West African Pop Roots

John Collins
Book Cover

PB: $26.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-916-2
Publication: May 92

HC: $74.50
EAN: 978-0-87722-793-9
Publication: Jun 92

Ebook: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0497-8
Publication: May 92

382 pages
6 x 9

"The nearest thing we have in the twentieth century to a global folk music"


Having spent more than twenty years as a performer, manager, and producer of African music, John Collins brings an insider's perspective and a personal passion to this account of popular music in West Africa. He explores the roots of the various styles and genres and the "feedback" of black music adapted to the New World and returning to Africa to reinfluence its origins. Collins celebrates the personalities and sounds of today's music, its influence on an international audience, the African music business, and the cross-fertilization between African music and that of other cultures. Interspersed with his rich descriptions and historical narratives are colorful biographical sketches of important African musicians along with a wealth of rare photographs of individuals and bands.

With the intention of exposing "the inner driving forces of popular music in Africa," Collins delves into the history of African music, traces its evolution throughout the twentieth century, and explores the current "world beat" explosion. He demonstrates that the enormous energy generated by African music is in part a result of its polyrhytmic nature and rhythmic spacing, "the hot sounds and the cool space." He describes the complexities of African rhythms: the cross-beats, the inside rhythm, the varying tempo, the positive and negative sound, and the rhythmic dialogue. "African music," Collins observes, "is a gestalt of opposites that unifies the up and down-beat, head and feet, the audience and performer, into the communion of the beat.... There is no separation, only universal 'togetherness.'"

West African Pop Roots treats the significant personalities and inside stories of many of its greatest stars, including Manu Dibango with Soul Makossa, E.T. Mensah, Victor Uwaifo, Fela, Youssou N'Dour, and Sonny Okosun, among others. Collins describes the global research for the African roots of pop, which has attracted such Western performers as Ginger Baker, Paul McCartney, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, David Byrne, and many others. The author describes Africa's world-wide influence on music and dance as "the nearest thing we have in the twentieth century to a global folk music."


"(A)n important resource for anyone interested in the historical development of popular music.... Collins brings to light the contexts, the sources, the crossovers and the evolution of the music in a highly readable way. This is...a book full of life and unique 'insider' insight into African society and music on all levels." —Popular Music

"A tremendous resource, not only for those outside of Africa who are trying to understand the source of Afro pop but also for Africans themselves...."George Collinet, "Afro Pop Worldwide," National Public Radio

Table of Contents


Part I: Roots
1. Traditional Cool and Hot Rhythms: African Music in the Space Age
2. First Fusions—Orchestras and Brass-Bands: E.T. Mensah, the King of Highlife, and King Bruce
3. Palm-Wine and Guitars: "Sam" (Kwarne Asare), Kwaa Mensah, and E.K. Nyarne
4. The Man Who Made a "Traditional" Music Called Kpanlogo

Part II: Feedback
5. Ragtime to Rumba
6. Jazz Comes Home to Africa
7. Soul to Soul

Part III: Today's Sounds and Personalities
8. Fela and the Afro-Beat Revolution
9. The Juju Boom
10. Osibisa’s Criss-Cross Rhythms
11. Afro-Rock Catches On
12. Afro-Disco
13. Victor Uwaifo, the Guitar Boy
14. The Drums of Kofi Ayivor
15. The Afro-Reggae of Sonny Okosun and Alpha Blondy
16. Guitar-Band Explosion: Highlife, Maringa, and Makossa
17. "F" Promotions: Ghana's Melting Pot
18. Life on the Road: Modern African Minstrels, the Jaguar Jokers
19. The African-French Connection
20. Pushed Out by Apartheid
21. The Liberian Pop Scene
22. Francophone West Africa and the Jali Experience – Flemming Harrey

Part IV: Music Business
23. The African Recording Industry
24. African Music Unions
25. Running a Band and a Music Studio in Ghana

Part V: Cross-Overs
26. Africa Goes West
27. The Original African Cross-Overs: Ghanaba and Kwesi Asave
28. Roots, Rasta, Reggae: Stepping-stones back to Africa
29. Africa and New Wave
30. Black and White

About the Author

About the Author(s)

John Collins is manager of the Bokoor Recording Studio (Ghana), acting Chairman of the Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation, and is on the Ghanaian National Folklore-Copyright Administration Board. The author of several books and numerous articles about African music, he is a doctoral candidate at State University of New York at Buffalo.