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John Collins

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Full name: Prof. John Collins (PhD)
Department of Music
University of Ghana
Bokoor House
P.O.Box 391
Description: John Collins has been active in the Ghanaian/West African music scene since 1969 as a band leader, music union activist, recording engineer, journalist and writer. He is currently a Professor at the Music Department at the University of Ghana at Legon, is manager of Bokoor Recording Studio, is Acting Chairman of BAPMAF African Music Archives in Accra, is a consultant for the Ghana Musicians Union and Ghana Old Musicians Welfare Association and is co-leader of the Local Dimension highlife band.

John Collins came to Ghana in 1952 and has been involved in the West African music scene since 1969. He is a guitarist, harmonica player and percussionist and has worked, recorded and played with numerous Ghanaian and Nigerian bands; the Jaguar Jokers, Francis Kenya, E.T. Mensah, Abladei, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Koo Nimo, Kwaa Mensah, Victor Uwaifo, Bob Pinodo, the Bunzus, the Black Berets, T.O.Jazz, S.K. Oppong and Atongo Zimba. In the 1970’s he ran his own Bokoor highlife guitar band which released 20 songs and since 1982 has been running Bokoor Recording Studio 8 miles north of Accra: which released 9 records and 60 commercial cassettes and is currently releasing 3 highlife cd’s: ‘Electric Highlife’ (Naxos label Hong Kong/USA), ‘Vintage Palmwine’ (Otrabanda, Holland), the ‘Guitar and Gun” (Sterns/Earthworks UK).

Collins is also a music journalist and writer with over 100 journalistic and academic publications (including seven books published in the UK, USA and Ghana) on African popular and neo-traditional music. He has given many radio and television broadcasts, including over 40 for the British BBC. In 1978 he wrote And presented the BBC’s first-ever (five-part) series of radio programs on African popular music called ‘In The African Groove’.

Collins has been a film consultant/facilitator: the BBC’s ‘Repercussions’, ‘Brass Unbound’ by IDTV of Amsterdam, ‘The Highlife Story’ for Ghana Broadcasting, ‘Highlife’ for German Huschert Realfilm, ‘African Cross Rhythms’ by the Danish Loki Films (re-relased 1996 as ‘Listen to the Silence’ by Films for the Humanities & Sciences, New Jersey, USA), ‘When the Moment Sings’ by the Norwegian Visions company, ‘Ghanaian Art Music’ by Bavarian TV and ‘One Giant Leap/Astronaut’ music-video for Palm Pictures/Island Records.

Collins obtained his first degree (sociology and archaeology) from the University of Ghana in 1972 and his Doctorate in Ethnomusicology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has given lectures/workshop in Canada, the USA, the UK, Scandinavia, Holland, Germany, France, the Caribbean, Ghana and the Cote-D’Ivoire. He has been a resident research-fellow at the Northwestern University African Studies Department at Evanston in the US and Dartmouth Art College in the West of England

Collins was on the Executive of the Ghana Musicians Union (MUSIGA) in the 1970’s and, together with Professor J.H.K. Nketia and the Ghanaian folk-guitarist Koo Nimo, was in 1987 made an honorary life-member of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM). During the 1990’s Collins was Technical Director of the three-year joint Universiy of Ghana African Studies Department/Mainz African Music Redocumentation Project, and for seven years was with the Ghana National Folklore Board of Trustees/Copyright Administration. In the summer of 2000 Collins teamed up with fellow guitarist Koo Nimo and went on a performance tour of the US eastern sea-board with him.

Currently Collins is running his Bokoor Studio as a mobile one. He is the Acting Chairman of the Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation (BAPMAF). He is PRO for the Old Ghanaian Musicians Welfare Association (GOMAWA), consultant for MUSIGA, patron of the Afrika Obonu music therapy drum group and consultant for a World Bank project to assist the African music industry. He is also a Professor and Head of the Music Department of the University of Ghana, Legon from where he runs (with Aaron Bebe Sukura) the Local Dimension palmwine highlife band that toured Europe in 2002 and 2004 and released a CD entitled N’Yong on the French Disques Arion label.

