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John Collins Paper read at 19th International Biennial Conference of the African Studies Association of Germany (VAD) on Africa in Context: Historical and Contemporary Interactions with the World. Held at the University of Hannover, Germany 2-5th June 2004. Published on the VAD website,, (ed) Verena Uka, University of Hannover, Department of History, Germany, 2004.

In this presentation I will look at the enormous impact that the popular performance and entertainment of the Black Americas has had on Africa over the last two centuries or so. Due to time constraints I will focus on just three Anglophone West African countries: namely Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone Most are already aware of the effect of the music and dance of African slaves and their descendents on the popular music idioms of the America in the 19th and 20th centuries: minstrelsy, ragtime, jazz, blues and soul music of the United States; calypsos, meringues, rumbas and zouk of the Caribbean and the samba of Brazil. However this talk will concentrate the movement of this black performance styles across the Atlantic and back to Africa – constituting what might be considered the completion of a TransAtlantic black performance feedback cycle. The audience is probably be familiar with relatively recent examples of this return or ‘homecoming’ of the performing arts of the Black Diaspora to Africa. For instance the impact of soul music and rock (based on African American rhythm ‘n’ blues) in the 1970’s on Nigerian Afro-beat (pioneered by Fela Kuti) and Afro-rock (pioneered by the Ghanaian band Osibisa). Or more recently the influence of Bob Marley and reggae on Alpha Blondy of the Cote d’Ivoire, Kojo Antwi of Ghana, Majek Fashek of Nigeria or Lucky Dube of South Africa. And even more recently has come African variants of American disco-music, rap and hip-hop – such as the ‘burger’1 highlife and local rap or ‘hiplife’ of Ghana. However in this presentation I want to push the story of this homecoming of black American popular performance to Africa much further back in time - and I will do this by working backwards from the 1940’s and 50’s . ONE : THE IMPACT OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR – SWING, CALYPSOS AFROCUBAN PERCUSSION & LOUIS ARMSTRONG During the Second World War Anglophone West African music was greatly influenced by wartime swing style of jazz music followed by Calypsos (especially after the Andrew Sisters ‘Rum and Coca Cola’ record hit) and Afro-Cuban music and instruments. Particularly important was the fact the American and British soldiers were stationed in these countries. In Ghana these foreign servicemen made on impact on both the music and night-life. the E.T. Mensah, the leader of the most important of the post-war highlife dance band, the Tempos, refers to a Scottish Sergeant Leopard, who had been a professional dance-band saxophonist in Britain. In the 1940 Leopard formed a band in Accra called the Black and White Spots that consisted of foreign service-men and some local musicians, including Mensah. It was the American soldiers (who began coming to Ghana in 1942 (after Pearl Harbour), who particularly stimulated the growth of local drinking spots in Accra such as the Weekend-in-Havana. California and Kalamazoo where jazz and swing records were played. Besides the Black and White spots another wartime, band was the `Firework Four' composed of four Ghanaians that included the drummer Kofi Ghanaba (then called Guy Warren) and saxophonist Joe Kelly. However the most important of these wartime swing-jazz bands was the he Tempos band founded in 1940 by the Ghanaian pianist Adolf Doku and an English engineer and saxophonist Arthur Harriman, who recruited two members of the armed forces stationed in Accra and later joined he Ghanaian musicians

This was a cross between disco-music and highlife created in the 1980’s by Ghanaians living in Germany and particularly Hamburg (thus ‘burger’)


