Fiche Personne

Kofi Ghanaba

Percussionniste, Compositeur, Arrangeur


Born Accra, May 4, 1923 and named Warren Gamaliel Akwei, after United State president Warren Gamaliel Hardeng, 1865-1923, by his father, Richard Mabuo Akwei, founder, and for forty years Headmaster of the Ghana National School, Accra and mother, Susana Awula Abla Moore, a great beauty of her time. Changed name to Guy Warren of Ghana. On July 1st, 1974, changed it again to Kofi Ghanaba. Informally dropped Kofi and became ghanaba. Educated at the Government Boy’s School, Accra 1928-1939. Was leader of the School band in his last two years


Accra, Ghana 1939; final year at the Government Senior Boys’ School, end-of-year foto of the senior class of the School, standard Seven ‘A’ seated centre, Henry Magnus Grant, Headmaster; on his left teacher Benjamin Quarcoo, and on his right teacher Charles Ankrah, Ghanaba is fourth from the right in rear row.

Played lead roles in the pantomime Zachariah Fee, produced by Governor Sir Arnold Hudson at Christmas of 1937-39. Enrolled as Founder-Student, Odorgonno Secondary school, in 1940, after passing with distinction at the Government Boys’ School. Joined the Accra Rhythmic Orchestra, under Leader Yebuah Mensah, in 1940, as drummer. Won a government Teacher Training Scholarship to Achimota College, Accra in 1941 with the intention of teaching at his father’s school. Won his Colours in football and volleyball, and was captain of the team which won the inter-college football matches for Achimota in 1942. he captained the volleyball team the same year Dropped out of Achimota in 1943, because “I was bored stiff with my studies and stern discipline of the college, which attempted to change me into an Englishman”, sand enlisted in the O.S.S (office of Strategic Services), a specialized Department of the United States Army, which dealt specifically with OVERT and COVERT operations in the Second World War, which took him to the United States in 1943. Returned Accra same year, and joined the spectator Daily as a Reporter, under the editorship of famed Ghanaian dynamic newspaperman, Robert Wuta-Ofei.


This rare photograph was taken at a sherry party thrown by the British Governor of the Gold Coast Colony, Sir Charles Noble Arden-Clark, at Christianborg Castle, the seat of Government Business, for Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who had been released only the previous month (February 12th) from James Town fort Prison, where he had been serving  a prison sentence for his political beliefs, and for declaring “positive action’  a nonviolent political strike aimed at forcing the British Government to grant the Gold Coast colony independence. The party was also to entertain a delegation from the British Parliament which had been sent to the country for an on-the-spot assessment of the political mood of the country.

L-R.W.T. Proctor, M.P. labour; Ernest Kingdom. M . P; Labour; Thomas Hutton Mills, Minister for Commerce, Industry and Mines; Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Leader of Government Business; The Governor Sir Charles Noble Arden-Clarke; Sir Henley Coussey, Chairman, Coussey Constitutional Committee; Ghanaba, Editor, ‘Daily Echo’; G. F. Steven, M. P. , Conservative; Patrick Branigan, Attoney General, Gold Coast Government.

Introduced disc-jockeying to Gold Coast Broadcasting Service, doing jazz programmes, in 1944. teamed up with Joe Kelly, clarinet, tenor saxophone: E. T. Mensah, trumpet, and younger brother of Yebuah Mensah; Pa Hughes, alto saxophone; Baby Nelson, Guitar; Pete Johnson, guitar; Adolph Doku, piano; Johnny Doods Schall, piano james Bossman, bass; Serious Amarfio, bass and alder brother of Sol Amarfio, drummer with Osibisa, the famed Ghanaian Band in the Tempos, considered the greatest highlife band of ALL TIME in Africa.

Lagos, Nigeria, 1951: THE TEMPOS, visiting Nigeria, L-R ghanaba, drums; joe Kelly, tenor sax and clarinet; baby doods schall, piano; serious amarfio, bass; pa Hughes, alto-sax; unknown fan, seated e. t. mensah, trumpet.

