Dr. Richard Smith is a Fulbright scholar and lectures in the music department of the United Nations University in New York, United States of America. Teaching inter-disciplinary arts and cross-cultural education, he has carried out advanced research works as he takes students in African classical music.
He expresses a dedicated love for what he is doing, even though he is visually impaired. Having a chat with him at Dr. Victor Olaiya’s Stadium Hotel in Surulere, Lagos, I met a man with very appealing disposition, and of great importance to him is documenting information for academic and historic purposes.
What has particularly been of interest to you in some of the African countries you have visited?
From your research, how well do you consider highlife music as showcasing African culture?
Beyond entertainment, I look at the cultural relevance of highlife music in Nigeria as one that I can compare to what jazz music is in the United States of America. If I must make particular reference to Emmanuel Tettey Mensah’s works, you find that the music is played to reflect a lot about their roots, and not only for entertainment.
How much of cultural revival can highlife music help to achieve among youths in Africa?
Fostering cultural revival in young people through highlife music would achieve something only if parents have taught
their children about their culture at some point. That will mean using highlife music to build on an existing substance. Considering my own experience that I do classical and modern music, but I will never forget when my family would be
together and sing Rhythm and Blues which is native to us as African Americans. It is a fact that if you get
a touch of this as a child, no matter what you go through you will still have a feel of that in which you were brought up.