Hiplife, a Bold Mix of Hip Hop and Indigenous Ghanian Soul Music Makes Its Debut at the Apollo

HIPLIFE1-master675-v3When Evans Appiah moved to the Bronx from Ghana at age 8, he was teased for his accent. As a way of fitting in, he learned to rap. By the time he got to Middle School 391 on Webster Avenue, his friends were calling him “Lighter” because he rapped so fast and furious in English that it sounded as if he were spitting fire.

The Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop, shaped Mr. Appiah, now a baby-faced 27. But it was not until he returned to his native Ghana four years ago that he rediscovered his musical roots.

“When I went back,” he said, “that’s when I fell in love again.”

He began adding to his hip-hop repertoire by collaborating with artists from Ghana’s unique genre of hiplife — a blend of hip-hop and upbeat indigenous soul music called highlife.

The path from Ghana to New York is well traveled, as the city’s 27,000 Ghanaian-born residents can attest. Now hiplife is making a bold New York debut on Saturday at the Apollo Theater.

Mr. Appiah, now known as Lighter T.O.D, will be one of 11 performers coming from Ghana and Nigeria, setting the stage for the Ghanaian headliner, Sarkodie. That the concert takes place at an African-American musical mecca represents a milestone for a transnational experiment that began in Ghana two decades ago.

“The Apollo is really like a test in an exciting way for the Ghanaian artists to reach out to broader audiences and to enter into the American mainstream musical consciousness,” said Jesse Weaver Shipley, a professor of anthropology at Haverford College in Pennsylvania and the author of “Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music.”

But it is about more than just music for a population that makes up the largest Ghanaian diaspora in the United States.

Read more at nytimes.com

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