Armstrong. Armstrong recognised the melody as a turn-of-the-century Creole song from Louisiana. the Harlem Dynamites. the Delux Swing Orchestra and other swing dance-bands were established in the city.C.T. Mensah. Rakers. There was a controversy at the time as to whether this song was an American one brought by African-Americans. the Cuban Swing Band and Melody Swingers were set up in Freetown. After the war and with the departure of white army personnel the Tempos became totally Ghanaian. Not surprisingly the group added highlifes to its repertoire. This demonstrates the close and early musical contact between three black cultures. In addition by the late 1940's records calypsos also became popular in the country. Nyame’s group) which began to utilize dance band instruments (trap-drums. Ghana.MINSTESLSY AND RAGTIME 2 . However. double-bass and guitar. the Tempos became the most successful West African dance-band of the 1950's and its small swing combo line-up of alto and tenor saxophones. those of the Southern United States. Edmund Hall.T.T. rumbas into their repertoires. In fact the melody of `All For You' is also identical to that of the Trinidadian calypso `Sly Mongoose' which. British and Americans servicemen stationed in Nigeria interacted with the local musicians in Lagos and According to Waterman (1986) it was during this time that the Eastern Progressive Swing Band. Stargazers. both introduced to the Tempos by Kofi Ghanaba who spent some time in London in the late 1940’s as bongos player for Kenny Graham's Afro-Cubists (modelled on Stan Kenton's band) and also as the compère of a BBC radio calypso program. Togo. as did its audience. Bobby Benson and other Nigerian dance-band leaders (Rex Lawson. On the 1956 trip Armstrong met Prime Minister Nkrumah. These urban dance bands also influenced the low status highlife guitar bands of the period (most important being E. During the 1950's and early 60's another wave of jazz that made an impact on Africa was the `Dixieland' style of Louis Armstrong who with made two African trips in 1956 and again in 1960/61. calypsos. and `big bands' like the Mayfair Jazz Band. When Armstrong. bongos and double-bass) and incorporated swing.T. Zaire. Mensah's Paramount Nightclub in Accra. The Black Beats was another important highlife dance band influenced by the Tempos. provided by the local bands of Tejan Sie. became the model for many other Ghanaian bands: the Rhythm Aces.E. As in Ghana. Arinze. first recorded in the 1920’s by Lionel Belasco. Ali Ganda and others.K. Bill Friday. the Caribbean and West Africa.. Afro-Cuban percussion. Joe Kelly and Kofi Ghanaba . formed in 1952 by King Bruce and Saka Acquaye. performed before an Accra crowd of one-hundred-thousand and he jammed with the Tempos dance-band at E. etc) were soon playing Yoruba and Ibo variants of this music Sierra Leone's nightlife also felt the wartime impact. Mensah. Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. TWO : DANCE ORCHESTRAS. trap-drums. his All Stars Band and the singer Velma Middleton made a s three-day trip to Ghana that organized by the Columbia Broadcasting System who were making a film called `Satchmo the Great'. As a result of these innovations and under the leadership of E. Joe Kelly’s Band . Satchmo's trumpet playing made a deep impression Mensah and other local dance-band musicians who began copying the American's phrasing and this jazz influence was strengthened when the All Stars clarinettist.The most important dance-band leader of the period was Bobby Benson who had been in the British navy and had entertained foreign wartime troops. Unlike the Ghanaian dance-bands the Nigerian ones did not play local African music . Ramblers and Uhuru dance bands. trumpet. returned to Ghana to run a jazz band for a time at the Ambassador Hotel in Accra.( see Williams 1983) . it was the addition of two other musical ingredients that made this band's version of highlife so successful. but after tours of Nigeria from 1950 of E. He also (see Clark 1979) put on `black and white minstrel type shows for Lagos audiences and danced the jitterbug and kangaroo wearing a `zoot suit'. Benson was naturally enough influenced by wartime dance fashions and in 1948 he formed his Modern Theatrical Group that played ballroom dances rumbas and sambas and calypsos and boogie-woogie. first arrived at Accra Airport they were welcomed on the tarmac by a collection of local dance-band musicians who greeted the Americans with the old highlife song `All For You'. In 1956. It was particularly influenced by the `jump' swing-music of Louis Jordan and by the Trinidadian calypso musician Lord Kitchener. Mensah’s Tempos. A. Red Spots and later the Broadway. but with a strong swing influence. Sammy Akpabot. visiting Nigeria. trombone. These were Afro-Cuban percussion and the Trinidadian calypso. or an old African melody taken to America.

