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Prof. Jesse Shipley on HipLife

To follow up on Helen’s post, here’s a great Afropop interview with HC Prof. Jesse Shipley on hiplife music, conducted by Siddhartha Mitter. Jesse will be moderating the GMGE panel with the artists on Thursday evening. (Where & when? Haverford’s Sharpless Auditorium, Q&A following the screening of HomeGrown: HipLife in Ghana at 7 pm.) Jesse is the director the film Living the HipLife (2007), a musical portrait of street life in urban West Africa, following the birth of HipLife music in Accra, Ghana.

Jesse says:

“On the most basic level I would say hiplife is a combination of rap music with direct African American influences in Africa, and all the complex diasporic implications of that, and highlife music, which is popular music which itself has multiple kinds of music, but is popular music in Accra, which has been popular since the early 20th century. And hiplife really brings those two together. Though within those two kinds of musical forms, there’s multiple kinds of influences that go into hiplife music. So to say that hiplife is just those two together isn’t really recognizing the complexity of it.

Reggie Rockstone, "Godfather of HipLife Music," on his album 'Me Ka' ('I Will Say') (2000)

“Hiplife is something that’s been defined in multiple ways by different people in Ghana. It represents a kind of youth cultural movement. Hiplife actually has a slightly contested origin, in the sense that several different people claim to have used the term at different times. Reggie Rockstone uses the word hiplife in one of his early tracks, where he says ‘Let’s do it for the hiplife.’ Another early artist, Panji, who runs Pidgin Music also used hiplife in an early interview. And both of them used it in this early moment to coin this term for a music which didn’t have a definition because they were combining rap, hiphop and highlife music in new creative ways. They were trying to define this youth culture.”

The whole interview is worth a read. Jesse dips into the history of highlife, elite origins of hiplife, aspects of youth rebellion, roles of women, and modern-day directions of the musical movement. Check V.I.P in the article photos, on the right side second down.


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