Date of Birth: May 4 1923
Time of Birth:
Place of Birth: Accra
Kofi Ghanaba, born Warren Gamaliel Kpakpo Akwei on May 4, 1923, in Accra, Ghana, was a remarkable Ghanaian musician and trailblazer in the world of Afro-jazz. His influence extended beyond music as he worked as a journalist, DJ, and broadcaster at different stages of his life.
Early in his life, Ghanaba showed a keen interest in music, playing for the school band at the Government Boys' School in Accra and later joining the Accra Rhythmic Orchestra as a drummer. Despite initially pursuing a teaching career, he dropped out of Achimota College in 1942, finding himself discontented with the college's disciplinary environment.
Ghanaba's journey in the U.S. during World War II saw him enlisting in the Office of Strategic Services. Upon returning to Accra in 1944, he began his career as a reporter for the Spectator Daily and later worked as an editor for various publications. Simultaneously, he delved into broadcasting jazz programs under the name Guy Warren, becoming the first African to host programs for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1951.
In the realm of music, Ghanaba co-founded the jazz band The Tempos with E. T. Mensah, leaving a lasting impact on the fusion of African and Western rhythms. His move to Chicago in 1955 marked the recording of his first album, "Africa Speaks, America Answers," with the Gene Esposito Band. His unique approach to integrating African and Western music influenced prominent musicians like Fela Kuti and Osibisa.
Returning to Ghana in 1974, Ghanaba embraced his African roots by changing his name to "Ghanaba" on the country's Republic Day. He continued making music, playing a role in the film "Sankofa" in the 1990s, and participating in various performances.
In the 1980s, Ghanaba became an advocate for indigenous musical instruments, leading the Musicians Union of Ghana from 1989 to 1992. His commitment to preserving African culture was evident in his work, including an African talking drums interpretation of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."
Ghanaba's contributions extended beyond his music career. He actively participated in events supporting African causes, including the monthly Free South Africa Shows and performances at the Soul to Soul concert in Accra.
Throughout his life, Ghanaba remained dedicated to promoting African heritage in global music, earning him the title "The Divine Drummer." His son, Glenn "Ghanababa" Warren, took up his legacy, carrying on his work in the field of jazz.
Kofi Ghanaba passed away on December 22, 2008, leaving a profound impact on the world of music and cultural preservation. His legacy endures through his contributions to Afro-jazz and his commitment to highlighting Africa's influence on global music.