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Ghana's Highlife Music Collection

Kwabena (King) Onyina


Kwabena (King) Onyina, Original Evergreen Tunes (ca 1970)
Kwabena (King) Onyina (1932-2010)

Kwabena Onyina was born on March 15, 1932, at Agona Ashanti. He learned how to play guitar and at 16, he formed a trio called the Cooler's Band. In 1953, Mr Daniel Kyei took over the management of the group and named it Onyina's Guitar Band. Onyina earned the title “King” in 1961, when he won a National Guitar Band competition in Accra with some of his memorable songs such as "Wiase Nsem Adoso", "Odo Ye Owu", "Lumumba", "Nantiyie", "Ohia Asoma Wo" and the ever popular "The Destiny of Africa".

His triumph in this keen contest provided him the opportunity of accompanying Ghana's first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, on a tour to Mali, Tunisia, Poland and the Soviet Union in 1963, together with other artistes like Dr Kwame Gyasi, E. K. Nyame, Bob Cole, Kakaiku and the Broadway Band. King Onyina played in London in 1964, at a concert organised by the Ghana Musicians Union.

His first music was recorded in 1953 by Decca Recording. The King of Guitar Band did not keep his knowledge of the guitar to himself but imparted this skill to other musicians like Dr K. Gyasi, T.D.B. Agyekum, the founder of the defunct Happy Stars, Pat Thomas (his nephew), Ofori Dominos, Lady Talata and Otis Asamoah.

Kwabena Onyina introduced progressive jazz chords to guitar highlife bands in the 1950s’. He was the regional chairman of the Ashanti Regional Branch of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) until recently, when he resigned as a result of his deteriorating health.

Source: The Mirror, J. Collins, 1994.