Nana Danso Abiam — A true musicial genius

BY: John Owoo
Nana Danso Abiam on the Atenteben flute.

Nana Danso Abiam was a wizard on the Atenteben flute and a manual he wrote for the instrument will be launched on Sunday, April 24 in Accra as part of activities to mark the first anniversary of his death. 

Three orchestras that he was influential in setting up: the Pan African Orchestra (PAO), the Accra Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and the Pan African Youth Orchestra (PAYO) will all perform at the book launch at the State House. 

The PAO, which Nana founded in 1988, was a product of the cultural and political renaissance which swept post-colonial Africa in the 1960s and 1970s and the outfit created waves throughout the world in the late 1990s.

With the exploration, preservation and development of Africa's indigenous musical instruments as one of its objectives, the orchestra set out to incorporate diverse indigenous instruments from various cultures and countries throughout Africa.  


With the release of its maiden album Opus One, the orchestra simultaneously offered an ‘Afrocentric system of symphonic music as a substitute for western classical repertoire in Africa. 

Undeniably, PAO managed to move the cultural climate some notches higher in the direction of the grail of true pan-Africanism. 

The album was released through Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records in 1995 and subsequently topped the international New World Music Charts for six weeks. 

In 2001, PAO collaborated with the Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble and toured the United Kingdom with the musical play titled ‘Yaa Asantewaa - Warrior Queen’ which was written by Margaret Busby.  

Nana collaborated with a wide range of  musicologists and musicians from Europe, Asia, the United States and several African countries. Despite the regular acclaim, keeping the orchestra of about 30 fulltime professional players together was often a difficult task. 

The constant financial headache prompted Nana  to explore other musical territories. He was happy when the International Central Gospel Church agreed for him to start and direct its symphony orchestra, ASO, which he did till the time of his death.