“Excerpt from Six Strings and a Note”

The memories of my life, if I had done all I could to live it well, will undoubtedly weave into the lives of the people with whom my path crossed — the ones I met, the ones I lived next to, and the ones with whom I shared a song. I am grateful that I did not forget about music’s ability to leave a profoundly moving trail, maybe even into the hearts of many around the world.

My hope is that my sincere gratitude will find its way to the excellent individuals I met along my life’s journey. Over the years I have met many people with whom I shared my life and my dreams. To God, who in His infinite wisdom and grace, gives life and guided my feet for nearly a century. My father Kwame Amponsah and my mother Akua Fokuo lived exemplary lives for me to emulate. My family became my biggest fans and critics, and the love they shared gave me the energy to pursue a dream with a guitar. I wish to express my deep gratitude to my late wife Theresa Afua Owusuaa, and my present wife Comfort Joyce Manu. Without their support, the sun might never have risen on my life’s many ambitions. The late Kwabena Onyina, a man for whose life and influence I have always been thankful.

I thank Emeritus Professor Albert Mawere Opoku, Professor of Dance and Choreography at the University of Ghana, Legon. In you, I have always had an advocate and my best critic every step along the way. I owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Emeritus J.H. Kwabena Nketia, Director at the Institute of African Studies who celebrated everything I did. There were times where he would invite me to Legon to perform at events just to give me a chance to play genuine traditional music to audiences across the country.

My life and career may have taken a different turn if I had not met Mr. J.B. Butah who served as Director of Mordernaires Band, Vice Chancellor Robert Patrick Baffour, Professor William Neizer Laing, a pathologist and the first Dean at the School of Medical Sciences, at the KNUST; and Emeritus Professor F. A. Kufuor. Emeritus Professor Ebenezer Laing was a geneticist and a man I have always been honored to call my friend. I hope that someday, when people remember my life’s work and the texture of my character, the impact of men like Professor Laing and Professor F.A. Kufuor on everything I dedicated my life to will have made it a life well-lived.

I am thankful to Mr. Owusu Prempeh, Mr. Osei Mensah Bonsu in the Kumasi branch of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Nana Osei Owusu, Professor Duncanson, who served at the first Vice Chancellor at the Kumasi College of Technology, Dr. A. A. Y. Kyerematen, the first Director at the Ghana Cultural Center in Kumasi, Dr. E.K. Osei Kofi, Professor W.E. Abraham, Professor Kwasi Wiredu, and Professor Kwame Arhin.

 A huge thank you to my friend Professor Andrew Kaye, a Fulbright scholar who wrote about my music in Koo Nimo and His Circle: A Ghanaian Musician in Ethnomusicological Perspective, as a Ph.D. dissertation. My sincere appreciation to the joy that friends like Clark Terry and Cat Anderson brought my way, and a big thank you to Professor Ellingson at the University of Seattle, Miss Adelaide Amegatcher, Mrs. Diana Rheindorf, the late Dr. Ofosu Baako, the late Professor Kwasi Andam, Dr. Glen Woode, and Dr. Sir Wereko Brobbey and family.

Much of my life revolved around the Ashanti royal courts, where the values and principles I guarded my life with found their roots. Opanin Kyirifufuo, Nana Opoku Ware II, Nana Kwame Bonsu, Nana Akua Mansa, Queen Mother Nana Amma Serwaa Nyarko II, her daughter Nana Ama Serwaa, Nana Kwaku Mensah, Nana Kwasi Ansah, Nana Osei Kofi, Lawyer J.F. Cobbina, and elders in the royal palace, my thankfulness to you all is unending. I hope my gratefulness beyond words will find its way to Nana Osei Tutu Ababio for all his encouragement and every opportunity to give me a platform to showcase my talent.

