Allegedly, Britney Spears performed on Lambidi Beach a number of years ago. I’m not sure about the validity of that statement, but someone on the Campus Times staff said it’d be a good hook for an article about music in Ghana.

If you name it, I’ve probably heard it. Diverse doesn’t even begin to describe the sights, sounds and smells that you start encountering as you land at the Accra International Airport and see that giant “Akwabaa” painted on the side of a building ? that means “welcome” for those readers who don’t understand Twi.

I had the opportunity to spend this past fall semester at the University of Ghana in Legon. The school is huge and one of the most prestigious in West Africa. The African Dance and Drumming programs at the university are renowned across the world. In Ghana, one of the first things you learn is that dancing is an integral part of life.

Music is key

Ghanaian music strongly reflects the multi-ethnic nature of the state. Each group, whether Fante, Ewe, Asante, Ga or Mole-Dagbane, has its own traditional dancing, drumming and language.

It’s no surprise that the three most important events ? marriages, child-naming ceremonies and funerals ? are all marked by community celebrations of life through requisite music and dancing.

It has been said that everyone in Ghana could be called a musician by definition, considering how adept they are at harmony and improvising.

A popular and distinctly Ghanaian music form is called “Highlife.” Stars in this genre include the immensely distinguished E. T. Mensah, Kojo Antwi and Daddy Lumba. These artists often sing in a combination of Asante Twi and English. Recently, the influence of hip-hop has sparked the evolution of “Hiplife” which has become quite fashionable among the young. In big cities like Kumasi, you’ll party the night away at “Old Timers Club,” dancing to these incredible beats.

The college beat

The college campus provides an interesting melting pot of noises and flavors to sample. At nearby “Alliance Frances,” you can hear live jazz bands and see cultural acts perform while the computer labs are always buzzing with assorted sounds. A single set will include works by Bob Marley, Wyclef, Usher, Bezerker, Rod Stewart and Slim Whitman.

Students are fans of a diverse set of styles including reggae, hip hop, R&B, soft rock, country and Christian hymns. You never know what to expect ? except, perhaps, “The Thong Song.”

Around town, one of my favorite pastimes was spotting unusual T-shirts. It was not uncommon to stroll past a soccer game and run into a horde of people wearing clothing espousing anything from a Michael Bolton concert, Terminator II, the Monkees’ reunion tour or just random blonde jokes.

Country cool

I was extremely surprised when I encountered their love of country music. I’m not just talking about Shania Twain or Garth Brooks ? I’m talking about 1940s Hank Williams country music. I will never forget stepping into a tro-tro one night to hear the driver blasting “Everything I Love is Killing Me,” which tastefully rhymed “Jim Bean” with “caffeine.”

Ghana is a place that teaches you to express yourself with music and movement.

While there is a marked interest in American styles, traditional forms of musical expression remain important and loved. Like the colorful traditional dress, Ghanaian culture is absolutely filled with diverse and exciting food, musical tastes and attitudes.

Harrington can be reached at

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