negro spirituals and calypsos .4 Then in the early 1870’s the West Indian Rifles Regiments were brought to Cape Coast and El Mina by the British to fight in the `Ashanti Wars' of 1873/4 and 1900. THREE: BLACK SOLDIERS Moving further back in time we come to the 1870’s when fife-and-drum and brass-band of West Indians Regiments began to make a notable musical impact on Anglophone West Africa and acted as a catalyst in the formation of popular performance styles. Ragtime pianists of the period included David Christian Parker and Lawrence Nicol of Freetown and Squire Addo from Accra. Accra Orchestra. By the 1840's there was a `native' military band at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana that played both martial and popular English tunes. It was incidentally in the context of these Ghanaian highclass orchestras that the name highlife was coined by local people in the 1920’s for orchestrated renditions of local melodies. breaks and riffs. In Ghana the concert party were subsequently Africanised between the 1930’s and 50’s by Bob Johnson. the Axim Trio and E. 3 . They played a range of music from light classical pieces to ragtime music. banjo songs 2. sambas. Often associated with the performances of these high class ballroom events were vaudeville blackface minstrel acts (called concert parties in Ghana) and the first references to American minstrelsy is in Lagos in the late 19th century s (Clark 1979) In Ghana minstrelsy came later. (Mensah 1969/70) . They also played western ballroom dances which included African-American/Caribbean /Latin derived genres such as the foxtrot. such as the use of dominant sixths. Ghanaian contact with black Caribbean soldiers would also explain why the adaha band musicians marched about in colourful `zouave' uniforms (red-rimmed black uniforms and matching red hat with tassel) as these were also 2 The banjo itself is derived from the West African lute that was taken by slaves to Martinique in the 17th century and thence to the United states were it was modified: a fifth string was added. were derived from ragtime. through early silent films and touring vaudeville acts. chromatic runs. For instance there were five companies of the West Indian Regiment were stationed in Sierra Leone as early as 1819 which according to Harrev (1987) began playing European songs and hymns at public Sunday concerts in Freetown by the 1860’s. la congas and later rumbas and mambos.K. The earliest in Ghana was the Excelsior Orchestra of Accra formed in 1914. Casino Orchestra and West African Instrumental Quintet. offbeats and 6/8 poly-rhythms. 4 See Beecham 1841. These six to seven thousand West Indians (mainly from Jamaica. A. Rag-A-Jazz-Bo. (the latter’s music rereleased on the Heritage CD 16 UK 1992) 3. one-step or turkey-trot . One such was the African-American (or possibly Americo-Liberian) man-and-wife team of Glass and Grant who worked for two years in Ghana. In Ghana they were understudied by the Ghanaian comic duo of Williams and Marbel and the Sierra Leone one of Williams and the previously mentioned Lawrence Nicol. Mensah believes that many of the features of early highlife. Cape Coast Sugar Babies. and this was followed up to the Second World period by a host of others: such as the Jazz Kings.We now move backwards a generation to First World War times when large dance orchestras of almost symphonic composition were established by educated Anglophone West Africans to play music for the local westernized elites introduced via sheet-music and early recordings. Trinidad and Barbados) had an enormous impact on local Fanti (Akan sub-group) brass band musicians as in their spare time these black Caribbean soldiers would plays syncopated Afro-Caribbean music. This music was called ‘adaha’ and brass bands that played this ‘proto-highlife’ subsequently became popular throughout southern Ghana. The Ghanaian musicologist A. 3 This was a mixed West African group that sang in Fanti and recorded in the mid-1920’s: this music re-released on the Heritage CD 16 UK in 1992. the Dapa Jazz Band ( Horton 1984 and Ware 1978) and the African Comedy Group of Freetown (Nunley 1987) In Lagos there was the Maifair Orchestra and Chocolate Dandies (Waterman 1986 and 1990) . They were brought from Liberia in 1924 by the Ghanaian film distributor Alfred Ocansey before moving on to Nigeria in 1926. Up until the coming of these black regiments there is no evidence of Ghanaian brass bands playing any local music . a metal rather than gourd body resonator was used and it was covered with drum vellum rather than animal skin. Sierra Leonean ensembles included Triumph Orchestra. Winneba Orchestra. Nyame who ‘hijacked’ the genre from the elites and took it to the villages. one of the favourites being the calypso `Everybody Likes Saturday Night'. However the young Fanti brass band musicians were influenced by these West Indians and during the 1880’s went on to create their own syncopated brass-band music that utilized both West Indian clave rhythms as well as African ones that used hemiolas.

