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Entertainment of Sunday, 28 March 2021


Agya Koo Nimo’s works being digitised by KNUST ‘for posterity’

Agya Koo Nimo Agya Koo Nimo

Agya Koo Nimo, the legendary Palm Wine Highlife music originator and founder of the historically acclaimed Adadam Agofomma Ensemble, has disclosed that he is working as a resident scholar at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to digitize all his music records in order to save them for posterity.

The Palm Wine Highlife music virtuoso, known in real life as Kwabena Boa-Amponsem, said this in a remote interview with Giovani Caleb on Showbiz 360 on TV3 on Friday, March 26.

Agya Koo Nimo said “at the moment, I’m employed as a resident scholar at Tech [or KNUST] and my job is to digitize all my works, first for the university, for myself, and for posterity. But that isn’t enough, I have made some request for my Chief, of Foase, where I come from, for a plot of land to build apartments to teach guitar, dancing and then to encourage the indigenous jobs like carving, you know Ghana has plenty of wood, like mahogany, rosewood. We can even make guitars in this country, instead of importing them”.

On the history of the innovation of Highlife, Agya Koo Nimo intimated that in pre-independence Ghana, “the indigenous people were trained by the soldiers around the Castle, to play European musical instruments to perform music like Waltzes and Quicksteps, so the Africans realized that: why don’t we use what we have learnt to play our own songs. Like Everybody Loved Saturday Nights, Hosina’s Singing Highlife, Time For Highlife, Ladies and Gents and what have you”.

“And this idea of using African themes, using Western instruments to tell a story brought about something, and those days we had to have a flannel dance and pay about a Guinea to witness what was going. People who couldn’t pay to get into the dance halls would describe what was going on in there by saying: it’s Highlife there,” thus, the advent of the name as he pointed out.

The 87-year-old nimble Agya Koo Nimo was there when Ghana was declared independent, performing his signature Palm Wine Highlife for celebrants to dance to in 1957.

His ensemble consisted of traditional instruments like the Apentemma and the Donno, the Frikyiwa (metal castanet), the Prempensiwa (rhumba box), the Ntorwa, the Nnawuta or Dawuro.

In the year 1990, eight of Agya Koo Nimo’s songs were released on a compact disc entitled Osabarima, becoming the first Ghanaian musician to have his songs on what became known as CDs.

His music has been the topic for scholarly works for PhD candidates in Europe and America.

In 1998, he was employed as a professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington in Seattle USA, for two years. After the tenure, he was employed for the same position at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Agya Koo Nimo returned to Ghana in 2006, to live in his hometown in Kumasi. He was starred in the January 2007 episode of the American Travel Show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservation, where he is shown playing music, discussing his music, and enjoying a lunch of stewed Akrantie (grasscutter) with host Anthony Bourdain.

He was elected in 1979 as the President of the Musicians Union Of Ghana (MUSICA) for his contribution to the culture and as the Interim Chairman of the Copyright Society of Ghana (COSGA) in 1985.

More recently, he was made an honorary life member of the International Association of the Study of Popular Music, along with such distinguished individuals as Professor J.H.K. Nketia and John Collins.

In the year 1991, in recognition of his service to music and country, Agya Koo Nimo received the prestigious Asanteman Award from the Asantehene.

In the same year, he received the Flagstar Award from ECRAG (Entertainment Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana).

He received the Gold medal award in 1997, on Ghana’s 40th Independence anniversary.

Agya Koo Nimo shared his secret for his long lease of life.

“I drink a lot of water to cleanse my body”.

He currently lives in Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.