All downloadable files including 3 full-length mp3 music examples
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Articles written by John Collins

  • Comic Opera in Ghana. African Arts, UCLA, Vol.9, January 1976
  • Ghanaian Highlife. African Arts, UCLA, California, Vol. 10, October 1976
  • Postwar Popular Bands in West Africa. African Arts, UCLA, California, Vol.10 (no.3), April 1977
  • Crisis in the Ghanaian Music Industry (translated into German). In: A. Imfeld (ed.) "Verlernen: Was mich stumm macht. Lesebuch zur Afrikanischen Kultur", Unionsverlag Munich, 1980
  • The Concert Party in Ghana. In: K. Summers (ed.) "Musical Traditions", Exeter, No.4, 1985
  • Jazz Feedback to Africa. American Music, University of Illinois Press, Vol. 5, Summer 1987
  • Comic Opera in Ghana. In: R. Priebe "Ghanaian Literatures", Greenwood Press, 1988
  • The Early History of West African Highlife Music. In: J. Farley and S. Rijven (ed.) "Popular Music", Cambridge University Press, Vol.8, No.3, October 1989
  • Popular Music in West Africa (with Dr. Paul Richards). In: S. Frith (ed.) "World Music, Politics and Social Change - Chapter 1", Manchester University Press, 1989
  • African Music Strengthens Cultural Autonomy, Group Media Journal, vol. VIII Munich, 1989
  • Article on West African Popular Music (translated into Japanese). In: T. Nakamuru (ed.) "Japanese Noise: Music Magazine", Number 1, Spring 1989
  • Running a Band, Music Studio and Music Archives in Ghana. Proceedings of Conference on Regional Audio-visual Archives, Falun, Sweden, Delarna Research Council, 1990
  • African Music in the Space Age: The Agbadza Drums. Museletter SUNY at Buffalo, New York, pp57-58, 1990
  • The Popular music of West Africa (translated into German). In: V. Erlmann (ed.) "Populäre Musik in Afrika", Museum für Völkerkunde Berlin, Germany, 1991
  • Some Anti-hegemonic Aspects of African Popular Music. In: R. Garafolo (ed.) "Rockin' The Boat: Mass Music and Mass Movements", Southend Press, USA, 1992
  • The Ghanaian Concert Party - Popular Entertainment and the Ghanaian School Syllabus. In: A. Boeren and K. Epskamp (eds.), Ceso Paperback No. 17, The Hague, Centre for the Study of Education in Developing Countries, 1992
  • The Problem of Oral Copyright: The Case of Ghana. In: S. Frith (ed.) "Music And Copyright", Edinburgh University Press, 1994
  • The Guitar in Africa: The 1950's - 90's. Interview with John Collins on the Cultural Policy, Folklore and Recording Industry of Ghana, by Cynthia Schmidt. In: C. Schmidt "In The World of Music", International Institute for Traditional Music, volume 36, number 2, pp138-147, 1994
  • The Ghanaian Concert Party. Glendora African Journal of the Arts, Lagos, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1996
  • Music Feedback: African America's Music in Africa, African Studies, vol. XXIV/2, 1996
  • Fela and the Black President Film. Glendora African Quarterly of the Arts, Lagos, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1997
  • The Evolution of West African Popular Entertainment. In: J.Middleton (ed.) "The Encyclopedia of Sub-Saharan Africa", Charles Scribner and Sons Reference Books, 1999