Percussionist, Kenny Graham’s Afro Cubist, London, 1950, whilst reporting for the Daily Echo, on the British Industries Fairs of that year, and did series of jazz programmes for the British Broadcasting Service (B.B.C.) in addition.

Ghanaba – the disk-jockey.

Traveled with the AFRO-CUBISTS, to play an engagement at the inauguration of President William Tubman of Liberia in 1953, and stayed on in Monrovia, capital of Liberia taking on the position of Assistant Director and Resident Disc-Jockey, station E.L.B.C., the National Broadcasting Service of Liberia. Left in 1955 for Chicago, USA and joined Gene Esposito Band as Co-Leader, Percussionist, and arranger. This was the band which recorded his most famous album, Africa Speaks America answers, Decca 1956, and introduced his world hit composition, THAT HAPPY FELING.

Elected by the Board of the American Society of Composer, Authors, and Publishers (A.S.C.A.P) to membership in 1957, and moved to New York City same year, where he lead his ZOUNDZ at the AFRICAN ROOM, a nite club, at 780, 3rd Avenue, which was built around his AFRICAN JAZZ, a new type of jazz music which feature a heavy African influence very different to the Afro-Cuban influence which had then been introduced to jazz music by Chano Pozo, the great Cuban conga-drummer in Dizzy Gillespie’s Band, and by Stan Kenton. In America, he met or worked with American jazz giants like Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Thelonius Monk. Max Roach, Art Blakey Billie Holliday and Louis Armstrong among many others. Has recorded albums for DECCA, RCA-VICTOR, COLUMBIA, SAFARI, his own label.

Published his mini-autobiography, I Have a Story To Tell, in 1966. the book concentrated on his experiences in the jazz world of the United States. Jazz Critic, Author, Nat Hentoff was highly praised whilst Jazz Critic, Author, Leonard Feather was bitterly condemned together with noted jazz personality, John Hammond is the Public Relations man whose assignment is to DEFENT AND PRAISE Granz whenever they are attacked by aggrieved jazz musicians …. Ghanaba’s greatest work is an African Talking Drums interpretation of the HALLEUJAH CHORUS by Handel which led to his being anointed as an ODOMANKOMA KYREMA, (a Divine Drummer) in the African concept, in August 1981, by AKLOWA the African Heritage Village, based at Takley near London, England.

Three historical concerts in dedication of AFRICA’S CONTRUBUTION to the WORLD took place at the ROYAL ALBERT HALL, LONDON in the month of March 1986. ghanaba performed his unique / original AFRICAN TALKING DRUMS (ATUMPAN) interpretation of the HALLEUJAH CHORUS by Handel. This picture here shows the DIVINE DRUMMER AT THE PEAK OF PERFORMANCE… “It’s THE BEST pic over taken of me in action in my entire career”, said the DIVINE DRUMMER.

Tackley, Near London, Britain 1981. Ghanaba anointed as an Odomankoma Kyerema in a solemn and ancient African Ritual, held in public, by the members of the African Heritage village, and organization based in the United Kingdom. This picture shows the moment of incantation of the Citation. Ghanaba, clad in calico, and emblem of victory and triumph, is seated with his head bowed and body smeared with white myrrh

Father of four sons and two daughters, he was married. Eldest son, Guy Warren, jnr., also called Odinga  Oginga, is a sculptor, painter and carver who lives in New York City. The second son, Glenn Gillespie Warren, also called Ghanababa (the son of Ghanaba) is a jazz drummer who featured on the album, THAT HAPPY FEELING recorded on Safari in 1979, in London.

