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Ghana's Highlife Music Collection

Black Beats


Black Beats Band, Tropical Rhythm (1960)
King Bruce (Black Beats) (1922-1998)

King Bruce was born in Jamestown, Accra, in 1922. King was a keen follower of the Accra street music and popular dance-styles played by the local Ga-Adangme ethnic group. At the end of his schooldays at Achimota College, he developed a taste for swing and dance-band music, inspired during the war years by British and American army units stationed in Ghana. King studied with the Posts and Telegraphs in England and learned to play the trumpet.

On returning to Accra in 1951 he occasionally played for the Tempos and then joined the Accra Orchestra as a trumpet player. In 1952, he and tenor saxophonist Saka Acquaye formed the Black Beats band. In contrast with other Ghanaian dance-bands, the Black Beats vocalists dominated the instrumental line-up; and in this they were influenced by the swing and "jump" music of Afro-American Louis Jordan. It was with this high vocal profile that the Black Beats began to release a string of highlife hits for His Master’s Voice, Zenophone, and Decca.

Besides being a senior civil servant, composer, band leader, manager, and teacher, King Bruce helped organize all three of Ghana's music unions. On April 30, 1988, he was given an award by the Entertainment Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana (ECRAG) for his "immense contribution to the development of Ghanaian art and culture in the field of highlife music." In 1998, Ghana lost one of its greatest highlife exponents who composed many highlife classics, particularly in his native language Ga.

Source: J. Collins, 1994, p.59;