The fusion of the electric guitar into Highlife bred a whole new beast of short, funky riffs that support the poly-rhythms of the music. The poly-rhythmic structure is a natural result of incorporating so many individual drums. One drum line will start with a simple 4/4 rhythm, then the next is layered over, except in 3/4 time -- a waltz. The product is a revolving 6/8 you can recognize in each of these songs.
This particular picture is of a band run by John Collins, guitarist, producer, and chair of the Music Department at the University of Ghana. He shreds. Many of these short samples that I am posting were originally recorded by the Professor or his contemporaries. For the past 40 years, he's been collecting indigenous and popular music from all over West Africa; it is impossible to tell the story of modern music in Ghana without including John Collins.
He is also my music teacher.
Here are a couple examples of more modern Highlife. Some are rather low-fi, considering a number of these tracks were recorded with a traveling studio van. There is a shockingly soulful tribal jam, from the Ashanti region. The opening sounds like train tracks, but they're just sticks on wood blocks. Enjoy: