Kofi "Guy Warren" Ghanaba
|Other Names||Kofi "Guy Warren"|
|Date of Birth||0000-00-00|
Guy Warren was one of the first "New Percussionists" that I have come across in my research. Information on him is difficult to find, especially recordings that he made. I've put what I found on him here in this web site in honor of his innovations.
Born in Ghana in West Africa, Guy Warren, who is also known as Kofi Ghanaba, was a jazz drumset player and palyer of traditional Ghanaian percussion. He also played piano, flute, would sing, and was trained in Western style composition. He was fluent in wiritn and arranging jazz compositions as he composed most of the pieces on his recordings.
He first came to prominence with the great highlife musician of Ghana, E. T. Mensah. Warren played drumset in 1937 in the Accra Rhythmic Orchestra and then played drumset and sang with E. T. Mensah and His Tempos Band in 1947 (and also Kenny Graham's Afro-Cubists in UK 1948). The Mensah band did not make its first recordings until 1952 after Warren had left.
Warren was a big fan of American jazz and eventually made his way to England and finally the USA in 1955. He worked in Chicago and New York having befriended Charlie Parker, Max Roach, and Thelonius Monk among others.
Warren was uncompromising in the kind of music he wished to play. His idea was to combine his traditional Ghanaian percussion and rhythms with the jazz aesthetic. He incorporated the African talking drum in jazz ensembles and played both the drumset and traditional hand drums in unusual ways.
He was the first African to come to the US and record in jazz, and wrote a book about his life in 1962. The work of Guy Warren pre-dates the work of Babatunde Olatunji. Warren's Afro-Jazz recordings include:
- Guy Warren with Red Saunders under the direction of Gene Esposito
- Africa Speaks, America Answers! LP 1957 Decca DL-8446.
- Guy Warren
-The Guy Warren Sounds: Themes for African Drums LP 1958 RCA Victor LSP-1864.
-The African Soundz of Guy Warren of Ghana LP 1960 Fiesta FLPS-1646.
-African Rhythms: The Exciting Soundz of Guy Warren and His Talking Drums LP 1962 Decca DL-4243.
- Guy Warren of Ghana
-Emergent Drums (Lansdowne Series) LP 1963 Columbia 33SX 1584.
-Third Phase LP (complete info unknown).
-Afro-Jazz LP 1969 Columbia SX 6340.
Ginger Baker Stratavarious LP 1969 Atco 7015 (released on CD Do What You Like Polygram 558542).
Colonial Man LP 1976 Casablanca BLP-7023.
Sankofa. Diected by Haile Gerima. 1993, Mypheduh Films, Inc.
-May also be on the soundtrack CD for this film:
Various Artists - Sankofa CD 1993 (Label unknown).
- I Have A Story To Tell by Guy Warren. Accra: New Guinea Press, 1962.
- E. T. Mensah: King of Highlife by John Collins. London: Off The Record Press, 1986.
- West African Pop Roots by John Collins. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.
- The Rough Guide to Jazz: The Essential Companion to Artists & Albums by Ian Carr, Brian Priestley and Digby Fairweather (editors). London: Penguin/Viking, 2000.
Interviews & Reviews:It's difficult to pinpoint but here was at least one review in Down Beat when his first recording came out. There was also one interview in an American newspaper before he left the US in 1962. There may also be some interviews in England, where I believe he spent 1962-1969. The recording with Ginger Baker was his last in the West before returning home to Accra in Ghana where he runs a museum and continues to perform and record. I have also found mention that Guy has a son named Glenn Warren who is also a drummer and that the two have done a recording together.
An interesting aspect of Warren's musicial innovation is the use of the traditional drums of Ghana called frontonfrom. Warren (or Kofi Ghanaba as he goes by now) lays two of these large drums on their sides and attahces foot pedals. he plays them with his feet while playing a set of 4-5 arranged around him with sticks. He was also known to arrange jam sessions with traditional Yoruba drummers from Nigeria in which such African-jazz inspired improvisation was a highlight. In the Sankofa film, there is a brief scene of Guy Warren/Kofi Ghanaba playing such a set.