New York University today announced that it will coordinate a two-day celebration of African “highlife music,” a music and dance style that is very popular across West Africa. The event is being held in collaboration with HERITAGE Development, Ghana’s National Commission on Culture, the National Theatre of Ghana, and the Musicians Union of Ghana. The event - which will be held at the National Theatre Ghana - will feature a two-day conference on November 26th and 27th on the impact and relevance of Ghanaian highlife music, and a concert on the evening of the 26th.

The event is being coordinated through the University’s “NYU in Ghana” center in Accra, which opened in August 2004 with 25 NYU students.

Professor Awam Amkpa, an NYU faculty member in the “NYU in Ghana” program and the event’s principal organizer, said, “‘Highlife music,’ which originated in Ghana and Nigeria, ruled dance floors across West Africa in the middle of the last century. It combined African and Western instruments and sounds to create a sound that was new, but distinctively African. Yet for all its sophistication and popularity here, it remains largely unrecognized in the West. This conference, the first on a style of popular music embraced by millions at one time, is an important step in according this music the recognition it deserves.

“At the same time, this is an essential part of NYU’s work archiving vital cultural resources across Africa. By bringing together scholars and artists of ‘highlife music’, we will be able to capture a wealth of material on the art form.”

The conference will feature scholars from the University of Ghana, NYU, and other academic institutions and organizations and examine such issues as the way the entertainment industry handled the development of this musical form, its impact and significance, and how national heritage, identity, and tradition relate to the development of “highlife music.” The concert, on the evening of November 26th, will bring together master “highlife music” artists to perform, and will also feature “hiplife” artists, whose music evolved from “highlife.”

Featured artists will include:

  • Ramblers International Band
  • Mac Tontoh
  • Gyedu Blay Ambolley
  • Tagoe Sisters
  • K. K. Kabobo
  • George Darko

Additional co-sponsors of the event include the University of Ghana Legon’s Department of Music in its School of the Performing Arts, JOY FM, the African Heritage Library, and the BAPMAF African Popular Music Archives.

New York University, the nation’s largest private university, is an internationally prominent research university. Each year, more students from NYU - which has dedicated sites in London, Paris, Madrid, Florence, Prague, and Accra, Ghana - study abroad than from any other U.S. college or university. The “NYU in Ghana” program opened this fall; some 50 students per year travel to Ghana for a semester of study.

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