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Nana Tsiboe (Photograph © Tim Nathan)

Nana Tsiboe, RIP

On Tuesday morning one of Hastings great men passed away. Percussionist Nana Tsiboe was born in Ghana. As a boy, he visited the United States with his family at the height of the civil rights movement in the ’60s and met Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. For over thirty years Hastings was his home. Erica Smith pays tribute to a talented and well-loved man.

Nana worked with musical legends including Fela Kuti, Paul McCartney, Marvin Gaye, Ali Farka Touré, Oumou Sangare, Nina Simone, Gabbidon and Trevor Watts. Playing with the greats didn’t mean Nana became arrogant or exclusive about where he performed or to whom. He was a regular on the stage at St Leonards Festival, and was at home running workshops for school children or playing in local pubs with Pass The Cat and Los Twangueros.

Saxophonist Trevor Watts said: “I first met and played with Nana in 1979 when I was part of Louis Moholo’s band put together by Louis to tour the UK with USA tenorist Frank Wright. Nana was reckoned to be the best young percussionist around at the time. We found we had much in common and I asked him to play in my Moire Music group, Original Drum Orchestra and the Moire Music Drum Orchestra. Nana and I played together for at least 20 years. We toured the World together many times. He was a good friend for years.”

Trevor Watts performing with Nana Tsiboe

Mandy Curtis of 18 Hours remembers Nana as a magical soul who could even calm a hyped up crowd of pre-school kids by gently playing his mbira. “I worked with Nana for over twenty years – with Pass the Cat at Global Fusion, with Basil Gabbidon’s show on African history and with numerous school workshops. Nana thought he couldn’t teach kids but of course captivated even very young children. As well as being a master drummer he was a Griot – a keeper of stories. We were lucky to have him storytelling in Warrior Square last summer. He was such a gentle soul who will be missed terribly. Basil Gabbidon will give him a special shout from the St Leonards Festival stage this year.”

Local performer Amber Leafe remembers seeing Nana play in London many years ago and was delighted when she met him again in Hastings. She was involved in a community performance group led by Nana. “When Nana played, he would always get all the kids and women on stage, drumming and singing with him. I really loved working with him and loved the tracks he kindly recorded on the Amber Band album. He was a very humble man but he really was an African Prince. We were lucky to share a hometown with him.”

Kwesi Owusu – another very fine Ghanaian artist, fimmaker and academic has written a beautiful, detailed article about Nana Tsiboe here.

Nana died on 24 May in the Conquest Hospital. He will be greatly missed by everyone who ever heard him play or shared a conversation with him. You are welcome to share your memories of Nana here.

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Posted 21:56 Wednesday, May 25, 2022 In: Hastings People

10 Comments

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  1. Erica Smith

    Juliet Russell and Amber Leafe are running singing sessions on the next 3 Thursday evenings for people who want to learn songs that Nana taught them. There will be a performance at St Leonards Festival on Saturday 9 July.
    More information in this article:
    https://hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk/arts-culture/music-sound/help-celebrate-nana-tsiboe

    Comment by Erica Smith — Saturday, Jun 18, 2022 @ 00:01

  2. Dean Brodrick

    Nana was a profoundly important musician and mentor in my life. I met Nana in 1979 in London. I was at Wimbledon School of Art and somehow had the nerve (or naivety) to ask Nana to play drum kit in my band Sound Circus (with Steve Watts on bass and Jonny Cohen on sax). He consented and came punctually to all the rehearsals and gigs. I looked up to Nana and I adored him. Apart from being a master drummer, multi-instrumentalist, dancer and story teller, he was, for me, a spiritual master and the living incarnation of his great Ashanti tradition. Nana was great in all ways. He was a great and glowing example of the wise, honest, benevolent, discerning, noble and just man. I was only 20 years old but he supported and encouraged me with my music as no one else ever had. Nana was the perfect gentleman; powerful but cool as a man can be. So talented. When Nana played, the spirits of the ancestors were present. The Dade Krama album “Ancestral Music of Africa” is my desert island disc. I learned so much from Nana.
    I remember him laughing hard at some little avocados I bought for him for breakfast: “Those are not avocados!” he said with tears in his eyes, “In Ghana” he gesticulated with his hands as if holding a football, “the avocados are this big!”
    I’m so sad he’s gone. I never had a chance to say thankyou for his love, genius and inspiriation for me to play music from my heart and soul.

    Comment by Dean Brodrick — Saturday, Jun 4, 2022 @ 20:10

  3. PAAC QUAYE

    Nana Tsiboe was musically gifted, a maestro who played multi-instruments and sang as well. He was a very vital member of the celebrated music group; Dade Krama.
    Nana was a gentleman, cool, calm and collected with a decent sense of humour, occasionally teasing his friends and colleagues in a manner those around enjoyed the fun. He respected both traditional and contemporary cultures. He will surely be missed greatly.

    Comment by PAAC QUAYE — Tuesday, May 31, 2022 @ 12:42

  4. Dada Lamptey

    Nana Tsiboe was a formidable Musician.
    He gave his all, when we performed together in Dade Krama.
    I’m saddened, hurt,
    wounded.
    May he rest in peace.

    Dada Lamptey

    Comment by Dada Lamptey — Monday, May 30, 2022 @ 14:34

  5. Keith Waithe

    A beautiful tribute Kwesi
    Remember playing with BrotherNana Tsiboe
    On so many occasions , collaborating together on original pieces
    Jan & I attended memorable evenings with African Dawn at the Africa Centre
    Landmark times ..
    Let’s join together in a concert in his memory

    Keith Waithe
    & Jan Parnell

    Comment by Keith Waithe — Sunday, May 29, 2022 @ 20:42

  6. shona

    saw nana a few times what a great guy we will miss you nana rip

    Comment by shona — Sunday, May 29, 2022 @ 09:47

  7. Sue Read

    Nana opened the musical world for me. I always thought I couldn’t hold a beat or dance but his patience through first teaching the basics of the djembe and then how to feel the rhythm and dance barefoot changed all that. Telling the ancient stories he learnt in his childhood or relating an anecdote from his fascinating life he held you in his spell. Nana gave so much to the musical and political world and touched the hearts and minds of everyone he met. He will be lovingly remembered and sorely missed by so many worldwide and especially here where he gave so much to so many. Rest well now Nana xx

    Comment by Sue Read — Sunday, May 29, 2022 @ 00:08

  8. Judith Appleyard

    In the 1980s Nana was a neighbour of ours and I have happy memories of hearing his gentle drums in the distance on summer days when in the garden. Also his musical encouragement for our young daughters and a wonderful workshop day in Christ Church school. Rest in Peace, dear Nana.

    Comment by Judith Appleyard — Saturday, May 28, 2022 @ 09:20

  9. John Roach

    Saw Nana play with Pass the Cat a number of times in Rochester. Lovely guy.

    Comment by John Roach — Thursday, May 26, 2022 @ 23:32

  10. Jane Downes.

    Such a remarkable, talented yet sweet man. Rest peacefully Nana xx

    Comment by Jane Downes. — Thursday, May 26, 2022 @ 14:01

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