Concert Features West African Dance Music

Nigerian musician Baba Ken Okulolo and his all-star West African Highlife Band will perform a free concert in Mount Holyoke College’s Chapin Auditorium on March 28 at 7:30 pm.

Highlife, a style of dance music that originated in Ghana in the late 1800s, was one of the first fusions of African and Western music. It combines African dance rhythms and melodies with Western sounds such as brass bands, guitars, hymns, European foxtrots, and Liberian rhythms. According to Okulolo’s website, “This joyous music creates an atmosphere that is intense and intoxicating.”

The West African Highlife Band features distinguished African music veterans, including members from the bands of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Hugh Masekela, and the Ghanaian highlife group, Sweet Talks.

While still in his teens, Okulolo began playing bass guitar in highlife bands. Through the 1970s, he toured West Africa and Europe with various bands. He first toured the United States as a bassist with Nigerian highlife master King Sunny Ade and later played in the seminal Afro-rock group, Monomono. In 1985, Okulolo moved to San Francisco, where he performs, records music, and teaches classes in African percussion and musical techniques.

The concert is sponsored by the Ada E. Berkey Music Fund, the Office of Student Programs, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusiveness.