The Face Mix 004: Juls

The British-born Ghanaian producer whose discography includes work with Lauryn Hill, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, Not3s and Kojo Funds takes us on an hour-long tour through the Ghana highlife genre.

A big play­er in the afro-pop scene, Julian Nic­co-Annan – aka Juls – is a British-born Ghana­ian pro­duc­er whose discog­ra­phy includes work with Lau­ryn Hill, Bur­na Boy, Mr Eazi, Not3s and Kojo Funds. Born in Hack­ney, Juls moved to Ghana dur­ing his school years, and his sound cham­pi­ons music from across the African con­ti­nent. He’s been inte­gral to shap­ing the sound of con­tem­po­rary African music, and in 2017 he made use of his con­tact book for his own album Leap of Faith.

For his Face mix, Juls teach­es us a les­son on Ghan­ian high­life, a genre that orig­i­nat­ed in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry and has evolved over the decades. From the instant par­ty starters to the Wiz­kid-inspir­ing tunes, get ready to sub­merge your­self in an hour of Ghana’s finest.

Juls’ forth­com­ing project will drop 26 July. 

Lis­ten to Juls’ mix in the play­er above.

Whats the vibe and direc­tion of your Face Mix?

It’s a jour­ney of the tran­si­tions that have tak­en place with the Ghana­ian high­life genre. I start off with some clas­sics that every sin­gle Ghana­ian in this world must know! Each song is a mem­o­ry in everyone’s heart and a clas­sic. Then I take it back. We have giv­en birth to a lot of leg­ends in our coun­try and I feel the world needs to hear some of these songs that have lit­er­al­ly changed lives and brought so much hap­pi­ness to people. 

How would you describe high­life music?

Son­i­cal­ly it’s a genre full of feel­ing. You have to dance and sing along. The mes­sages in most of the songs are hilar­i­ous and deep thoughts at the same time. The instru­men­tals set the pace most of the time and are guar­an­teed sing alongs. In the past, our fore­fa­thers didn’t have metronomes or any­thing to time their instru­ments all togeth­er, but it was spir­i­tu­al. Thats exact­ly what high­life music is. Key ele­ments that give high­life that amaz­ing son­ic sound and feel are the gui­tars, the drums and the keys.

Whats the dif­fer­ence between high­life and afrobeats?


Afrobeats merges pop­u­lar gen­res of African pop­u­lar music. Kuduro, afrobeat, high­life includ­ed. If you lis­ten to afrobeats care­ful­ly the sounds are blend­ed ele­ments from dif­fer­ent African gen­res includ­ing high­life. Afrobeats is more for the younger gen­er­a­tion tap­ping into African gen­res of music in the past. For exam­ple, Wiz­kid and Mutay’s Manya or DJ Tunez and Wizkid’s Gbese records are regard­ed as afrobeats records but they got their inspi­ra­tion from Ghana­ian high­life with clas­sic songs like ahom­ka wow by VIP and Fefene­fee by Tic­tac and Tony Tetu­ila (songs you’ll hear in the mix).

Why do you think afrobeats has become so pop­u­lar in the UK?

The UK is a very diverse cul­tur­al pop­u­la­tion – a lot of Africans are here and were raised the tra­di­tion­al African way by their par­ents, despite going through the UK sys­tem. So we are cul­tured and have a cer­tain way of life. This is the music that our par­ents play in our hous­es. We hear this all the time at our fam­i­ly gath­er­ings. There are so many of us! When we go out to par­ties this is the music we want to hear, and the records are dope. Every­one is in love with our cul­ture and way of life. Every­one wants to be a part of it. And it’s influ­enced a lot of musi­cians world­wide. Every 10 – 15 years the world is look­ing for the next big thing sound-wise and that’s African music right now. Bey­on­cé, Drake, Goldlink, Bryson Tiller, they’ve all tapped into this. Afrobeats is not just pop­u­lar in the UK, it’s world­wide now.

What upcom­ing musi­cians should we keep an eye out for?