I thank Mr. D.K. Sam, who was a Fante catechist at the Foase Methodist Church from 1934 to 1942, and who first taught me to play the church organ. By the age of six, I was playing organ in church services, thanks to the wonderful support of Mr. Sam. Ambassador H. V. Sakyi taught me piano in Adisadel College, Mr. and Mrs. Rulka, and Mr. Albert Hammond taught me Latin and Greek. Dr. Ato Taylor, Professor Wuddah Martey and Dr. P.A. Owiredu were my math teachers whose impact on my life went far beyond arithmetic formulas. To Yaw Nkwantabisa III, a brother-in-law who paid my airfares and my children’s to the United States, a gesture that has meant a great deal to me through the years, I can only say thank you. I thank young Francis Gyaba whose future I pray will be bright, as he had worked tirelessly to make mine so. 

My sincere gratitude to Teacher Mante and Attorney Kwaku Bonsu, both of whom expressed such joy in teaching a curious Koo Nimo at Kumasi Presbyterian Middle School between 1944 and 1947. Before I went to Adisadel College, I had known Mr. Abaka, who lived near the royal palace and who told me to be mindful of how often I made apologies, because that could mean I always felt guilty, which is not a hallmark of an outstanding person. Like Mr. Abaka, people like Owusu Akyao, Yeboah Nyamekye, Okyere Darko and Dr. Agyei Barwuah, all of whom I met at the Center for National Culture, sowed seeds of faith, affirmation, and reassurance into my life and throughout my career, and this has served as a guiding light for me. 

I thank people like Professor Robin McCabbe who was the Director of Music at Seattle, Washington, Chris Lesser, Mr. Berkovitz, Stella McKenzie, Janet Buckenham, Mrs. Peggy Appiah, Mrs. Valerie Sackey who was Secretary to the Board of Trustees of Adom Society, Justice D.F. Annan, Nat Amarteifio, Nanabayin Dadson, Laddie Nylander, classical guitarist Gilbert Andy, Leo Boomer, Joe Pass, my guitar student James Whetzel, drummer Kofi Annan, Sowa Mensah, Akosua Addo, and Professor of Guitar Leo Brower. I thank the late Dr. Mrs. Efua Sutherland, Esi Sutherland Addy, Osu Chief, the late Willie Amarfio, Sculptor Saka Acquaye, Dr. and Miss Amegatcher, Stanley Jordan, Laurindo Almeida, Boo Hinkdon, Len Boogsie Sharpe, Fitzroy Coleman, Bill Marshall at NAFTI, Christopher Laird at Banyan TV in Trinidad and Tobago, Professor John Collins and Art Benin. They have been invaluable in my journey, and I thank them profoundly.

My deep appreciation to Dr. Mary Hark, Dr. Henry Drewal, Ben Mandelson, Bill Kubeczko who produced my Roots Revival record; Professor Kwame Addoh, George Lee, Professor Kwasi Ampene, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Dr. Atta Kwami and his wife, Emeritus Professor Owusu Sarpong (Osagyefo Ampem Anye Amoampon Ataberako II, Wenchihene), banker Mr. Manu Sarpong, singer Maame Afua Abasa, Kwaku Duah in Foase, Okyeame Kwame Nsiah in Ayeduase, Kumasi and Professor Kofi Asare Opoku, who worked as my consultant in Akan Ethics and Religion. 

My sincere gratitude to the Nana Aboagye Dacosta (Nana Gyinadu Kufuor II), Maame Yaa Manu, Mary Debra, Major Boateng and his brother Kwame Owusu, Mr. Simmons, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, Mr. Yaw Donkor Fodjour, Mr. Gilbert Addy, Dr. Adrian Oddoye, the honorable Kojo Yankah and Professor Kwesi Yankah.

