The poetry of Ghanaian hip-life music

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Ghanaians songs, like all other folk songs, must be studied in the broader context of culture. This is because the meaning of a song can be derived from the world view of those who create, perform and listen to it and from the function of the song in that culture. Hence, there must be a relation between the verbal content of the songs and other areas of the culture. In Ghana, there are songs for nearly every occasion or circumstance, including ceremonial and work songs, occupational songs, contest and victory songs sung by athletes, gospel music, highlife music and, currently, hip-life music. “Hip-life” is a term that does not yield itself to easy definition. This is because, Hip-life is not just music; it is a combination of music, body expression and manner of expression. At the musical level, Hip-life is a derivation from Highlife, Hip-hop and Rap. Hip-life emerged as a fusion of other forms of music at the close of the twentieth century. The form has features characteristic of the century. These are features which cannot be ignored because of the vehemence with which they attract attention to themselves, especially through the vehemence of expression, the extremity of the body language and of the “dress code” that cannot be derived from the music of high-life. Hip-life music was coined with the aim of familiarizing the people of Ghana with Hip-hop which was then the choice of the masses. In other words, it intended to use the local dialect to break the barriers for the youth that were into Hip-hop but could not understand English. Hip-life is therefore a fusion of the Hip-hop music of Europe and America and the Highlife music of Africa. It is worth nothing that Hip-life portrays both the culture of Africa and that of Europe and America. Hip-life musician always try to portray their culture by using codified and pedantic language (alliteration, imagery, rhythm, lyrics and so on) and reaching out to the youth and should be looked at critically. Again, the departure from the grand themes of highlife, which is at the base of Hip-life, to the banal themes of daily existence that have been a dominant feature of the twentieth century is so marked and so significant that it is worth studying. Such a study is expected to provide answers to such questions as: what gave rise to such a dramatic change or development? What is the new direction? What significant is that the western world witnessed this development more than half a century earlier. The radical changes of all the arts went on in Europe and America in the early twentieth century that is now referred to as “modernism” sported some salient characteristics that included the following: nothing can be taken for granted in the arts; our perception of reality is necessarily uncertain and provisional; the unparalleled complexity of modern urban life must be reflected in literary form; supposedly primitive myths can help us to grasp and order the chaos of contemporary experience; and so on. At the very surface, it appears that the paradigm shift which is similar to that which occurred in the early years of modernism in Europe and America is now occurring in Ghana in a form that may be quite different from how it manifested itself elsewhere. The objective of this study is to trace the genesis of Hip-life lyrics as well as determine what influences the traditional oral poetry, the contemporary written poetry of Ghana, Africa and foreign poetry, have had on form and content of Hip-life poetry. The significance of the study lies in the fact that it is a whole new way of life and being the dominant literary mouthpiece of this country, it is at least necessary to listen to what they are saying, why they are saying so, the way they are. Some Africans (Ghanaians) see it as a brother listen to Hip-life music because of the kind of language used, especially the choice of words. But Hip-life music, unlike Highlife, is a medium of expression that incorporates traditional folklore materials into a modern song form by including foreign elements. It fuses traditional Akan rhythms and melodies with European instrumentation and harmony, the reason being that Africans are products of the impact of foreign influences upon the society. Moreover, Hip-life is the dominant avenue through which much of the creative talents of the youth of Ghana today find their expression. This is an attempt analyse and place in the proper perspective the literary creativity of the times and thereby determine the direction of the creative expression of the youth. Much of this creativity is in the Avant Garde vein and this suggests a link with the Avant Garde in Europe and elsewhere. It is always important that society has an idea of the direction of it creative expression and this study is meant to fill a vacuum as it intended to supply new information on this trend and therefore, it is meant to add new knowledge to the existing stock. Different methods were employed in collecting data and the song. With the data collection, a face-to-face interview method was used to collate data on the evolution and future of Hip-life music from artistes, composers and studio engineers. The collection of the songs was two folds: transcription of the songs and some written songs at the cover of the albums. This study will have an introduction and four main chapters and a conclusion. Chapter one will trace the historical evolution of Hip-life music. Chapter two will focus on the thematic and stylistic elements of selected text of Hip-life music. Chapter three will discuss in detail the analyses of some selected text of Hip-life songs. The final part will study the influence, both thematic and stylistic, on Hip-life music by means of a comparative study of the poetry of Hip-life, and the conclusion will be a brief review of the work. It will also highlight the transformation the Hip-life undergone and the effect of Hip-life on the society.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Languages, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Arts degree in Comparative Literature