Agya Koo Nimo is regarded as one of the living legends in the country. He plays multiple forms of traditional music, as well as new music, informed by Western influences. Many of his songs tell traditional stories and are sung in the Twi language.
He worked in various jobs in science and medical-related fields while maintaining his interest in music. In 1957, he formed the Ghanaian roots ensemble, Adadam Agofomma, which received considerable commendation.
Koo Nimo became the first Ghanaian to have his work put on a compact disk in 1990 when his eight-song album Osabarima was released.
In 1998, he was employed as a Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA, for two years, before taking a similar position at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Awards and recognition
In 1979, in recognition of his services to Ghanaian music as performer, teacher and administrator, Koo Nimo was elected President of MUSIGA (the Musicians Union of Ghana).
In 1985, he was appointed interim chairman of COSGA, the Copyright Society of Ghana. More recently, he has been made an honorary life member of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, along with such distinguished names as Professor J. H. K. Nketia and John Collins.
In February 1991, in recognition of his services to music, he received the prestigious Asanteman award from the Asantehene. In March, he received the Flagstar Award from ECRAG (Entertainment Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana). In 1991, he was invited to serve on the National Folklore Board of Trustees.
In March 1997, the Ghana government celebrated the 40th anniversary of independence by awarding gold medals to forty of its distinguished citizens, one of whom was Koo Nimo. This was in recognition of his efforts to preserve traditional culture. The following month, he received the Konkoma Award for his contribution to Ghanaian Highlife Music.
Read: Book on Koo Nimo to be launched today
Origin of his name
Appearing on the ‘Top 10 principles series’ by the Springboard, Your Virtual University, Agya Koo Nimo shared the origin of his name, how his music career started and the top 10 principles that had helped shape his life.
“The name my father gave me was Kwabena Boah Bonsem and I was baptised as a Methodist with the name Daniel Amponsah. When I went on stage, I took the name Koo Nimo.
“Koo means Friday born and Nimo means somebody who takes blame for something he has not done. Interestingly Ghanaians added the Agya which depicts father to my name and I’m thankful for that,” he explained.
Agya Koo Nimo’s father was a trumpeter and his mother, a member of the Methodist choir. He believes he started his music career right from the day he was born.
“When I cried, that was my first melody,” he stated.
Growing up, he said he used to join some old women in the village who used to wake up at dawn on weekends to sing songs they described as ‘songs for nation building’.
“At dawn, these old women would do songs for nation building and I would sit in and listen to them,” he stated.
He said he had his first music teacher at the age of five while in a mission house.
“One weekend, Mr DK Sam, my music teacher, was sick and he called me to rehearse some hymns for church service on Sunday. I was able to play it and after that he made sure I played every Sunday,” he noted.
Agya Koo Nimo, who is noted for playing the guitar, said he started his music career by playing the organ at church.
Moved to Manyia
In 1942, he said his sister married the brother of the late Nana Opoku Ware II and they had to move to Manyia.
“He bought me an organ so on Sundays when my friends were pounding fufu, I would be playing the organ to entertain his friends,” he said.
Agya Koo Nimo said his passion for the guitar was inspired by a student he saw as a rival back in Adisadel College in 1951.
“Something interesting happened in Adisadel. I had two students who were healthy rivals and anything they did, I felt I could do better so one morning I was going to the washroom and I heard one of them playing the guitar so I told myself, then I will also play the guitar and that was what led me to start playing the guitar,” he narrated.
Top 10 principles
1. Determination. Determine to work and don’t make excuses. If cultivating cocoa doesn’t work for you, palm nut or cassava will.
2. Order. Order is the first law in heaven. Without discipline, there is no life
3. Excellence. If you decide to do anything, do it well. Don’t take anything for granted, else life will also take you for granted.
4. Water therapy. With over 40 years of experience as a biochemist, I can authoritatively say that we are made up of 65 per cent water. I therefore drink loads of water to stay healthy.
5. Practice. If I don’t practise a day, I will know it. If I don’t practise for two days, the audience will know it. If I don’t practise for three days, the whole world will know it- Oscar Peterson
6. Mentoring. Mentoring is like healing your child of measles: you need a combination of toughness and love in the right proportions.
7. Systematic building. The termite has no shovel but it builds mansions with lanes ad streets.
8. Promptness. When I get an email, I reply within five minutes.
9. Fear. My biggest fear is not death but ‘fear’ itself.
10. Resourcefulness. Find innovative and creative ways to convert your liabilities into assets.