One of the cardinal sins of the music industry and its issue of over saturation of music is that, many good songs by young, unpopular artists get lost in the maze. If you are lucky or belong to the group of music diggers who don’t consume most of what mainstream radio serves, you are bound to find some of these gems. It was through such means- and good friends- that I heard ‘’ChoCho Mucho’’ by Bless before it took a life of its own.
Yesterday, a colleague played me a song from an artist whose name I was hearing for the first time. Kyei Nwom is his name. His song is titled ‘’Damebi’’. A quick google check indicated the song was released in May, 2018. Kyei was once a contestant on MTN Hitz Maker Season 5. The YouTube views of ‘’Damebi’’ is a around 5K considering the video was uploaded in June of 2018.
All these are unsurprising considering who he is – a young musician who has not gotten the needed finances to promote his song; the bane of many young acts despite their talents. Inadequate finances – or lack of it in most situations mean artists like Kyei Nwom put out songs hoping it would blow up. Or use friends as vessels to spread their works across various social media platforms.
I’ve been thinking about how artists could help offer highlife a new feel by fusing it with some of today’s emerging sub-genres. The recent popularity of afrobeats has seen artists incorporating elements of highlife into their compositions, usually through the use of interpolations, vocal or beat sampling. The effect is a hotchpotch of sounds. While some are able to craft interesting songs around these old samples to great effect, others just throw in these nostalgic and vintage tunes just to sell records.
The employment of nostalgia has become the currency with which some artists are selling their product, even when their creations make you cringe.
The afrobeats renaissance coupled with the emergence of afro-dancehall genres has, for lack of a better word, revived a ‘dying’ genre called highlife. (One reason identified as contributing to the ‘death’ of highlife was its poor economic returns that accrue to the artists, a reason why young acts ventured into hip hop or dancehall and not nightlife).