The Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation (BAPMAF) is a Ghanaian NGO established in 1990 by Professor John Collins, encouraged and assisted by a group of leading Ghanaian popular musicians (King Bruce, E.T. Mensah, Beattie Casely-Hayford, Koo Nimo, Kwaa Mensah) who were concerned with the lack of research and information on local Ghanaian highlife music and the demise of the ‘classical’ styles of this genre. Since then the archives has expanded into other areas of African music; both popular and traditional.
The core of the BAPMAF holdings are John Collin’s own extensive music archives that he began collecting from the late 1960’s - with archival contributions also being made by Mr. Y.B ‘Opia’ Bampoe (Jaguar Jokers leader) E. F. Collins (Philosophy Dept. Univ. of Ghana, Legon), Prof. Atta Annan Mensah (Music Dept, Legon), Jimmy Moxon (Ghana’s first Minister of Information), Prof. Mawere Opoku (Dance Dept, Legon), Robert Sprigge (History Dept, Legon and ex-member of Red Spots Band), Oscarmore Ofori (highlife composer) and veteran guitarist T.O. ‘Jazz’ Ampoumah. Other BAPMAF members/affiliates are Edinam Ansah (Ghana Musicians Union Executive), Jimmy Beckley (Afro-jazz Combo), Joseph Aduoko (translator), guitarist Anthony ‘Scorpion’ Entsie, multi-instrumentalist Aaron Bebe Sukura, music engineer Panji Anoff, actor Ben Ahorlu Ajokpa, the late jazz percussionist Juma Santos, the university lecturers Peter Arthur and Dr. Zabana Kongo.
In its first years BAPMAF donated materials to the Dubois Centre, the Padmore Library, the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies,Professor J.H.K. Nketia’s International Centre for Music and Dance, Achimota School, Saint John’s Grammar School, the British Council, the American USIS Library, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and the Ghana Folklore Board.
In February 1996 BAPMAF and the German Goethe Institute in Accra (under its then Director Sabine Hentzch) organised a Highlife Month that included seminars and films on highlife, performances (Ankobra, Grassroots, Mau Mau Musiki and drummer Kofi Ghanaba) – with the central focus being the Golden Years of Highlife Music Photographic Exhibition. Organizations who were involved or supported the very successful Highlife Month included the Dubois Centre (Ebo Hawkson, Director), the National Theatre (Dr. Komla Amuoko, Director), the Musicians Union of Ghana MUSIGA (Joe Mensah, President), the Univ. of Ghana (Professors Kofi Agovi and Kwesi Yankah), the Ghana Copyright Administration (Betty Mould-Iddrisu, Director), the Ghana National Folklore Boards (Colonel Amuzu, Chairman), the Ghana Concert Party Union (Mr. S.K. Oppong and Mr. Mensah Executives), the Ghana Record Producers Union (Dick Essilfie-Bondzie and Kojo Donkoh Executives) and the African Heritage Library (Kofi Ghanaba, Director). The Padmore Library also supplied some materials from its archives.
In collaboration with the French Embassy the BAPMAF Highlife Photo Exhibition was displayed in Accra as part of the Alliance Francaise ‘Story of Highlife’ event in May/June 2001. On January 4th 2002 BAPMAF and the Swizz Embassy organized the launch of the Basel Mission/UTC compilation CD (Arion Disques ARN 64564) ‘Ghana Popular Music 1931-57’ at the DuBois centre inAccra.. From February 8th to March 22nd 2002 BAPMAF organized a series of seven lectures/performances at the National Theatre for the US Embassy Public Affairs Section ‘Black History Month’. From 2004 BAPMAF was involved in local work with the Presence musical youth talent-scout organization, the Pan African Arts NGO (highlife photo exhibition at the British Council 6-8th Oct.), the US Embassy Public Affairs ‘African American Heritage/History Month’ of February 2005, and organising a workshop on ‘Researching Ghanaian Theatre’ held at the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies, Legon, in August, 2005. In Sept. 2005 BAPMAF was involved with the opening of percussionist Kofi Ghanaba’s (Guy Warren’s) African Heritage Library at Medie, in March 2006 BAPMAF provided photos for the Rocky Dawuni/Africa Live ‘Independence Splash: Ghana Music Revival Explosion’ at the Accra International Conference Centre and in 2007 curated the Ghana Music Exhibition held at the Greenwich Heritage Centre in London in October organised by the African Image Alliance as part of Ghana’s 50th independence celebrations..
