Review

Various Artists

Ghana Special 2: Electronic Highlife & Afro Sounds In The Diaspora 1980-93

Soundway • 2024

Burger-Highlife is one of the few highlights of German history unrelated to food. »Highlife« is the name of a genre that emerged in 19th century Ghana, combining West African traditions with Jazz. During the Cold War, many emigrated from non-aligned Ghana to both the FRG and the GDR and brought Highlife to Germany. To emphasize the migrant character of their music, artists added the ancillary »Burger«. Some say it originates from the German word for citizen, »Bürger«. Others trace it back to »Hamburg«, the center of the diaspora. In any case, their music was decidedly cosmopolitan. »Burger« quickly became the banner of a global sub-culture. It combined Highlife with Electronica, Boogie, Funk, Afrobeat and New Wave. In honor of this scene, Soundway Records now erected a monument. It’s bursting with ambition: 18 tracks of 18 Ghanaian artists, cast up in every corner of the Global North. It’s a fascinating compilation full of highlights, e.g. the tracks by George Darko or Nan Mayen. Alas, it’s vibes are not entirely consistent. Some entries are snappy Pop songs, while others structurally resemble meandering late night dance tracks. This makes it hard to name a specific situation that would suit »Ghana Special 2« perfectly. Still, it’s worth it. If Krautrock and Neue Deutsche Welle should be household names in Germany, so should Burger-Highlife.