Kwadwo Antwi is popular for his romantic Twi songs, backed by a ‘lovers’ rock’ form of reggae (a romantic style of reggae popularised by Jamaican singer, Gregory Isaacs.). Kwadwo began his career in two early Ghanaian reggae bands of the 1970s: the Classic Handels and then the Classic Vibes. It was with the six-piece Classic Vibes band that he first left Ghanaian shores for Denmark and then Switzerland. Since then he has been partly based in Switzerland, where he has released a string of successful records and CDs. In fact
his wife is Swiss, and often sings chorus on his records.
Kwadwo’s first albums were ‘All I Need Is You’ and ‘Saman’ released in 1986 and 1987. During the 1990s Kwadwo produced many solo albums, such as ‘Akwanoma Anokye’ ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ and ‘Akuaba’, Every Christmas, he returns to Ghana to perform live at the National Theatre for his Ghanaian fans.
Nii Noi was born in Accra in 1953. In the 1980s he spent time in London, where he played saxophone with Dade Krama and the reggae band, Misty-In-Roots. In 1988 he returned to Ghana and in the 1990s he set upMau Mau Musiki, consisting of traditional African flutes, hand-pianos flutes percussion instruments, wooden xylophones, blown conch-shells and double-reed North African al-gaita. The group worked with Ghanaba and in 1992 with the Pharoah Saunders Quintet. The group is now known as Muziki w’Afrika and plays a combination of traditional African music and free-jazz. NU Noi Nortey is also Director of the Anyah Arts Library in Accra, which has a wide collection of music, books and art pieces.
Saka is a well-known Ghanaian musician, sculptor and dramatist, who was born in Accra in 1923. He learned to play saxophone in the 1950s and was Tempos highlife dance band. Saka helped King Bruce found the Black Beats highlife dance band in 1952. He left for the United States to do further art studies and while in Philadelphia he formed the West African Ensemble that made an album.
Saka returned to Ghana in 1961 and formed the African Tones band and dance group that toured Russia. He was appointed as Head of the Arts Council from 1968-72 and during that period, his musical play, “The Lost Fishermen” was produced and the popular Saturday Anansekrom (variety) programs were initiated.
In the early 1970s Saka discovered Nii Ashitey’s talented Ga group, Wulomei, and he and Kwadwo Donkor helped produce the group’s first record ‘Walatu Walasa ‘, Saka was also involved as one of the Ghana organizers of the ‘Soul to Soul’ concert at Black Star Square in 1971 that brought many top American acts to Ghana, including Wilson Pickett, the Voices of East Harlem, the Staple Singers, Ike & Tina Turner, Roberta Flack, Les McCann, Eddie Harris and Santana.
After the Djembe drum, the Kpanlogo drum is perhaps the most popular and widely played of all West African drums.
Kpanlogo drumming, a traditional type of drum-dance music, was created by Otoo Lincoln, who composed well-known tunes like’Kpanlogo Alogodzan’, ‘ABC Kpanlogo’ & ‘Ayinle Momobiye ‘. Otoo was born in the Korle Wokon district of Accra in 1941
and learned Ga drumming from his family. He obtained the name ‘kpanlogo’ when he used the new beat he was creating to perform an old Ga folktale his grandfather told him
44 about, which involved three Ga princesses calledKpanlogo, Alogodzan &
Otoo Lincoln and a group of boys from the Bukom area of Accra (Frank Lane, Okule Foes and other members of the Black Eagles dance club) created the youthful Ga kpanlogo drum-dance during the early 1960s by combining older Ga fishermen-styles of music, such as the kolomashie. gome, and oge with highlife or even rock ‘n’ roll dance movements. Because of kpanlogo’s supposedly ‘indecent’ movements, it was banned for a while
before it was again in vogue in 1965. Except for a small copyright payment to Otoo in the 1990s, Otoo has never received the financial rewards for having created what has become Ghana’s most internationally-acclaimed drumming style.
