Ghana’s greatest hits • Top albums by Ghanaian artists
Soundtrack your time in Accra with essential Ghanaian listening – our pick of the best in highlife, hiplife, reggae and Ghanaian pop
Although keeping to the US hip hop formula, London-based Mr Max has packed a lot of influences into his polished debut album. Born Paapa Osei, the rapper first started freestyling over his dad’s highlife records. Safety First, recorded partly with hiplife heavyweight M3nsa, is his first solo outing, and very good it is too.
This sublime compilation of highlife music and Ghanaian blues from between 1968 and 1981 should be compulsory listening for anyone visiting the country. The two-CD package has a beautiful booklet giving information on each of the featured artists, including Ebo Taylor and the Uhuru Dance Band.
This collection of West African music in Britain from 1927 to 1929 is a remarkable heritage project. There are 23 tracks here, including numbers by early highlife masters like Ben Simmons and the Kumasi Trio, as well as blues chants and percussive songs from other parts of West Africa, recorded in EMI’s studio in Hayes. An essential introduction to African music.
Formed in London in 1969, Osibisa became one of the leading lights for Ghanaian music and the country itself. The band was made up of four Ghanaian and three Caribbean musicians and played an afro-beat pop that brought ‘world music’ to, well, the world. Far from traditional, they went on to produce highly danceable music and under various guises continue to produce ever more inventive music, but with an undeniably Ghanaian sound. They continue to tour almost constantly. They describe their sound as ‘criss cross rhythms that explode with happiness’ and listening to their music, it would be pretty hard to disagree.
Sounding unlike anything else, Wanlov’s latest album mixes his own take on West African music with Eastern European gypsy jazz. It’s a nod to Wanlov’s Romanian upbringing (his mother is Romanian) and executed with joy, verve and a wild imagination. It was recorded in Paris with the help of accordion player Jérôme Pierre Soulas and fiddle player Filippo Bonini Baraldi.
Unbelievably, 'No 1 Mango Street' is the first international release by M3NSA, but what an album. Rooted in hiplife, this album is full of summery good times tunes, including the joyful single No One Knows. Rhyming in Twi, Pidgin and English, the songs never forget Ghana, despite his transitory lifestyle crossing continents. Kubolor is one of several Ghanaian musicians appearing on the album.
Known as the ‘Godfather of Hiplife’, the British-born Accra-based rapper pioneered the hiplife movement. His time in the United States, exposed to the rap revolution in the 1980s and 1990s, influenced him. But on his return, he sought a middle ground between hip hop and highlife, English and his native Twi. He first began recording in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until the new century when his legacy was realised. His storytelling talent, using a modern slang and urban sounds, has made Reggie Rockstone one of Ghana’s most important cultural icons, and his fame only continues on the streets of Accra where his work can be constantly heard. Try Reggiestration.