Aig-Imoukhuede 1975:213. a neo-African healing cult associated with the maroon descendents of runaway slaves (Bilby 1985) It is played on the European bass and snare drum and the large square goombay framedrum upon which the player sits. (Harrev 1987). For instance the Aguda elite established a `Brazilian Dramatic Society' in the 1880's that put on `Grand Theatre' that included humorous pieces and songs for violin and guitar 6. it increased so dramatically after Brazil emancipated its slaves in the 1880's that by that decade these Yoruba emancipados constituted ten percent of the Lagos population. guitars and accordions. In addition to the architectural and other innovations (carpentry skills and processing of gari/manioc). J. Also introduced were the samba da rodo dance and the `samba' frame-drum. goombay drumming and dancing continued to flourish in Freetown and spread. Barboza and P. from whence in 1800 it was taken to Freetown onboard ship by 550 maroons. because of white fears of a Haitian type black revolution in Jamaica. These included `carata' fancy dress. Campos. Mensah (1969/70) remarks.J. Ghanaian highlife music may also have been was influenced by the music of Brazilians (there was a small Brazilian quarter in James Town. Two companies of the West Indian Regiment were also stationed in Lagos from the late 19th century and reminiscent of the Ghanaian situation. Although not employing the samba drum. L. 4 . these `Brazilians' introduced Afro-Brazilian performing arts to Lagos. says the samba drum was introduced to the Benin Republic (originally Dahomey) in the late 19th century and was associated there with an orchestra set up by Francisco de Souza for use in the Brazilian bonfin festival. Barbados.A. and indeed by 1858 this maroon drumming had so scandalised elements of the Krio elite that the local church Mission Society published a newspaper article warning people that `Gumbay is the cause of many vices'. Goombay is of course still played in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown. Although this influx began in the 1840's. The first Freetown references to goombay are from 1820/1 and 1834.Z. and the `bonfin' festival. Accra) as the Ghanaian musicologist A. the samba rhythm is a dominant pattern in highlife music and ‘provides a visible link with the Latin-American spirit. indeed the two names are interchangeable. Waterman (1990) mentions that these influenced local marching bands. de Costa. 5] The small rectangular samba drum is similar to the ‘asiko' one (associated with early West African guitar/accordion music) . Porto Novo and the `Brazilian quarters' of other West African towns.worn by the West Indian Regiment Furthermore.THE BRAZILIAN INFLUENCE An important group of freed African slaves who made an early impact on African popular entertainment were the Brazilian and Cuban slaves who settled in many West African coastal towns. FOUR : FREED SLAVES . 6 Echeruo (1962:69/70) notes that important Brazilian-Aguda concert performer names of the times were J. To other African countries. Silva. the British gave some of the surrendering rebels the option of going to Freetown to join other groups of freed slaves who had begun to settle there. The first reference to goombay in Jamaica is in 1774.A. Inspite of this opposition. The Ghanaian musician Squire Addo told me that `gome'. central Cuba. particularly Lagos in Nigeria and Porto Novo in the Republic of Benin (formerly Dahomey). where it is used to accompany masked dancers (Ware 1978) and sometimes features the ‘musical saw' that is bent and scraped with an iron rod. that shortly after became popular in Ghana and Nigeria and was played on frame-drums. A variant of this music evolved there around 1900 called ‘asiko' (or `ashiko'). the elaborate `calunga' masquerades. for these immigrants helped introduce western type concert and theatre. as this 5 See Waterman 1986:58 and Alaja-Browne 1987:3. the Virgin Islands and North Carolina. This followed the maroon rebellion of 1795 when. the most famous being the Calabar Brass Band of the 1920's and 30's.' FIVE: FREED SLAVES THE MAROONS OF JAMAICA The very earliest case of black American music and dance influencing Africa is the case of Goombay (Gumbe. this contact also explains why Caribbean-type street masqueraders (backed by local brass bands) became popular in the coastal Fanti area of Ghana and are still performed there during Christmas and Easter parades. Gumbay or Gumbia). a Jamaican 7 drum-dance of myelism. where they were known as the `Aguda' or `those who have gone away' people. The asiko/samba drum was later incorporated into Yoruba juju music and pan West African `palmwine' music styles (Waterman 1990) The `Brazilians' or `Aguda' people also made a contribution to the early popular drama of Lagos. 7 Also found in Bermuda.G.

