Agya Koo Nimo: Last Wish Of A Living Legend

ARTS and Culture have remained vital in Ghana’s development especially popular music.

However, the lack of museums, documentaries and literature about great musicians such as Kwaa Mensah, Kakaiku, King Onyina, Dr K. Gyasi, PK Yamoah, Kofi Ani Johnson, Alex Konadu, Kwaku Kwarteng, Awura Ama Badu, and many others is a concern to custodians of our cultural heritage.

In this regard, the palm wine guitarist, Agya Koo Nimo, known in private life as Daniel Amponsah, wants a library and museum built to continue his legacy. 

This vision of Agya Koo Nimo is in line with UNESCO’s 2003 Convention on Safeguarding of intangible Cultural Heritage that requires state parties to keep registers, lists and inventories of their cultural heritage. 

In spite of the musical influences from Europe, America and Jamaica contributing to the evolution of Ghanaian popular music and introducing genres such as hi-life, hip-life and dance hall, Koo Nimo has maintained palm wine music.

As it turns out, the 90-year-old Koo Nimo is not the father of palm wine guitar music but was heavily influenced by the early pacesetters of the genre, including Kwaa Mensah, Jacob Sam, Kwame Asare and Acquah Biney of the Kumasi trio musical group.

Ghana’s Cultural Export 

He is one of the biggest musical exports to Europe, America and some parts of Africa as the Ghanaian who plays with an acoustic guitar and indigenous instruments such as premprensiwa (a large variety of hand wooden piano), dawuro (bell), frikyiwa (castanet) Apentema (small conga), Nnawuro (twin bell) and Dawurunta (twin bell). 

He has over the years played for appreciable international audiences in Australia, Malta, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago etc.

When it comes to international music festivals, his name is well-written as a great guitarist including WOMAD, Commonwealth Cultural Festival in London; Summer Festival in Canada; International Guitar Conference in Martinique and also as the famous Koo Nirno quartet at Hertme in Holland including him, Osei Kwame Korankye, Hanson Obeng and Madam Kaa. 

Intangible heritage

Intangible cultural heritage, per its broad munition, also includes musical expressions such as Koo Nimo’s folk songs, words of wisdom, distinctive guitar rhythms and his traditional musical instruments. 

The music of Koo Nimo carries a sound indication of authentic Ghanaian attracts and its non-artificial hi-tech sound world music fans. He has invigorated the already known playing techniques of palm wine such as the Main Line, Dagomba and Fireman into different levels with a fusion of classical, Spanish and Latin American styles. 

His exceptional extension of Amponsah, Kwaw and Odonson playing has made his recordings intangible assets that need to be safeguarded. 

That notwithstanding, the fact that American musician Paul Simon’s “Rhythms of the Saints” album carried Ghanaian indigenous prototypal rhythms in Yaa Amponsah and Sikyi veins means our traditional guitar templates are potential for non-traditional export earning, especially when he paid $16,000 in royalties to the Ghana Copyright Administration for the usage. 

Koo Nimo’s songs such as “Akoko Bon”, “Akora Dua Kube”, “Ohia Ye Ya”, “Aburokyire Abrabo”, “Owuo Ton Ade To Bi” and many others are full of traditional knowledge, philosophy, proverbs, folktales, Ashanti ballads, witticism, idioms, historical narratives, words of wisdom and Akan folktales that merit preservation for generations. 

As it turns out, the 90-year-old Koo Nimo is not the father of palm wine guitar music but was heavily influenced by the early pacesetters of the genre, including Kwaa Mensah, Jacob Sam, Kwame Asare and Acquah Biney of the Kumasi trio musical group.

Written By James Owusu-Ansah

Culled from Daily Graphic 4th September 2021.

About The Writer

James Owusu-Ansah is a research officer at the copyright office of Ghana and a musician.

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