Many of us have not heard about the Kru of West Africa. The Kru Sailors from Liberia were independent and strong-willed people who could not be captured by slave masters. The Kru can be found in parts of Gambia and Sierra Leone, even though they are originally from Liberia. The people were fishermen who were highly skilled in sailing and swimming. They knew about navigating around the continent on the water world.
Their skills made them friends of the Westerners who hired them as sailors to help them move around West Africa. Even though slavery ravaged Africa, this group of people was more skilled in escaping from slave masters.
When they are not inside the waters swimming or catching fishes, they have their guitars with them. Their music has lead to the improvement of Highlife music in Ghana, and it spread throughout the Central African countries like Congo, and around the continent.
The interaction of the Kru with the Westerns taught them how to play guitar. They started playing guitars on the boats and ships. They used the guitars to entertain themselves when they travel for days on the sea. Since the men were familiar with string instruments like the lute and kora, the guitar became easier for them to play.
Whenever they stopped in different parts of West Africa such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Ghana, these sailors played their guitar. The unique instrument caught the attention of people who heard them play and they started learning how to play too.
When people started showing interest in their music, they taught them how to play Calypso and Portuguese melodies. The Kru learned from the Westerners and blended it with what they know and viola has a special type of music. The people of Ghana started the Highlife music when they learned the guitar from the Kru sailors.
Ghanaians were fascinated with the guitar sound and they adapted the Seprewa, which was the two-finger picking style of playing the local instrument. They used the guitar to play it and that started what was called the Palm Wine Music.
This type of music became popular among the rural people. Today, what was called palm wine music has become a genre of the country’s traditional music.
The music genre gave way for Highlife music to flourish. Highlife music came from the local instruments and western instruments fusion. The genre spread across West African countries and it has remained a vital part of their music.
West Africa ended up creating other music genres such as Afro jazz, Afrobeat, hiplife, burger highlife, and several others. While we give credit to Ghanaians for the birth of Highlife music, it was the Kru sailors who inspired them with their guitars.
While many of us do not know about the Kru sailors, we have made them known so we can appreciate them for their involvement in transforming the traditional music in West Africa.