  • Ghana Entry (with Ronnie Graham). In: S. Broughton, M. Ellingham and R. Trillo (eds.) "The Rough Guide to World Music", Volume 1, Rough Guide/Penguin, London, pp488-498, 1999
  • Hitechnology, Individual Copyright and Ghanaian Music. In: H. Lauer (ed.) "Ghana: Changing Values Changing Technologies", published by The Council For Research in Values and Philosophy, Washington D.C., 2000
  • Paper on the African Music Industry. For the June 20th 2000 Workshop of the World Bank on Developing the Music Industry in Africa. Available from the Policy Science Center, 127 Wall St. Room 314, BOX 208215, New Haven, CT. 06529-8215, 2000
  • La Musique Populaire de L'Ouest Africain Anglophone, in Notre Librarie: Literatures du Nigeria et du Ghana: 2 (ed.) Jean-Louis Joubert. Published by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Number 141, pp114-118, July-September 2000
  • Making Ghanaian Music Exportable, paper read at the Ghana Music Awards Workshop held at the National Theatre, Accra, 6th April 2001
  • The Generational Factor in Ghanaian Music: Concert Parties, Highlife,Simpa, Kpanlogo and Gospel. In: M. Palmberg and A. Kirkegaard (eds.) "Playing With Identities in the Contemporary Music of Africa" Nordic African Institute/Sibelius Museum Apo, Finland, pp60-74, 2002
  • Cover Story: Ghana's music industry today, West Africa, 4339, pp8-13, August 2002
  • Eight entries on the "Ghanaian and Liberian popular music and recording industry" for the Continuum Encyclopaedia of Popular Music of the World Vols. I and II edited by John Shepherd, David Horn, Dave Laing, Paul Oliver and Peter Wicke, Cassell, London, March and May 2003
  • The 'Folkloric Copyright Tax' Problem in Ghana. Media Development, the Journal of the World Association for Christian Communication, London. No. 1, pp 10-14, 2003
  • Fela and the Black President Film: A Diary. In: T. Schoonmaker (ed.) "Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway", Palgrave/Macmillan Press, June 2003
  • Ghanaian Women Enter into Popular Entertainment. Humanities Review Journal, (ed) Dr. Foluke M. Ogunleye, Vol. 3, No.1, (ISSN 1596-0749), Published by the Humanities Research Forum, Univerity of Idadan and Obefemi Awolowo University, Nigeria, June 2003, pp.1-10.
  • Music and Mathematics. In: History of Philosophy and Science for African Undergraduates, (ed) Helen Lauer, Hope Publications, Ibadan, Nigeria, 2003, pp. 688-678. (ISBN No 978-37018-0-0)
  • Urban Anxiety and its Sonic Response. Glendora Review, Lagos, Nigeria, (ed.) Olakunle Tejuoso, Vol. 3, No, 2 & 4, 2004, pp 23-8.
  • Entry on Music: West African “Highlife”. For African Folklore: An Encyclopedia, (eds) Phillip Peek and Kwesi Yankah. Routledge, New York and London 2004, pp. 275-276.
  • The African American Impact on Anglophone West Africa. VAD June 2004 Conference Paper. Published on the VAD website,, (ed) Verena Uka, University of Hannover, Department of History, Germany, 2004.
  • Ghanaian Christianity and Popular Entertainment: Full Circle. History in Africa, (ed. David Henige, Wisconsin University) Number 31, 2004, pp. 389-391.
  • The Decolonisation of Ghanaian Popular Entertainment. In Urbanization and African Cultures, (eds). Toyin Falola and Steven Salm. Carolina Academic Press, North Carolina, USA, 2005, pp.119-137
Books written by John Collins

