West Africa is home to many unique music styles and genres, be it highlife, hiplife, juju or afrobeat. One of the lesser-known sub-genres that emerged in the 1980s was ‘burger highlife’ – blending traditional Ghanaian melodies with synthesizers, disco and boogie to create a pop-infused sound.
With the invention of burger highlife, the streets of Ghana were never the same again. Word of this extraterrestrial music spread all over the country, and soon no party was complete without a bellyful of Ghanaian synth-funk. From industrial towns to smaller villages, burger highlife played everywhere; whether to celebrate or commiserate; at weddings, funerals or political rallies; alone or with friends. Families were harmonized, love affairs began and ended with this singular sound – but how did it all begin?
The 1970s was a decade of innovation, a time when funk, soul and disco sounds were taking over Western airwaves and with it a greater physical presence in the African continent. Ghanaian musicians immersed themselves in Western culture, but economic turmoil, military dictatorships and curfews had produced a climate hostile to the development of homegrown musical talent.
To escape the stifling atmosphere of their homeland, many Ghanaian artists moved to both Europe and America, seeking stardom. These expatriates developed a digitized version of highlife music that embraced Western contemporary styles and technology, including synthesizers and drum machines.
The digital revolution was the catalyst for Ghanaian dance music’s evolution and the emergence of ‘burger highlife,’ a genre that Kalita Records aims to explore on Borga Revolution! Ghanaian Dance Music In The Digital Age, 1983-1992. The compilation gathers over an hour’s worth of essential recordings from 1980’s genre-defining artists such as Thomas Frempong & George Darko and also features lesser-known tracks by elusive bands such as Aban (a popular act during the 80s) and Uncle Joe’s Afri-Beat.
A must-have for all fans of African funk and pop music, Borga Revolution! is available now.
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