After the 1996 BAPMAF/Goethe Highlife Month, the BAPMAF Highlife Photo Exhibition was moved to the Bokoor House premises of Prof. John Collins where it was opened to the general public between 1996-2001 and hosted many local and foreign visitors and was televised twice; for Ghana Broadcasting in 1996 (producer Cynthia Jikpani) and in 2000 by the London Shai Shai company (producer Martine Stone). After extensive re-building the BAPMAF premises will be re-opened in 2007 as the BAPMAF Highlife–Music Institute. It consists of 2,400 sq feet that includes a photo exhibition room, seminar room, digital documentation room, audio-video lab, listening booths and library for photos, video, printed matter and recorded music.
Materials at the BAPMAF Highlife Centre includes 700 photographs, 700 publications as well as many rare documents, speeches, brochures, posters, record sleeves. 40 videos and 1,500 hours of recorded music; including 780 old highlife songs on shellac 78 rpm records and master-tapes of Ghanaian recorded by John Collins Bokoor Recording Studio in the 1980’s. The materials of the highlife photographic exhibition are organised into 15 separate categories – each accompanied by an Information Sheet.
These categories are as follows:-
- Fife and Brass Bands. The emergence of brass band “adaha” highlife music.inCape Coast in the 1880′s. Its spread and offshoots – such as Konkoma highlife.
- Early coastal guitar/accordion “Palmwine” music. Importance of visiting Liberian Kru seamen. The first Highlife recordings (1920’s). The Osibisaaba, Yaa Amponsah & Odonson/Akan “blues” styles of highlife.
- Elite Ghanaian dance orchestras from 1914 to 1940s. Origin of term “Highlife”, i.e. high-class life.
- Highlife Dance Bands and the impact of World War Two. Postwar appearance of jazzy dance-band highlife in Ghana. Its spread to Nigeria in the 1950s.
- E.T Mensah ‘The King of Dance Band Highlife’. The life of this pioneer leader of the Tempos band.
- King Bruce and the Black Beats. The story of another important Highlife dance-band leader
- The Concert Party. Overview of the concert party profession from circa 1900 to the present.
- The Jaguar Jokers Concert Party. The Comedian ‘Opia’ (Y.B. Bampoe) and his Jaguar Jokers group formed in 1954. Photos of them on “trek” (i.e. tour) .
- Guitar Bands. The transformation of “palmwine” music into guitar-band music after World War Two. The crucial role in this of E.K. Nyame.
- Fusion music. Emergence of various musical blends created by highlife musicians. The Afro-jazz of Kofi Ghanaba (Guy Warren), the Afro-beat of Nigeria’s Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Osibisa’s Afro-rock and the current wave of “Burgher” Highlife and Hiplife.
- The Rise of Women Artists. Explosion of female popular musicians and concert actresses since the 1960s. Important role of local gospel music in feminising popular dance music.
- Back-To-Roots. Indigenisation and acoustic trends in Highlife. Kpanlogo drumming. Wulomei and the Ga ‘cultural groups’. Koo Nimo’s updated and ‘unplugged’ palmwine music.
- Ghanaian musicians unions since 1956. The formation of MUSIGA in the 1970′s.
- Large easy to read at a glance, diagram of the evolutionary tree of highlife and its many offshoots.
- Jamaican roots reggae and the Caribbean/West Indian goombay/gome story.