  • My Life: Victor Uwaifo the Black Knight of Music Fame, Black Bell Publishing, Accra, 1976.
  • Music Makers of West Africa. Three Continents Press, Washington DC/Passeggiata Press, Colarado, 1985 (ISBN 0-89410-076-9)
  • African Pop Roots. W. Foulshams, London, 1985
  • West African Pop Roots. Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992 (ISBN 0-87722-916-3)
  • Highlife Time. Anansesem Press, Accra, 1994 and reprinted 1996 (ISBN 9988-522-03-3)
  • E.T. Mensah the King of Highlife. Anansesem Press, Accra, 1996
  • West African Popular Theatre. Indiana University Press, 1997 (with Karin Barber and Alain Ricard, ISBN 0-85255-244-0)
  • Fela: Kalakuta Notes - A biography of the famous Nigerian Afrobeat musician Fela Kuti, Off The Record Press, London, forthcoming
  • African Musical Symbolism in Contemporary Perspective - Roots, Rhythms and Relativity, Pro Business, Berlin, 2004


What has been written about John Collins
Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation
Local Dimension :
Palmwine Highlife Group based at the Music and Dance Departments of the University of Ghana at Legon

LOCAL DIMENSION was started in 1997 by some students and staff of the Music and Dance Departments of the University of Ghana at Legon. The group combines guitars and West African instruments and plays a range of West African popular music styles such as Guitar-Band Highlife, Palmwine Music, Afro-Beat, Congo Jazz (i.e. Soukous), Dagari-Highlife Fusions and songs in the traditional Adowa and Agbadza styles.

LOCAL DIMENSION features Aaron Bebe Sukura on seprewa harp-lute, xylophone, mbira thumb-piano and vocals, John Collins on guitar and harmonica, Mary Agama on percussion and vocals, Francis Akotuah on percussion, Isaac Accrong on giant premprensua hand-piano (some songs) and Bernard ‘Solar’ Quarshie on the giant gome bass-drum (some songs). For several years the band also featured the late great T.O. Jazz (of Ampoumah’s guitar band) and his place is now taken by T.O. Jazz’s longtime percussionist and principal singer Kojo Menu.

LOCAL DIMENSION has performed many times in Accra and surrounding towns: at the Shangri-La Hotel, the Goethe Institute, Bywells Club in Osu, the Alliance Francais, the AAMA Beach Hotel Kokrobite, the Paloma Club, the National Theatre, Sey’s Club in Tema, the Matemasie and Legon Club programs of the University of Ghana.

LOCAL DIMENSION performed at the University of Ghana’s 50th Anniversary Celebra-tions and it has appeared on local TV four times.

LOCAL DIMENSION In November and December 2002 the band toured Germany, Swit-zerland and France and played at many venues; including jazz clubs such as the Birds Eye in Basel, Moods in Zurich and the Satellite Café and Baiser Salee Club in Paris. In 2003 Local Dimension released a CD of 14 tracks (recorded at Pidgin Studios Accra by Panji Anoff) entitled N’Yong on the French Disques Arion label.

Contact: Aaron Bebe Sukrua ( or Professor John Collins, Bokoor House, P.O. Box 391, Achimota, Accra, GHANA Tel 233 21 512555 (home) ( or either of above via the Music Department, Univ. of Ghana, Legon, GHANA.

DETAIL FOR OBTAINING COPYIES OF RECENTLY RELEASED LOCAL DIMENSION N’YONG CD: acoustic highlifes and Dagari-fusion music by Local Dimension Band run by John Collins/Aaron Bebe Sukura. Released in Paris Sept. 2003

ARION S.A. RECORDS Manuela Ostrolenk (Director) or Valentin Langlois

36 Avenue Hoche.75008 Paris, France
Tel 33 (0)45637670 & Valentin Langlois T 33 (0) 145632200

Hear music examples

Music, Film and Video:
Music, Film and Video Productions John Collins has been associated with

1977: Acted as colonial Education Officer Reynolds in the “Black President” biographical film on (and co- produced by) Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Made in Ghana and Nigeria in1977.

1983: Consultant for Third Eye/ BBC film on black music ‘Repercussions’

1988: Consultant for Danish Loki Film production ‘African Cross Rhythms’ (released 1994)

1992: Consultant for the Dutch ID TV film on Ghanaian brass bands ‘Brass Unbound’

1994: Consultant for Ghana Television film ‘The Story of Highlife’

1994: Consultant for German Huschert Realfilm production ‘Highlife in Ghana.’

1995: Consultant for German Bavarian TV film ‘Art Music in Ghana’

1995: Consultant for Norwegian Vision TV film ‘When the Moment Sings’

1999 Facilitator for Palm Pictures/Island Records ‘A Giant Leap Forward/Astronaut’ music- video film and CD ROM .

2002 NAXOS (US/Hong Kong record company) release ‘Electric Highlife’.

2003 Otrabanda Records Amsterdam. ‘Vintage Highlife’ (acoustic guitar music Kwaa Mensah, Koo Nimo and T.O.Jazz recorded Bokoor Studio.

