Highlife Saturday Night

Highlife Saturday Night

Popular Music and Social Change in Urban Ghana
Nathan Plageman
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/19/2012
Format: Hardback 32 b&w illus., 22 audio
ISBN: 978-0-253-00725-4
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Highlife Saturday Night captures the vibrancy of Saturday nights in Ghana—when musicians took to the stage and dancers took to the floor—in this penetrating look at musical leisure during a time of social, political, and cultural change. Framing dance band "highlife" music as a central medium through which Ghanaians negotiated gendered and generational social relations, Nate Plageman shows how popular music was central to the rhythm of daily life in a West African nation. He traces the history of highlife in urban Ghana during much of the 20th century and documents a range of figures that fueled the music’s emergence, evolution, and explosive popularity. This book is generously enhanced by audiovisual material on the Ethnomusicology Multimedia website.

Author Bio

Nate Plageman is Assistant Professor of History at Wake Forest University.


“Going beyond a mere account of highlife's origins and development, it offers a history of popular music and its relationship to the cultural, gendered, political, and social fabric of urban Ghana.”
 — Stephan F. Miescher, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Explores a relatively unknown period of an important social and cultural institution—highlife music—and brings new insights and signficance to popular expressive forms.”
 — Suzanne Gott, University of British Columbia, Okanagan

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Table of Contents

Ethnomusicology Multimedia Series Preface
Introduction: The Historical Importance of Urban Ghana’s Saturday Nights
1. Popular Music, Political Authority, and Social Possibilities in the Southern Gold Coast, 1890-1940
2. The Making of a Middle Class: Urban Social Clubs and the Evolution of Highlife Music, 1915-1940
3. The Friction on the Floor: Negotiating Nightlife in Accra, 1940-1960
4. "The Highlife was Born in Ghana": Politics, Culture, and the Making of a National Music, 1950-1965
5. "We Were the Ones Who Composed the Songs": The Promises and Pitfalls of Being a Bandsman, 1945-1970