Hiplife; the movement

by Nana Yaw Yeboah


Every generation there is a movement in music that has the power to change an entire culture, country and way of life.  Music has transformed our lives through jazz, funk, rock & roll, punk, disco, pop and hip-hop.  Music expresses the times and has even been seen as a resistance and sometimes a rebellion to the powers that be.  Music defines a country, a culture and a movement.  

Hiplife; The Movement is an exciting documentary film that covers the transformation of music in West Africa that was birthed in Ghana as a fusion of American hip-hop beats with Ghanaian highlife music.  It’s an artform that transformed how Ghanaian youth embraced modern break-beats with the traditional highlife music that had been popular for decades.

When Ghana became the first independent African state south of the Sahara, highlife became the music that represented that freedom of a new Africa. For decades highlife music was the soundtrack of Ghana.  It provided the soundtrack to Ghana’s independence and a level of optimism which informed a new nation.

Highlife music was like a sponge that soaked in many musical forms that it came into contact with. It took cues from different genres including reggae, jazz, and pop.  Highlife was reborn through a new generation when the Hiplife revolution began in the early 1990s. It was and still is a very exciting musical form that was quickly embraced by young people who revived old highlife music while creating an exciting new style that was filled with the powerful poetic elements of highlife.  The talking over records was living the artistry of the traditional linguist, the okyeames(Linguist), who spoke with poetic license and narrated the history and stories of Ghana that informed the politics and culture of the people.

This documentary is an interesting retrospective look at my experience with hiplife growing up as a kid in Ghana. Hiplife has existed for over 25 years and I want to journey back into time, reliving the moments, stories, events and talking to the people who contributed in various ways to the birth, nurture and growth of this form of music. The film will explore this with a comprehensive collection of interviews from former and current players in the industry. Now hiplife is internationally known, with artists now winning awards on international stages and they have collaborations with internationally acclaimed artists from the USA and other parts of the world.

As a filmmaker, telling this amazing story of the ingenuity of the Ghanaian to create and even more importantly to grow and sustain this form of music is important to me and answer questions I want to know the answers to. What did Hiplife bring to the people on an economic, social and psychological level? What are the benefits; tangible and intangible?  

Your generous contribution towards the production of this important and beautiful story of Ghanaian music will help us share this incredible story of Hiplife music with the world.