I have been eternally grateful for the thoughtfulness and backing of people like Dr. Evans Anfom, Professor Kwame Adarkwa, Professor Kwasi Andam, Professor Bamfo Kwakye, Professor F. O. Kwami, Professor E.H. Amonoo Neizer, Professor Ayim, Professor Otoo Ellis, Mr. A.S.Y Andoh and also Mr. Kobby Yebo-Okrah. Some of the wonderful people I had great pleasure in working with include Professor  Emmanuel Akyeampong, Professor Kay Shelemay at Harvard University, Professor Opoku Agyemang, Professor  Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang, Dr. Beulah Brown-Jamaica, Janet Akosua Edge, Dr. Mariama Ross, Art Education, KNUST, Julialynne Walker, Dr. Emily Owusu Ansah, Clinical Psychologist, KNUST, Professor Cynthia Schmidt, Ethnomusicologist, Seattle WA, Professor Kofi Anyidoho, English Department, Legon, Dr. Esther Afreh, Head English Department, KNUST, Mr. A.A. Amoako, English Department, KNUST, Pamela Clarkson, Brigit Ellinghaus, Anna Cottrell, Professor F.O. Akuffo, Kwaku Opuni Ofosuhene, Esther Cobbah, Tete Kobla and Dr. Gayle McGarrity.

I have had the good fortune of meeting Drs Anderson, Gorman, Ayisi Boateng, and Amanama at Komfo Anokye Hospital, as well as Dr. J.G.A. Wood, Mercy Boateng, and Sister Martha, all of whom were a tremendous help to me when I needed their counsel. I truly appreciate the work of Mrs. Gifty Bright, Akosua Adoma Kyerekuaa and Edwina Asamoah in organizing my library. Amara Hark Weber, Nana Yaa Asantewaa, and Phada Simone, thank you for your good work.

I’d like to say thank you to Papa Baah, Dr. Seidu Karikacha, Sowah Mensah, Dr. Akosua Addoh, Professor Kwami Addoh, Mr. Oscar Doe, Professor Philip Schyler, Prof. Dudley Shannon, Marc Seal, Obo Addy and Tetteh Mustapha Addy, Minna Zhou, Dr. Akua Duku Anokye, Maame Donkor Wawase, Mr. Kow Ansah, Nana Kwaku Kunadu Manwerεhene, and Nana Kwarteng. You have all been truly remarkable.

Classical guitar tutor Professor Robinson at the Manchester School of Music in the later 1960’s helped me refine my craft, and Professor Adele Kramer of the London Guildhall College of Music has been a remarkable teacher with a degree of patience I can never forget. Mr. Dick Moore, who once served as the Director at the U.S.I.S. displayed such genuine support for my work, made the time to organize workshops with American jazz musicians like Pharaoh Sanders, and would bring along jazz guitar manuals for me to study when he was travelling to Ghana.

Musicologist Jon Kertzer is the epitome of selflessness and reassuring friendship; Dr. Rick Welty worked tirelessly at Jack Straw Studios on the Tete Wo bi Ka record, and Dr. Thomas Kruppa has been incredibly instrumental to the creative artist I would become; I thank all of them dearly. To Dr. Henrick Bettermann, thank you for all the kind words, and to Tom Fryer and Lilliam Freeman for introducing me to some of their favorite jazz music. Thank you also to Leo Sarkisian and Rita Rochelle’s Voice of America program for helping me tell my story to an audience, many of whom I will never meet. The work of the indefatigable and truly special Laurel Sercombe, archivist at the University of Washington-Seattle meant a great deal to me, and I thank you.

I can never find enough words to thank Mr. Faisal Helwani, who spent much of his energy and his own money on helping me in the ten years when I served as president of MUSIGA. I am grateful for the time he spent in getting me to where I stand today. My friend and great English classical guitar composer Jack Duarte wrote that, “Someone has to bring the guitar to Ghana as a musical instrument. May this guitar manual help my friend Daniel Amponsah to be the one who does it.” I have been incredibly fortunate to have had people like him in my life. Mr. Kwabena Fosu Mensah and Apogee produced my first ever CD in Ghana “Osabarima”, and I always thank them for such an expression of kindness and excellence.