Kwadwo Donkor was born in Ashanti in 1934 and attended Cape Coast’s prestigious Mfantsipim schools where, incidentally, he was Kofi Annan’s house-prefect. Between 1956-59 he studied history at the University of Ghana and was encouraged to use his piano skills for highIife by a group of university lecturers, which had formed the Achimota African Music Society (J.H.K. Nketia, Robert Sprigge, Ephraim Amu, and E.F. Collins).
As a pianist and highIife composer, Kwadwo Donkor, produced 20 albums 48 and numerous singles since 1958 with his APEMCO recording label and J\BJBIRAM publishing company.
From 1958 Kwadwo branched out into producing singles by guitar bands, such as E.K Nyame, Kwabina Okai, the Kumasi Youngsters and Kofi Djan, and by swing-jazz and calypso-influenced big bands ofE. T.Mensah’s Tempos and King Bruce’s Black Beats, – and Uhuru, with whom he later released a full album of his own compositions entitled ‘Big Sounds of Africa’.
Kwadwo produced and composed music as well as maintained a full-time career in the Ghanaian diplomatic service.
In the 1970s Kwadwo produced a live album of the 1972 National Brass Band Competition, released albums for the Ogyataana Band (including Obra Mu M’Asem) and a piano medley called ‘Ray Ellis Plays Highlife’.
During this period, Kwadwo also produced’ Ga Cultural Groups’ that played Ga folk tunes and local Accra street highlife. One was Wulomei, which he helped discover (with Saka Acquaye) and released its album ‘Walatu Walasa’; another was Dzadzeloi and its ‘Two Paddy Follow One Girl’ hit. He also used Uhuru to back flautist Oscar Sulley Braima with singer Eddie Ntreli in an Afro-beat/rock album entitled Oscar Sulley and the
By the mid 1980s, Kwadwo set up his Abokyi Parts highlife dance band, which has made three albums. In 2000 Kwadwo became a Trustee of the newly-established Ghana Association of Phonographic Industries.
Rex Omar and Amandzeba Nat Brew belong to a younger generation
of highlife musicians, who utilize indigenous resources to create
highlife music, using state-of-art techniques.
Rex, Nat and Akosua Agyepong are the founding members of the NAKOREX band of the 1990s.
Rex had a big hit with his risque highlife song ‘Abiba’ (y.f adonkotuo Ye Me
De – Abiba’s Gyrations Are Sweet to Me). He has been on many international
tours, has had numerous collaborations with international artists and recently collected a Kora award in southafrica.
Amandzeba Nat Brew has also gone solo and has had a nyumber of recent
successful releases that are based on indigenous Ga ‘Kpanlogo’ and ‘La
Kpa’ rhythms like his ‘Kpanlogo Ye De’ and ‘Demara’ COs. These albums
have been popular in Ghana, Togo and Benin, where Amandzeba has
The third member of NAKOREX, Akosua, also has her own solo singing
career, and is married to Nat Brew
John Collins came to Ghana in 1952 and since 1969 has been involved in
the Ghanaian music scene as musician, bandleader, recording engineer, producer,
journalist and writer. He is a founding member ofBAPMAF (formed
in 1990) and is currently Head of the Music Department of the University
of Ghana-Legon. He is also a consultant for several music unions in Ghana
(including MUSIGA) and eo-leader ofthe Local Dimension acoustic highlife
band. John Collins supplied the Ghana entries/biographies and photos for
Hewale Sounds is a neo-traditional group, formed by Dela Botri in 1996,
and originally based at Professor J.H.K. Nketia’s International Centre for
African Music and Dance (ICAMD) at the School of Performing Arts,
University of Ghana. The instruments of the 12-person ensemble include
antenteben bamboo flutes, the Akan seprewa harp-lute, the goje one-stringed
Dagbani fiddle, two northern xylophones, the giant Ga gome frame-drum
and assorted local percussion instruments. The group also includes two
The repertoire of Hewale Sounds consists of Ghanaian and other African
traditional music, their own compositions, and some contemporary music,
including their own rendition of high life, Afrobeat, Afrorock and American
jazz songs. The group has played extensively in Ghana and has toured in the
United States, Europe, West Africa and South Africa. In 2004 they played
alongside Stevie Wonder at the International Conference Centre in Accra.