I don’t know if I should call them upcom­ing musi­cians as they’re doing their thing in their own spaces and have their niche mar­kets. Pro­duc­er wise, Kel-P from Nige­ria is doing amaz­ing stuff with Bur­na Boy right now. Killer Tunes is doing amaz­ing stuff for the afrobeats scene as well. Oxlade, Zamir, Tomi Agape all from Nige­ria, Quam­i­na MP from Ghana. There’s a lot of tal­ent out there.

Tracklist

1. Kwabena Kwabena – ASO

This song came out in the ear­ly 2000s when high­life and hiplife start­ed blend­ing. Hiplife is hip-hop and high­life mixed togeth­er. An instant par­ty starter.”

2. Kofi Nti and Ofori Ampon­sah – ATWEE­T­AN

Their voic­es were so soft and warm on sweet high­life instru­men­tals and their col­lab­o­ra­tions were spir­i­tu­al dance­floor classics.”

3. Nana Quame – ATIA DONKO

This song was in every Ghana­ian DJ’s set. The moth­ers love this song.”

4. KK Fosu – No 1

KK Fosu is a Ghana­ian favourite with so many hits. This brings back so many mem­o­ries. I remem­ber one Aun­ty with a mous­tache forc­ing me to dance with her to this song at a par­ty once. THE HORROR.”

5. KK Fosu – Rakia

Anoth­er KK Fosu clas­sic. He real­ly had the high­life game on lock in the 2000s.”

6. VIPAhom­ka Wom 

This song was a per­fect blend of high­life and hip-life. Wiz­kid and Mutay inter­po­lat­ed this for their song Manya. This song is more youth­ful in the sense that it was for all ages.”

7. Tic­tac and Tony Tetu­ila – Fefeef

Tic­tac was once dubbed Ghana’s Bus­ta Rhymes once because of his rap style. Big tune this.”

8. Adane Best – Soja

A pop­u­lar Song for Ga par­ties. Ga is a Ghana­ian tribe cen­tralised in the cap­i­tal Accra where my father is from. You would hear this song in every sin­gle restau­rant on the street:.

9. Paa­pa Yank­son – Show Your Love 

God bless the late Paa­pa Yank­son. My moth­er loved this song. He was from the same area she grew up so it’s a spe­cial song for her and of course I heard this all the time.”

10. Pat Thomas – Mom­ma Meka Bi 

Prob­a­bly my favourite high­life song of all time.”

11. Ofori Ampon­sah – Otoolege

Clas­sic! Instant clas­sic. A lot of mem­o­ries with this song.”

12. George Jahraa – Ashikele

This is where the showoffs come on the dance floor.”

13. Bisa Kdei – Jwe

Yeah anoth­er song for the show-offs. This is new school high­life and Bisa Kdei def­i­nite­ly holds the flag for it currently.”

14. Mar­riott Inter­na­tion­al Band – Ozim Zim 

This is old school. My grand­pa intro­duced me to this song actually.”

15. Amakye Dede – Akwadoa Wesoa

Banger!!! Old school banger! Amakye Dede is a high­life legend.”

16. Kofi B – Mmbrowa

Mel­low vibes. But still smooth highlife.”

17. Daase­bre Gya­me­na – Kokooko

I actu­al­ly bought his tape because of this song. One of my favourite high­life records.”

18. Nana Acheam­pong – Na Anka Ebeye Den

This song i think is the first high­life song I heard ever. It’s over 25-years-old.”

19. Kojo Antwi – Aku­ba

Dem on-the-way-to-the-crib high­life vibes here man. Kojo Antwi is my favourite high­life musi­cian of all time. I have all his records.”

20. Kofi Nti – Odo Nyom

New school high­life here. Anoth­er par­ty starter.”

21. Dad­dy Lum­ba – Eye Nnoa

This has a lit­tle reg­gae vibe to it. Mel­low vibes. This is the wait­ing at the bar for a drink” vibe but still enjoy­ing the party.”

22. Dad­dy Lum­ba – Aben Wo Ha 

You have to do the shoul­der dance for this. Clas­sic high­life rid­dim here.”

23. Ter­ry bon­cha­ka – Zoozey

He was on a role and his dances were hilar­i­ous. This was a prop­er street high­life record.”


Relat­ed

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