Saxophone player Jimmy Beckley began his musical career in the 1970s as a clarinetist in bands with his guitarist brother, Robert Beckley. Between 1983-87 Jimmy ran his Jazz Club in Tesano and out of this came his Jazz and Highlife Combo. In 1989 the Combo released the ‘Twilight of the Volta’ album. Many top artists have played and jammed with Jimmy and his Combo including local jazz singers, Rama Brew and Avalon, traditional artists Captain Yaba and Atongo Simba, highlife musicians, Nat Buckle and Anthony Scorpion, and the famous Cameroonian sax player, Manu Dibango.
Koo Nimo (Daniel Amponsah) is a folk guitarist who plays the traditional finger-picking Akan ‘palmwine’ guitar music of the 1920s combined with classical Spanish guitar, a
touch of jazz and Brazilian bossanova. He and his Adadam Agoranuna group have made many recordings and international tours.
Koo Nimo was born in 1934 in Fuase near Kumasi, and his musical career began with a highlife band at his Cape Coast school of Adisadel College.
He then left for the Medical Research Institute in Accra to study laboratory work. When he graduated in 1955, he returned to Kumasi and teamed up with guitarist Fred Akuffo to form the Antobre group and did his first recordings with the concert band of I. E. Mason.
In 1960 Koo Nimo began working as a biochemist at the chemistry department ofK wame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi (KNUST) and in 1966 he recorded with Dr. Gyasi’s guitar band. In 1968 he translated his own compositions into English, which were subsequently published in 1976 as ‘Ashanti Ballads ‘. That year he also won a scholarship to Salford University in Britain where he made friends with Kurt Anderson (Duke Ellington’s trumpeter), Freddie Green, (Count Basie’s guitarist),
Charlie Christian and Jack Duarte. He was also influenced by the jazz music of Django Reinhardt; Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis.
Koo Nimo has been on the Executive Committee ofMUSIGA, an advisor to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and a member of the Ghana National Folklore Board of Trustees. He taught in the United States for several years at the Universities ofSeattle and Michigan. In the mid 1990s he was awarded an honorary doctorate by KNUST, where he is now teaching at its new Cultural Studies Unit.
Born in Larteh in 1931, Kwesi learned to play percussion at the Akonedi Shrine of his grand-aunt Nana Oparebea, high-priestess of a shrine, which has branches in the United States.
In 1955 Kwesi travelled to the United Kingdom to study mechanics but gravitated back to music. His Manchester house became a spot to visit for touring African American jazz artists, and during the fifties,Kwesi met and played with Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Basie’s guitarist, Freddie Green. In the sixties Kwesi played percussion with The Ionius Monk, Roland Kirk and Sarah Vaughan. In the 1970s Kwesi began to teach African drumming to unemployed Afro-Caribbean youth in Manchester, and in 1982, with the help ofthe UK /Arts Council he created the Kantamanto Cultural Group, which has played at the
Royal Festival Hall and collaborated with British composerDavidFanshaw.
In 1987 Kwesi gave a series of workshops with jazz drummer Edgar Bateman and poetess Elizabeth Suber Bennett at Coltrane House in Philadelphia. While in the US, he also jammed withAl Grey, the Count Basie Band and the Sun Ra Arkestra. In 1995 Kwesi returned home to retire in Larteh where he established the African CuIrural Research Centre and has become a respected elder.