211-229. Mensah (1968) and Hampton (1983) mention Fernando Po as a source of Ga gome. Moving with the Face of the Devil: Art and Politics in Urban West Africa. 183-192. 1936. Socio-economic Organisation and 8 Sierra Leone and Ghanaian contract labourers and clerks who worked in the Belgian Congo Free State were part of the five thousand Anglophone West African ( and some West Indian) ‘coast-men’ employed by King Leopold (see Cournet.1958) 9 Both A. Urbanisation of an African Community. ---1986. MEILLASOUX Claude. that is the descendents of Yoruba recaptive slaves who had been liberated in Freetown in the early 19th century and later that century returned home to Nigeria. With Karin Barber and Alan Ricard COLLINS John and RICHARDS Paul. A Freder Paraeger Publication. No. In: Black Perspectives in Music. as these two groups of skilled West African workers were employed between 1885 to 1908 in building the docks and infrastructure of the then Congo Free State. In: Lagos. Temple University Press. 12. The Development of an African City. A. BOONJAZER-FLEAS. Summer. No. ---1996 Highlife Time. was first introduced to the country around the 1900 Ga carpenters and blacksmiths returning from the Belgian Congo where they had been working . Nigeria Magazine. COLLINS E. A. Bruno Nettl (ed). Off The Record Press London. Ghana 12-19th August. 1984. Illinois Press. Brass Bands in Ghana. 1987. CLARK Ebun. West African Popular Theatre. Accra. No. Seattle. 1986. 176-193. Universal Edition Graz.(Collins 1985) most probably introduced there by `Saro' (i. No. Fall. 1983. In: American Music. Chapter and drum is called in Ghana. 2. Robert and GALES Fred. University of Washington Press. BILBY Kenneth M. In: World Music. The Caribbean as a Musical Region. ---1997. University of Illinois Press. John Mason London. University of Illinois Press.T. Concert and Theatre in Late 19th Century Lagos. West African Pop Roots. (eds) Pearl T. WARE Naomi. 1979. MENSAH Atta Annan 1969/70. WATERMAN Christopher.C. Popular Music and African Identity in Freetown Sierra Leone. 1978. --1987. Vol. Anansesem Press. pp. Simon Frith (ed). Howard University Press. From `Ere E Faaji Ti O Pariwo' to `Ere E Faaji Alariwo': A Diachronic Study of Change in Juju Music. CUNEY-HARE Maude. Amsterdam. Oxford University Press. Cambria Heights New York. Aderibigbe (ed). pp.B. Mensah the King of Highlife. Indiana University Press. Ghana 996. The Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars. 2. Jazz the Round Trip. Philadelphia. Associated Publishers Washington DC. 1962. 1968. Washington DC. Originally a joint paper for the 1st International Conference of IASPM. Ghana. Towards a Theory of Transformation in African Music. Urbana and Chicago. 1958. pp. Rene. According to Harrev goombay has spread altogether to about twenty West and Central African countries. Jazz Feedback to Africa. Lagos.(Meillasoux 1968) Likewise `le goumbe' was connected with the urban multi-ethnic youth associations of Abidjan in the Côte d'Ivoire in the 1940’(Lloyd 196() . Juju: The Historical Development. Republished Anansesem Press. Accra. 196-319. However there is still a Sierra Leone connection as Fernando Po was seized from the Spanish by the British during the Napoleonic Wars and so settled some Freetown people there. Robinson and Elliott P. ---1971/2. 1968. Sierra Leone) people. Negro Musicians and Their Music. In: Jazz Forschung/Research. 5. In: Transformations and Resiliences in Africa. Popular Bands in Sierra Leone. Hubert Ogunde: The Making of Nigerian Theatre. HARREV Flemming. 1985.C. September. Manchester University Press. La Bataille Du Rail. the private and ruthlessly run private domain of King Leopold of Belgium who had trained no local Africans to do such work 8. Politics and Social Change. A later wave of gome music was introduced to Accra in the 1940's from Fernando Po by Ga migrant fishermen returning home. John 1985. 1920 to the Present.e. 1841. 5 . Highlife. HORTON Christian Dowu. Unpublished manuscript with BAPMAF archives. pp. Music Makers of West Africa. Three Continents Press. ALAJA-BROWNE Afolabi 1987. Skinner. BEECHAM John. Washington D. Paper read at the 4th International Conference of IASPM. Washington DC. Unpublished manuscript with COLLINS/BAPMAF Archives. Longman Nigeria. Paper read at the Fourth International Conference of IASPM (International Association for the Study of Popular Music) held in Accra. 1989. Accra. LLOYD P. E. COURNET.3/4.1991. Brussel. ECHERUO Michael J. p. 21st-26th June 1981. `gumbe' or `gube' was also popular in the Malian capital Bamako between the 1930's and 50's where it gave its name to the multi-ethnic associations of young people. BIBLIOGRAPHY AIG-IMOUKHUEDE Frank. New York.9 A `gombe' drum is also found as part of some western Nigerian juju music ensembles. 1987. Goumbe and the Development of Krio Popular Music in Freetown Sierra Leone. 68-74. pp 197-226. NUNLEY John W. HAMPTON Barbara. In: Eight urban Cultures: Tradition and Change. 1975 Contemporary Culture. Vol. ---1992. 21. 12th-19th August. Ashanti and the Gold Coast. Popular Music in West Africa. In fact they were working there alongside Sierra Leone artisans. pp.C. 74. Internationalen Gesellschaft Fur Jazzforschung. Africa in Social Change: West African Societies in Transition.

Department of Anthropology. Ph.51 6 . Chicago. University of Illinois. University of Chicago Press. pp.D. London. Juju: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music. WILLIAMS James.Communicative Functions of West Africa Popular Music. July. ---1990. 1983. In: New Africa. Orbituary for Bobby Benson. Thesis.