Prof. Collins keeps archives of highlife music

By GNA
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By GNA

12/2/2008 11:06:21 AM -

Professor John Collins has been very instrumental in keeping an archive of Highlife music. Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation (BAPMAF), has a permanent Highlife Photo Exhibition at his house in Accra.

BAPMAF is a Ghanaian NGO established in 1990 by Professor John Collins, encouraged and assisted by a group of leading Ghanaian popular musicians (King Bruce, E.T. Mensah, Beattie Casely-Hayford, Koo Nimo, Kwaa Mensah and Edinam Ansah) who were concerned with the lack of research and information on local Ghanaian highlife music and the demise of the 'classical' styles of this genre. Since then the archives has expanded into other areas of African music, both popular and traditional.

The core of the BAPMAF holdings are John Collin's own extensive music archive that he began collecting in the late 1960's - with archival contributions also being made by Mr. 'Opia' Y.B Bampoe ( leader of the Jaguar Jokers) E. F. Collins (Philosophy Dept. University of Ghana, Legon), Professor Attana Mensah (Music Dept, Legon), Jimmy Moxon (Ghana's first Minister of Information), Professor Mawere Opoku (Dance Dept, Legon), Robert Sprigge (History Dept, Legon and ex-member of Red Spots band), Oscarmore Ofori (highlife composer) and veteran guitarist T.O. 'Jazz' Ampoumah . Other BAPMAF members/associates/affiliates are Edinam Ansah (Ghana Musicians Union Executive ), Jimmy Beckley (Afro-jazz Combo), Joseph Aduoko (translator), guitarist Anthony 'Scorpion' Entsie, multi-instrumentalist Aaron Bebe Sukura, music engineer Panji Anoff, actor Ben Ahorlu Ajokpa and university lecturers Peter Arthur and Dr. Zabana Kongo

BAPMAF is situated at Bokoor House, Mile 8 Accra-Nsawam road, near Taifa Junction.

In February 1996 BAPMAF and the German Goethe Institute in Accra (under its then Director Sabine Hentzch) organised a Highlife Month that included seminars and films on highlife, performances (Ankobra, Grassroots, Mau Mau Musiki and drummer Kofi Ghanaba) - with the central focus being the Golden Years of Highlife Music Photographic Exhibition.

Organizations who were involved or supported the very successful Highlife Month included the Dubois Centre (Ebo Hawkson, Director), the National Theatre (Dr. Komla Amuoko, Director), the Musicians Union of Ghana MUSIGA (Joe Mensah, President), the Univ. of Ghana (Professors Kofi Agovi and Kwesi Yankah), the Ghana Copyright Administration (Betty Mould-Iddrisu, Director), the Ghana National Folklore Boards (Colonel Amuzu, Chairman), the Ghana Concert Party Union (Mr. S.K. Oppong and Mr. Mensah Executives), the Ghana Record Producers Union (Dick Essilfie-Bondzie and Kojo Donkoh Executives) and the African Heritage Library (Kofi Ghanaba, Director). The Padmore Library also supplied some materials from its archives.

After the BAPMAF/Goethe Highlife Month of 1996 the BAPMAF Highlife Photo Exhibition was moved to the premises of Professor John Collins where, as part of the BAPMAF Highlife-Music Institute, it was opened to the general public. The Highlife-Music Institute then hosted many local and foreign visitors and has been televised twice; once for Ghana Broadcasting in 1996 (producer Cynthia Jikpani) and again in 2000 by the London Shai Shai company (producer Martine Stone). It was then closed down temporarily, but after extensive rebuilding and renovation the BAPMAF Highlife-Music Institute was opened again to the public from 2006

In collaboration with the French Embassy the BAPMAF Highlife Photo Exhibition was displayed in Accra as part of the Alliance Francaise 'Story of Highlife' event in May/June 2001, from where there are plans for it to travel around Africa. On January 4th 2002 BAPMAF and the Swizz Embassy organized the launch of the Basel Mission/UTC compilation CD (Arion Disques ARN 64564) 'Ghana Popular Music 1931-57' at the DuBois Centre in Accra.. From February 8th to March 22nd 2002 BAPMAF organized a series of seven lectures/performances at the National Theatre for the US Embassy Public Affairs Section 'Black History Month'.

Since 2004 BAPMAF has been involved in local work with the Presence music talent-scout association for Ghanaian youth, the Pan African Arts program NGO (highlife photo exhibition at the British Council, Accra 6-8th October), the US Embassy Public Affairs 'African American Heritage/History Month' program of February 2005, and organising a workshop on Researching Ghanaian Theatre to be held at the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies, Legon, on 27 August, 2005.

Materials at the BAPMAF Highlife Centre include 700 photographs, 600 publications as well as many rare documents, speeches, brochures, posters, record sleeves. And over 800 hours of recorded music; including 700 old highlife songs on shellac 78 rpm records and master-tapes of over one hundred Ghanaian bands recorded by John Collins Bokoor Recording Studio from 1982 . The materials of the photographic exhibition are organised into 15 separate categories - each accompanied by an Information Sheet. These categories are as follows:-

1) Fife and Brass Bands. The emergence of brass band 'adaha' highlife music in Cape Coast in the 1880’s. Its spread and offshoots - such as Konkoma highlife.

2) Palmwine music. Early coastal guitar/accordion music. Importance of visiting Liberian Kru seamen. Fanti Osibisaaba. The first Highlife recordings (in1927/8). The Yaa Amponsah and Odonson (Akan 'blues') varieties of highlife.

3) High-class Dance Orchestras. Elite Ghanaian dance orchestras from 1914 to 1940s. Origin of term 'Highlife', i.e. high-class life.

4) Highlife Dance Bands and the impact of World War Two. Postwar appearance of jazzy dance-band highlife in Ghana. Its spread to Nigeria in the 1950s.

5) E.T Mensah 'The King of Dance Band Highlife'. The life of this pioneer leader of the Tempos band.

6) King Bruce and the Black Beats. The story of another important Highlife dance-band leader 7) The Concert Party. Overview of the concert party profession from circa 1900 to the present. The Jaguar Jokers Concert Party. The Comedian 'Opia' (Y.B. Bampoe) and his Jaguar Jokers group formed in 1954. Photos of them on 'trek' (i.e. tour) .

9) Guitar Bands. The transformation of 'palmwine' music into guitar-band music after World War Two. The crucial role in this of E.K. Nyame.

10) Fusion music. Emergence of various musical blends created by highlife musicians. The Afro-jazz of Kofi Ghanaba (Guy Warren), the Afro-beat of Nigeria's Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Osibisa's Afro-rock and the current wave of 'Burgher' Highlife and Hiplife. 11) The Rise of Women Artists. Explosion of female popular musicians and concert actresses since the 1960s. Important role of local gospel music in feminising popular dance music. 12) Back-To-Roots. Indigenisation and acoustic trends in Highlife. Kpanlogo drumming. Wulomei and the Ga 'cultural groups'. Koo Nimo's updated and 'unplugged' palmwine music. 13) Ghanaian musicians unions since 1956. The formation of MUSIGA in the 1970's. 14)Large easy to read at a glance, diagram of the evolutionary tree of highlife and its many offshoots. 15) Jamaican roots reggae and the goombay/gome story.

BAPMAF has a Ghana Voluntary Organisation Certificate no. 402 (16th April 1991) and a Ghana Certificate of Incorporation no 41,108 (20th November 1990). It is a member of the UNESCO Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity. It is undoubtedly true that in his own way, Prof. John Collins has been phenomenal in holding the fort for Ghanaian Highlife music.