Giants of Danceband Highlife These sweet, toe-tapping time capsules prove that the brassy pop highlife music that erupted out of Ghana in the '50's did more than get an… Giants of Danceband Highlife These sweet, toe-tapping time capsules prove that the brassy pop highlife music that erupted out of Ghana in the '50's did more than get an… World
Music Review

Giants of Danceband Highlife (1991)

EW's GRADE
B+

Details Genre: World

These sweet, toe-tapping time capsules prove that the brassy pop highlife music that erupted out of Ghana in the '50's did more than get an audience to swing out on Saturday night; it also reclaimed a culture. Giants of Danceband Highlife shows how bandleader E.T. Mensah and his Tempos (and other groups that followed his lead) incorporated local rhythms and languages into imitations of Cuban-American big-band music being played by most West African groups; the results are a dated but addictive mix of Dixieland, cha-cha, and stunning ancestral cross-rhythms. All for You is all Mensah, offering the much-loved pioneer at his most disarming (including an instrumental version of the traditional ''John B. Calypso'' that predates the Beach Boys hit ''Sloop John B'' by more than a decade). By the late '60s the dance bands were gone, swept away in a tide of rock-oriented, guitar-band highlife. These albums are moving snapshots of a sound that at its worst was merely charming and at its best was as hot as the sun under which it was recorded. Danceband Highlife: B+ All For You: B

Originally posted Apr 12, 1991 Published in issue #61 Apr 12, 1991 Order article reprints
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