Two doors down from us lives a famous Ghanaian folk musician. In front of his home, his wife runs a small shop which we often visit between our main shopping outings to restock on sugar, soap, and eggs. During the evenings Koo nimo sits out front on a wooden chair keeping her company and chatting with neighbors as they pass by. The first time I met him he casually asked me about where I was from and told me where he had lived and visited in the US. Always friendly and welcoming it was only over time, hearing from other Ghanaians, that I learned he is considered a living treasure here.
Originally trained as a chemist Koo Nimo worked and taught in the Biochemistry department at the University but in his other life he was known as a brilliant musician responsible for the creation of Ghanaian Palm Wine HighLife music. Through his career he taught courses on ethnomusicology, drumming, dance and guitar in Ghana and at well known Universities both in the States and Europe. He has also toured and performed worldwide. Now in his late 70s he is officially retired from his work at the University but stays busy teaching students from his home and regularly invites groups of foreign exchange students from all over the world to listen, learn, and participate in his passion. One evening as we stopped by to get some crackers he told Clement and me about a recent joyful experience of performing in a hospital and said that, as a way to give back to the community, he will begin performing regularly at hospitals and prisons.
A week ago I saw a bus load of obrunis heading to his house and then from my seat on our porch I listened to the drumming emanating from his compound for a couple hours. The next time I saw him at the shop I mentioned how I had enjoyed the drumming from afar and he invited me to another performance for the same group on Saturday. I woke Saturday morning filled with excitement and paced on our porch until I saw a few white faces walking towards Koo nimo’s home and then I hurried to follow them. They were four American friends of his and for them he played a few pieces on his acoustic guitar accompanied by two incredibly talented Ghanaian students. I sat nearby in a chair and let the beauty of the music wash over me and raise a smile gently to my lips.
Shortly after this group departed, the bus load of students arrived. They took their seats and Koo nimo introduced the musicians, their instruments, and his dancers. (I was slightly surprised to see his son who often mans the shop dressed in traditional Ashanti wear seated behind a drum.) A moment later drumming and dance animated the small courtyard. Drummers poured their bodies into their performance and guided the steps of the dancers across the floor. After several pieces, including a couple with the acoustic guitars and vocals, students were pulled from their seats for basic dance and drumming lessons. It was sweet to watch them initially struggle with the steps and gradually overcome their self-consciousness. Even those who never mastered the steps still clearly enjoyed moving their bodies with the drums. While I watched, Koo nimo leaned over to me and said he recommends everyone dances at least 20 minutes every day and believes dance is the natural cure for diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and so forth. Certainly even those who stepped up hesitantly with serious expressions soon beamed incontrollable smiles.
Clement and I reached home at the same time. It was a hot day and he had spent the morning hours with Ernest in town looking for a hard drive. Still weak from the malaria Clement collapsed on the bed while I danced around him talking a mile a minute, the joy literally bubbling out of me.
*** You can buy two CDs from Koo Nimo off amazon.com. I highly recommend Osabarima