Group plans International Highlife Festival

by Araayo Akande

Actor, producer and highlife enthusiast, Osezua Stephen-Imobhio, has disclosed that plans are afoot for an International Highlife Music Festival.

In a chat with TCN, Imobhio, the immediate past president of the Independent Television Producers’ Association of Nigeria (ITPAN), said the Festival is part of efforts to take the genre to global audiences and would happen next year.

He explained that the Festival would have held this year but for the disruptions and dislocations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said, “We are planning an International Highlife Music Festival against next year. It would have happened this year, but this COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our plans. We felt the take-off point should be Nigeria, most probably Lagos. We are looking at six days, and it means three will be in Nigeria, and the other three days in Accra, Ghana.”
Imobhio, who debuted a Highlife program on the radio recently said himself and like-minded people are trying to get highlife music recognised as World Heritage Music.

“On my [WhatsApp] platform, we have talked about making UNESCO recognise highlife as world music heritage. I’m still working on that. I’m at the forefront of that initiative, and I think we will achieve it by God’s grace,” he said, adding that fans shouldn’t worry about the survival of the genre.

“When you begin to listen to the likes of Tim Dakolo and the others, you find that highlife is not in any way endangered. Most of what the youth are playing today, call it whatever name, they are highlife derivatives. Because of highlife’s richness, I think there is a need for them to dig further into hardcore highlife as it was played in the 50s and 60s and part of the 70s. That will help what they are playing now. Because of the richness of that music; it is well-rooted in our culture, musical idioms, if they listened and are further influenced, their music will be much better. I think that is why people still want P Square together. They want to hear Flavour but what they are asking is go back to the past.

“Why do you think Flavour is a success? It is because of the richness, influence of hardcore highlife on his music. He sampled fRex Lawson’s ‘Ashawo’ released in the 60s. Listen to Omawunmi’s ‘Bottom Belle’, it was done initially in 1958. As Africans, we have that rhythm; we have that beat, which is also one of the secret ingredients in highlife music. That’s why if they play Victor Olaiya, Adeolu Akinsanya, you will see kids dancing to it because it connects to the African in them. Let them go back, but they don’t have to play it the way it was played then. The more they get into the past, the richer their present form will be.”

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