Through it all there had been the remarkable work of my attorney Nana Bosumprah. A man who lend his skill and passion for musicians to chase their dreams, and he did so without regard for applause and adulation. He had been my attorney for the ten years I was president of MUSIGA, and incredibly influential as the copyright administrator when international recording artist Paul Simon applied for the use of “Yaa Amponsa” in his Graceland album. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

My music career would never have been what it became had it not been for some of the great partners I found along the way. Kofi Twumasi was one of the greatest guitarists in Ghana with whom I performed for about 30 years. Other remarkable musicians whose collective talent carried me through the years were Kwao Sarfo, J.K. Barwuah, Hanson Obeng, Yaw Nimo, Kojo Nyamekye, Kojo Kusi, Yaw Poku, Yaw Badu, and Sammy Kweggir. There had also been Kwabena Donkor, Osei Assibey, Bonsu, Moro, Dwumaa, Emelia Fosuaa, Nana Yeboah Abeyie, Baffour Abeyie, Badu, Gifty Ghartey, Faustina Akyeampong, Tawiah, Akosua Frimpomaa, Abena Felicia Manu, Yaw Manu, Anyanor, Yaw Asare, Osei Korankye the Seperewa Virtuoso, John and Stella Amponsah, and Kwabena Ampomah.

To my brothers and sisters Grace Boah-Agyarko, Victoria Amponsah, Hannah Amponsah, Reverend Rockson Amponsah, Abraham Adusei Amponsah, Paul Amponsah, Mama Akua Fosuaa and Amma Asibuo. My nephews and nieces Kwasi Teng, Yaw Boama, Kojo Bonsu, Nana Ama Serwaa, Nana Akua, Sallah and Nyarko.

Finally, my grattitude E. Obeng-Amoako Edmonds for the foresight and extraordinary patience to tell the story with such simplicity and brilliance.

To all my friends in countries around the world whose well wishes kept me alive, and whose smiles gave me the strength to become an artist, I thank you. I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had every step of the way, for all these years. My words will live longer than I will; so my hope is that my work has left behind a legacy for future generations.


- Koo Nimo

  • Your palm wine music records an ageless history for the generations makes us high on life. In your tongue what at first seems passing, temporal, ephemeral, accumulates: like individual grains of sand becoming the spectacular architecture of the anthills, slowly, unseen, until the landscape is unimaginable without them.

    Professor Abena Busia, New Brunswick, USA

  • Agya Koo Nimo has been central to the success of the Brooklyn College Study Abroad to Ghana program and has had a tremendous impact on the Brooklyn College Abroad students and faculty who have been privileged to know him, work with him, and learn from him. I am happy to attest that he is a national and international treasure, and it is a personal joy to have been able to call him a friend and colleague for all these years.

    Lynda R. Day, Ph.D., New York, USA

  • Koo was not simply a traditional musician, but a worldly and well-versed proponent of Ghanaian traditions and culture who was widely recognized and respected. I am always especially impressed that Koo was such a champion of traditional music while at the same time deeply connected with Ghanaian popular music history.

    Chris Lesser, Melbourne, Australia

  • His strengths lie in composition and performance in unique contemporary and traditional contexts: understanding the deep structures of traditional African music, Palm Wine guitar and ensemble styles, Highlife/Jazz, and storytelling with guitar and vocals, including spoken word, poetry, and song.

    Royal Hartigan Ph.D., Massachusetts, USA

  • The personality Koo Nimo is a rare artist, philosopher and teacher. Eloquent in Asante and English, Agya Koo has sung his way across the world and lectured in several universities, where he brings Ghanaian wit and wisdom to life, with words and fingers.

    Professor Kwesi Yankah, Accra, Ghana

  • “You will be a great musician,” you told me. The words wrapped themselves around something in my heart, and something in my heart wrapped itself around the words. Neither will let go; and the rain still paints perfect squares on the cement, and I think of you still and often, and dance still and often to your music, which flows like water.

    Ethan Kogan, Ilinois, USA

  • His allowing me to share a little of my gift with him buoyed up my life so much while I was in Ghana. Not only for me and the others who have had the pleasure of hearing and seeing him, but he is a national treasure for Ghanaians. My hope is that they know how fortunate they are to be passing through life while Agya Koo Nimo is in the world.

    Quanda Johnson, New York, USA