2003 Earthworks/Sterns African Records. ‘Guitar and Gun’ (recordings from Bokoor Studio)

Boards and committees:
Boards and committees of which John Collins is a member/patron

  • Made an Honourary Life Member (with Prof. J.H.K. Nketia and Dr. Daniel Ampomah/Koo Nimo) in 1987 of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM)
  • Acting Chairman of the Accra based African Popular Music Archives Foundation BAPMAF since 1990
  • Became patron of the Afika Obonu Drum and Music Therapy Ensemble in Feb. 2002.
  • Consultant since 2002 (on the World Bank project to assist the African Music Industry) for MUSIGA (the Ghana Musicians Union), GOMAWA (the Ghana Old Musicians and Artists Welfare Assocation, the GCPU (Ghana Concert Parties Union) and the Ghana Actors Guild .
  • On the Board of Directors in 2002 of Love Africa (Ghana music for schools project) established by Rocky Dawuni and modelled the US VH 1 Save the Music Project.
  • Dec 2003 Invited to be on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Humanistic Studies of the University of Swaziland, editor Dr. (Mrs.) Foluke Ogunleye.
  • 2004 became a patron for Dela Botwi’s Hewale Sounds neo-traditional group
  • 2005 became a patron for the Richard Acquah’s Kusum Gboo cultural group
  • April 2005 became a patron of the King’s Drama Company, led by Basil Gbeli Yaabere
Record companies:
Record companies distributing John Collins/Bokoor Sounds Music

Otrabanda Records. VINTAGE PALMWINE (Acoustic ‘palmwine’ guitar highlife cd from Bokoor Studio by Kwaa Mensah,T.O.Jazz. and Koo Nimo released 2003)

Scott Rollins,Donker Curtiusstraat 16-1
1051 JN Amsterdam,HOLLAND
tel 31-20-776-3992(h) 0233 799 7028

Stern's Music Centre. GUITAR AND GUN (Highlife compilation cd from Bokoor Studio released 2003. Re-issue of an album of same name released by UK Cherry Red Records in 198/4)

74 / 75 Warren Street, London W1T 5PF UK
Contact Urbanus Robert
Fax: 00 44 20 7388 2756
Phone: 00 44 20 7387 5550
Also contact Herman Trevor (Earthworks/Sterns)

Naxos USA/Hong Kong. ELECTRIC HIGHLIFE (Highlife compilation cd from Bokoor Studio released 2002)

Naxos World, 416 Mary Lindsay Polk Drive.
Suite 509,Franklin,Tenessee 37067-2681

Rough Guide Music. ROUGH GUIDE TO HIGHLIFE (Track 13 of cd, T.O.Jazz ‘Agyeman Baidoo’ recorded at Bokoor Studio. Released 2003)

Rough Guide World Music Network
6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Rd
London, SW4 7BX, UK
Contact Person Duncan Baker
Tel 020 74985252 UK

Kona Records. AFRO ROCK. (Track 10 of cd. John Collins’s 1970’s Bokoor Band Afro-beat song ‘Onukpa Shwarpo’ released 2002)

Contact Duncan Brooker
Tel UK 44 (0) 207713 8130

Arion S.A. Records. N’YONG (Cd of acoustic highlifes and Dagari-fusion music by Local Dimension Band run by John Collins/Aaron Bebe Sukura. Released in Paris Sept. 2003)

Manuela Ostrolenk (director) or Valentin Langlois
36 Avenue Hoche.75008 Paris, France
Tel 33 (0)45637670 & Valentin Langlois T 33 (0) 145632200
Research in Ghanaian Theatre:
Announcement 26-Jan-05 on Ghana Theatre Archives Conference on Ghana File
Legon, Ghana, Date: 27 Aug 2005
Read more ...
Local Dimension Band Tour 2006:
Belgium and Holland, Date: 26 Jan 2006
Read more ...
Created 2005 by user jcollins
Time of request 23/08/2019 11:12 (GMT+2)

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