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by World Music Network July 27, 2012


Koo Nimo: Highlife Roots Revival

Koo Nimo

Koo Nimo, one of the last true veterans of Highlife and Palm wine music, is releasing a brand new album on the 30th of July, Highlife Roots Revival, which was recorded in his Ghanaian backyard in Accra.

When Ghana achieved independence in 1957, Koo Nimo was in his early twenties and was already well respected across the country. Armed with his acoustic guitar and gentle poetry, he went abroad to study and schooled himself in various musical styles, ranging from flamenco to jazz. Koo Nimo however always remained loyal to the style he is so close to; palm-wine. Also considered as the earlier and rootsier version of highlife music, Palmwine has been of great influence to West-African music.


Koo Nimo

Now approaching his eighties, the renowned musician is no-where near retirement: 'I started my musical career the first day I was born. I sang my first song when I cried. A man is born as a self contained musical instrument'. As the name suggests, the album revives the roots of highlife genre, so closely connected to palm-wine. Highlife Roots Revival also showcases Nimo's relaxed style and is his first recording with a large ensemble,  which can especially heard on the track ‘Medley: Anansi Song Story/Bear, What Is the Matter With You?/Hornbill’. The line-up includes guitars, seprewa, traditional drums, percussion and an accompanying vocal group.

Have a listen to one of the tracks on the album here. ‘Old Man Plants A Coconut Tree’ is an ode to the virtues of preserving tradition – the lyrics intone, ‘Grandson, I know I won’t live to see the fruits of my labour. Because of you, and children yet unborn, I am planting the coconut tree’.

As the album was recorded in Koo Nimo's garden, one can hear the occasional crowing of a rooster or distant murmur of a child’s voice bubbling underneath the guitars. These elements add a wonderful sense of intimacy to the album and underline the ethos of palm-winemusic perfectly. This is, after all, a musical style named after the strong alcoholic drink imbibed at outdoor acoustic sessions, where musicians swapped their songs beneath the starlit sky and where palm-winemusic was born...

Have a look at the video of a live performance by Koo Nimo from last year at Afrika Festival in the Netherlands: