Last week we were lucky enough to speak with Ghanaian Highlife band Santrofi (virtually), after the release of their amazing new album ‘Alewa', which came out on Outhere Records, on the 24th April.
Santrofi are an 8 piece band from Ghana, on a mission to bring back Highlife music in Ghana, and spread the joy of Highlife to countries around the world. Having already travelled across Europe to play at festivals such as WOMAD (UK), Sines (Portugal) and Roskilde festival in Denmark, the band are already well established in the global music scene. We heard more about about their influences, who they are, and how they plan to play to even larger audiences after the COVID-19 pandemic. You can listen and purchase the album via Bandcamp. Take a read below to see what they had to say.
Hey guys thanks so much for talking to us today. Firstly we would like to ask how you came together as a band, can you tell us a brief history about how you came about, and what all your musical backgrounds are? We have actually known each other for a long time as session musicians playing for artists in Ghana and across Africa but decided to come together less than two years ago. I realised the legacy of indigenous highlife fading away and didn’t have any young bands or artists following the footsteps of our predecessors. I spoke to a few musician friends who loved highlife, understood the genre and believed in the same vision and that was the beginning of Santrofi. Our musical backgrounds have a wide range including soul, blues, afrobeats, funk and even pop but most importantly, highlife.
What can we expect from the Alewa album?
The album has an expansive range covering various forms of highlife exactly as it was in the 50's 60's and 70's plus the added advantage of not only being stuck in a time loop but also fuses some of these traditions in a more progressive manner. Recorded with both modern and vintage equipments which can be clearly heard in texture or sonics of the album as well. Some typical styles include kwaw and sikyi highlife, odoso highlife, disco highlife, funk and even a blues song as a bonus track.
Can you tell us about any inspiration you had for the album? Our inspiration on this album is mostly about life experiences, stories growing up plus some of the things we saw and heard around us as part of reality or ancient folklore. Unity among human beings is something worth talking about globally; especially in these strange times we live in with the pandemic reminding us of our mortality as witnessed in our similarities in the face of hope, death and adversity. We made several songs that brought it to light. Our pioneers in highlife music however shaped how the album sounds and it’s a result of listening to them growing up.
Working with the likes of Ebo Taylor and Gyedu Blay Ambolley, do you think the sounds of these legends are reflected in your music? Most certainly. Absolutely so. For us, it's important to continue what they did and still bring new progressive ideologies and sounds to the table while still keeping the pedagogy alive. We also hope generations after us will do the same to keep the highlife tradition alive.
You are obviously well practiced in highlife, but do you take inspiration from any other genres of music? Funk, Blues, Soul, Afrobeats are all webbed together with highlife. All members are equipped with information on all these genres and it makes it easier to flow, compose and perform. Our combined range of influences far exceeds these genres to be honest. We have done pretty much everything.
Do you have any aspirations to perform shows outside of Accra when the COVID-19 pandemic is over? Definitely we do, and we can’t wait to get back on the road to share our music, passion and culture globally.
What would be your dream performance? Coachella for sure, SXSW and other music festivals and events that don’t see highlife or african music often. It’s of prime importance to get our music out globally to the ends of the world (this sounds like an old-world reference hahaha), but you get the picture. We want EVERYONE to hear highlife music.
Who do you think is the most exciting current Ghanaian artist right now and why?
Wiyaala I will say because she has an amazing and unique voice that sounds Ghanaian. She is exceptionally different in the way she dresses exhibiting Ghana culture wherever she goes globally, and is the perfect ambassador for women empowerment because of what I have seen her do in her hometown in the past few months. She promotes locally-manufactured Ghanaian products very often and is about the community. She isn’t just about herself. She’s also versatile and could collaborate with any artist globally because of how effortless she projects her inherent identity which is a thing that’s increasingly rare these days with artists etc.
Finally, what is your favourite album of all time?
Snr Eddie Donkor (Eye banker album) - Listen here