The third son, Gamal Abdel Nasser Warren, called the President, was named after President Nasser of Egypt, with the permission and blessings of the great man himself, which was contained in a letter written to Ghanaba. He is a political science student. The fourth son, Gamaliel Joseph Warren, is a jazz drummer, based at Gary, Indiane. The first daughter Midie Ghanaba, known as mine (the English meaning of Midie) was born in 1977. she lives in Canada with her family. The second daughter Mawoko Ghanaba lived with Ghanaba till his passing away.

Ghanaba and Glenn in a drum battle during the Ghana Jazz Festival in 1960.

In the arena of Ghanaian politics Ghanaba was a member of three hand picked intellectuals by Kwame Nkrumah to advice on POLITICAL, SPIRITUAL and PERSONAL matters. He repeated the same service to Jerry John Rawlings when he was Head of State.

He developed into a Religionist / Spiritualist, and practiced Buddhism deeply. From now on I will play my drums to praise God from whom all my blessings flow said the Divine Drummer. By remarkable coincidence, whenever Ghanaba plays his African Talking Drums some members of his audience go into trances and are possessed by unseen Forces / Spirits. Such power on his drums is what earned him the title ODOMANKOMA KYEREMA, the Divine Drummer.

Books on / about Ghanaba

Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1958, 1960

Leonard Feather, New York City, USA


By ASCSAP, New York City, USA

Dance Towards the Earth

Deborah Bertonoff, Tel Aviv, Israel


Deborah Bertonoff, Tel Aviv, Israel


Ian Carr, London, UK


Guy Warren, Accra Ghana

Dictionary of International Profiles, 6th Edition

Ernest Kay, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, UK

International Register of Profiles, 6th Edition

Ernest Kay, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, UK

International Book of Honour, 1st world Edition 1985

The American Biographical Institute, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

International Who’s Who of intellectuals, Vol 6, 1985

Ernest Kay, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, UK

International Who’s Who Contemporary Achievement,  1984 – 85

Biographical Publications, 

St. Ives Cambridge, England.

GHANABA, Odomankoma Kyerema: The Divine Drummer – The only CERTIFIED, COMPLETE Autobiography

GHANABA formerly Guy Warren of Ghana.



Baby Doods, Big Sid Catlett, Max Roach, Eddie Blackwell, Billy Higgins, Elvin Jones Tony Williams.


Charlie Christian, Amancio D’Silva.


Ron Carter, Charlie Mingus, Jimmy Blanton


Cootie William, Miles Davis, Ian Carr, Louis Armstrong.


Tricky Sam Nanton, Jack Teagarden, Lawrence Brown.


Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Lester Young, John Coltrane, Roland Kirk , Sony Rollins.


John Jackson (heplayed in Billy Eckstines Big Band and played in style which became associated with Charlie Parker). Charlei Parker, Ornett Coleman.


Sidney Bachet, John Coltrane


Artie Shaw, Barney Bigard, Pee Wee Russell, Russell Procope.


Jimmy Lunceford, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Glenn Liller.


Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Alice Babs, ‘who can sin rings around anybody, A VERY RARE singer of songs’ Paul Robeson, ditto Alice Babs.


James P. Johnson, Duke Ellington, Thelonius Monk, Art Tatum, Earl Hines


Peter Tshaikovsky, Ludwig Beethoven, Harry Warren, Duke Ellington Jerome Kern Ephraim Amu, Ghanaba.


Duke Ellington, Belly Strayhorn, Jerry Gray, Ghanaba.


Nat Hentoff, Dennis Preston (who played THE MOST IMPORTANT PART in my chosen career), Milt Gabeler (who was the man who played The played The Key-role to Bring my first album AFRICA SPEAKS AMERICA ANSWERS OUT ON DECCA in 1957.) Martin Salkin (who supported Milt to the hilt). Ian Carr.

Favourite Records 

The world is mad by Count Bassie, featuring Lester Young

Chantey Le Bas by Artie Shaw.

White Heat by Jimmy Lunceford


Source – Funerals in Ghana 

Partager :