapter examines “burger” high life to find out whether it is authentic or not. Finally, there is a conclusion in which the arguments are summed up and suggestions and recommendations are made.
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of the Degree of Master of Arts in Comparative Literature, 1998