Home of the Brave

Westernizing Anglophone West Africa

Electric highlifer Anthony Scorpion
photo: John Collins and Naxos World
Electric highlifer Anthony Scorpion

Pinning down their pleasures, I find myself tripping over the word "charming," a concept that always raises the red flag of exoticism. But when I examine it more closely the charm feels more like spiritual awe. When Collins founded Bokoor Studios in 1982, Ghana had an inflation rate of 100 percent under the second tyranny of Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings. How did F. Kenya manage to yoke pain and ebullience describing his family problems under such circumstances? Where did the Black Beats find the perky melody that subsumes their alarm at the irresponsible young, and why did they set one to the other? Why did they stay with old-fashioned highlife at all, sticking guitars where the horns used to be? Something about a style that still synthesized the time-honored and the modern, I guess. Something about making the best of what small choice you have. Not designed to change the world. But custom-made to help any human being live in it.

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