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‘Everything felt new’: the cross-cultural joy of Ghana’s ‘burger highlife’ music

Political turbulence in 1980s Ghana drove musicians to Europe, where they created a glorious new style. Now working as London church ministers and more, the original stars look back In 1970s Ghana, nightlife was booming: live bands played James Brown, Kool and the Gang, Otis Redding and the Rolling Stones in packed dancehalls, and pop music from Europe and the US was dominating the radio. Traditional sounds were often sidelined as DJs turned to funk, soul, disco and rock – but these heady days didn’t last. Political turbulence stemming from a succession of coups and military dictatorships was soon to drive out many of the country’s most talented musicians. As the country headed towards an economic crisis in the 1980s, the government of Jerry Rawlings placed an embargo on live music and introduced a 160% import tax on musical instruments. “People who were making a living out of playing live music could no longer do it,” recalls Herman Asafo-Agyei, later the bassist of the bands Osibisa and Native Spirit. “So people fled.” Continue reading...

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