Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music

Jesse Weaver Shipley, Author
Jesse Weaver Shipley. Duke Univ., $24.95 (344p) ISBN 978-0-8223-5366-9
Reviewed on: 12/10/2012
Release date: 01/01/2013
Hardcover - 344 pages - 978-0-8223-5352-2
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-283-95384-9
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-0-8223-9590-4
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An ethnographer, sociolinguist, filmmaker of Living the Hiplife, and Haverford College anthropologist, Shipley offers up a heady mix of political, business, and music history, of entrepreneurship and converging genres, intermixed with reportage and personal contacts as he explores the junction of celebrity, commerce, and politics in contemporary Ghana. As he assesses the impact of hiplife music—a transglobal genre developing as the musicians move between Accra, London, and New York—upon Ghanaian social and cultural life, he poses a central question: “How does an artist as entrepreneur convert musical labor into fame and economic value?” Musicians receiving particular attention include Reggie Rockstone, Rab Bakari, Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Obrafour, Mensa Ansah, and Mzbel, a rare female performer in this overwhelmingly male genre. Shipley cautions the reader early on that the book “is not a history of hiplife nor does it attempt to comprehensively catalog artists, songs, and stylistic differences.” While his considerations of seminal figures and specific texts assist the general reader, absent tonal familiarity it is impossible to hear it, and that’s a bar to listening to Shipley. However, scholars of contemporary African culture and aficionados of hiplife will find enlightenment. (Feb.)
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