Highlife music is a popular genre in Ghana that originated in the early 20th century and has since evolved to incorporate different musical styles. Highlife music is known for its fusion of indigenous African rhythms and Western musical elements, such as jazz and swing.
Over the years, Ghanaian highlife musicians have made significant contributions to the development and popularization of the genre, creating a unique sound that is distinct to the country.
In this context, this topic explores the top 10 greatest Ghanaian highlife musicians of all time, their contributions to the genre, and their impact on the Ghanaian music industry.
10 greatest Ghanaian highlife musicians of all time
1. E.T. Mensah
Number one on our list is E.T. Mensah.
Real name: Emmanuel Tettey “E.T.” Mensah
Date Of Birth: 1919
Birth Place: Accra, Ghana.
Popular Hits: “All For You,” “Yebeye Ama Hemaa,” and “Ghana Freedom.”
Emmanuel Tettey Mensah was born in Accra, Ghana, and began his music career as a trumpeter in the Accra Orchestra before forming his own band, the Tempos, in 1946.
Mensah’s music was a fusion of traditional Ghanaian rhythms with Western jazz, swing, and other popular music styles. He developed a unique sound that was characterized by the use of horns, guitars, and percussion instruments, and his music became popular not only in Ghana but also in other African countries and in Europe.
Mensah’s career spanned several decades, and he released numerous albums and singles throughout his career. He was known for his energetic stage performances and was often referred to as the “King of Highlife” in Ghana.
Mensah’s contributions to highlife music have had a significant impact on the Ghanaian music industry and continue to influence Ghanaian musicians to this day.
2. Amakye Dede
Number two on our list is Amakye Dede.
Real name: Amakye Dede
Date Of Birth: January 5, 1958
Birth Place: Agogo, Ashanti Region, Ghana.
Popular Hits: “To be a Man Na War,” “Mensuro,” “Iron Boy,” “Handkerchief,” and “Dabi Dabi Ebeye Yie.”
Amakye Dede started his music career in the late 1970s as a member of the Kumapim Royals, a highlife band that was very popular in Ghana at the time. In 1986, he went solo and released his debut album, “Jealousy,” which was a huge commercial success and established him as a household name in Ghana.
Over the years, Amakye Dede has released several hit songs and albums, including “To be a Man Na War,” “Mensuro,” “Iron Boy,” “Handkerchief,” and “Dabi Dabi Ebeye Yie.” His music is known for its fusion of highlife, hiplife, and other Ghanaian rhythms, and his lyrics often address social issues such as love, relationships, and the challenges facing the youth.
He is also known as “Iron Boy” due to his energetic stage performances and his ability to sing for long hours without losing his voice.
He is considered a legend in Ghanaian music and has inspired many young musicians with his unique style and talent.
3. Pat Thomas
Number three on our list is Pat Thomas.
Real name: Pat Thomas
Date Of Birth: July 15, 1946
Birth Place: Agona, Ghana.
Popular Hits: “Sweeter Than Honey, Calypso ‘Mahuno’ and Highlife” and “Ebo Taylor & Pat Thomas.”
Pat Thomas is known for his soulful voice and his ability to blend highlife with other genres such as jazz, funk, and Afrobeat.
Pat Thomas started his music career in the 1960s as a member of the Broadway Dance Band, one of the most popular highlife bands in Ghana at the time. He went on to lead his own band, the Sweet Beans, in the 1970s and released several hit songs and albums, including “I Can Say,” “Gyae Su,” and “Mewo Akoma.”
In the 1980s, Pat Thomas moved to London and continued to record and perform music. He collaborated with several British and Ghanaian musicians, including E.T. Mensah, Tony Allen, and Fela Kuti. He also worked with the Ghanaian guitarist Ebo Taylor, and together they recorded several albums, including “Sweeter Than Honey, Calypso ‘Mahuno’ and Highlife” and “Ebo Taylor & Pat Thomas.”
Number four on our list is Osibisa.
Real name: Osibisa
Date Of Birth: 1969
Birth Place: London.
Popular Hits: “Woyaya” (1971), “Heads” (1972), and “Happy Children”
Osibisa is a Ghanaian Afro-rock band, formed in London in 1969 by four African and three Caribbean musicians. The band’s music is a fusion of African rhythms, rock, and jazz, with influences from Caribbean and Latin American music as well.
The band’s original members were Teddy Osei (saxophone, flute), Sol Amarfio (drums), Mac Tontoh (trumpet), Spartacus R (bass guitar), Robert Bailey (keyboard), Wendell Richardson (lead guitar), and Loughty Lasisi Amao (percussion). They gained a reputation for their high-energy live performances, colorful costumes, and the use of traditional African instruments such as the xylophone, kalimba, and the talking drum.
Osibisa’s self-titled debut album, released in 1971, was a critical and commercial success, reaching the top 10 in the UK album charts. They followed it up with several other albums, including “Woyaya” (1971), “Heads” (1972), and “Happy Children” (1973), which all received critical acclaim and helped establish the band as one of the pioneers of Afro-rock.
5. Daddy Lumba
Number five on our list is Daddy Lumba.
Real name: Charles Kwadwo Fosu
Date Of Birth: September 29, 1964
Birth Place: Nsuta, in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
Popular Hits: “Sika Asem,” “Obi Ate Meso Bo,” and “Mesom Jesus”
Daddy Lumba is one of the most popular and influential highlife musicians in Ghana, with a career spanning over three decades.
He started his music career in the early 1980s as a guitarist for the popular Ghanaian highlife musician, Nana Acheampong. He released his first solo album, “Yereye Aka Akwantuo Mu” in 1989, which was an instant hit and helped establish him as a solo artist.
He music is known for its catchy melodies, highlife rhythms, and socially conscious lyrics. He has released over 30 albums throughout his career and has won numerous awards for his music, including the Ghana Music Awards’ Artist of the Year award four times.
6. C.K. Mann
Number six on our list is C.K. Mann.
Real name: Charles Kofi Mann
Date Of Birth: 6th April 1936
Birth Place: Cape Coast, in the Central Region of Ghana.
Popular Hits: “Adwoa Yankey,” “Kokooko,” and “Mber Papa”
Kofi Mann, was a Ghanaian highlife musician, songwriter, and band leader. He was born on 6th April 1936 in Cape Coast, and passed away on 20th March 2018.
He started his music career in the 1950s as a drummer for various highlife bands in Ghana, including Moses Kweku Oppong’s Kakaiku Band and Jerry Hansen’s Ramblers Band. He founded the Carousel 7 in the 1960s, which went on to become one of Ghana’s most well-known highlife bands.
His music was known for its infectious rhythms, soulful vocals, and catchy melodies. His songs often dealt with social issues and everyday life in Ghana, and he was regarded as a cultural ambassador for his country.
7. Jewel Ackah
Number seven on our list is Jewel Ackah.
Real name: Jewel Ackah
Date Of Birth: April 29, 1945
Birth Place: Axim, in the Western Region of Ghana
Popular Hits: “Asomdwe Hene,” “Abena,” and “Mawuena”
Jewel Ackah was a Ghanaian highlife musician, songwriter, and composer. He was born on April 29, 1945, and passed away on April 27, 2018.
Jewel Ackah began his music career in the late 1960s as a guitarist for various highlife bands in Ghana. In the 1980s, he gained national and international recognition for his unique highlife compositions, which blended traditional Ghanaian rhythms with contemporary elements.
Jewel Ackah was known for his soulful voice and socially conscious lyrics, which often dealt with issues of love, politics, and social justice. He won numerous awards for his music, including the Ghana Music Awards’ Best Songwriter award in 1997
8. Nana Ampadu
Number eight on our list is Nana Ampadu.
Real name: Akwasi Amponsah
Date Of Birth: March 20, 1945
Birth Place: Asante Mampong, in the Ashanti Region of Ghana
Popular Hits: “Obra,” “Nkrabea,” and “Wote Akyi”
Daniel Akwasi Amponsah, started his music career in the 1960s as a guitarist and songwriter for various highlife bands in Ghana. In the 1970s, he formed his own band, the African Brothers Band, which became one of the most popular highlife bands in Ghana and beyond.
Nana Ampadu’s music is known for its catchy rhythms, clever wordplay, and social commentary. He has released over 100 albums throughout his career. He has received numerous awards and recognitions for his music, including the Order of the Volta, one of Ghana’s highest honors, and the Ghana Music Awards’ Lifetime Achievement award in 2008.
9. A.B. Crentsil
Number nine on our list is A.B. Crentsil.
Real name: Alfred Benjamin Crentsil
Date Of Birth: 1943
Birth Place: Prestea in the Western Region of Ghana
Popular Hits: “Me do fo pa,” “Adam and Eve,” and “Moses in Me”
Alfred Benjamin Crentsil is a Ghanaian musician known for his contribution to highlife music. He is a composer, singer, and guitarist and has been active in the music industry for over four decades. His music is characterized by his fusion of traditional highlife music with contemporary Ghanaian rhythms, reggae, and funk.
Crentsil began his music career in the 1970s, performing with the Sweet Talks, a popular highlife band at the time. He is considered one of the most influential and respected musicians in Ghanaian music history, and his contributions to the development of highlife music in Ghana have earned him international recognition and acclaim.
10. Kojo Antwi
Number ten on our list last but not the least is Kojo Antwi.
Real name: Kojo Antwi
Date Of Birth: July 22, 1954
Birth Place: Kumasi, Ghana
Popular Hits: “Tom & Jerry,” “Dadie Anoma,” and “Akuaba”
Antwi began his music career in the late 1970s as a member of the band Classique Vibes, and later formed the band Boomtalents. He rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s with his unique blend of highlife, reggae, and soul music, which he called “Borga Highlife.”
He has won multiple awards, including Ghana Music Awards for Best Male Vocalist and Best Album.
Antwi’s music is known for its romantic and socially conscious themes, and his smooth vocals and melodic sound have earned him a large and dedicated following in Ghana and across Africa.
He is regarded as one of the most influential and successful musicians in Ghanaian music history, and has been credited with popularizing highlife music across the continent.
From the iconic E.T. Mensah to the legendary Amakye Dede and the versatile Daddy Lumba, the top 10 greatest Ghana highlife musicians of all time have left an indelible mark on the music industry, not only in Ghana but also globally.
Their contribution to the development of highlife music in Ghana cannot be overstated, as they have inspired many upcoming musicians to follow in their footsteps. As such, it is only fitting that we celebrate their legacy and contribution to Ghanaian music.