Nii Okai Tagoe was born in Accra, Ghana, into a royal family of master drummers and dancers, from whom he inherited some of his considerable talent. He came to Britain in 1990 as a principal performer and teacher with Adzido Dance Ensemble, a lifetime’s immersion in the diverse dance and rhythmic traditions of Ghana standing him in good stead. There then followed several years of travel, learning and performing around the African continent (especially in Zulu Land and throughout Central, South and West Africa) giving Nii a meticulous eye for the different postures, gestures and stance of the dances of each cultural group. Adzido toured productions and workshops across Europe, and among other countries Israel, Canada, The Middle East and Asia.
In 1993 Nii founded Frititi, meaning ‘ancient’ in the Akan language of Ghana, a London-based performing arts company. The focus, in a world where homogenized “African dance” prevails, is on genuine traditional African drumming and dances from specific groups of people in different countries across the continent. Frititi was created to explore, develop and pass on to future generations, traditional artistic expressions using music, dance, poetry and ritual. Not only this, but to project a more positive image of Africa and to help dispel the myths and negative stereotypes of the African continent and its people. Nii’s mission is to develop a sense of self-awareness within the individual, and a global awareness of Africa, its rich culture and a history which goes back to the origins of man.
Nii brings to all his work not only his wisdom and experience from Adzido and Frititi, but a black belt in Kung Fu; his songwriting abilities and his considerable musical skills. He has toured extensively as percussionist, singer and composer with world music chart toppers: Osibisa, Baka Beyond, African Headcharge, ADF Soundsystem, and Lorraine Ayensu amongst others.
He has choreographed many performances, including Peter Gabriel’s floor show at London’s Millennium Dome, two enthronements of Archbishops of Canterbury; Patti Boulaye’s “Sundance” at The Royal Albert Hall as well as performing for the Pope.
In 2005 for the Fespam event, he choreographed a show with Congolese “rebels” in Brazzaville, charting the history of mankind in Africa. The stunning show was a great success and a massive achievement in terms of conflict resolution. So much so that Nii was invited back to choreograph the 2007 African Football Youth Championship opening ceremony.
Following the success of his first solo album “African Roots”, his second album “West to West” brings a fresh sound – a music rooted in African rhythm and melody but which reflects his extensive international journey. The drum, the first instrument and the balafon, the first piano meet the mellifluous sounds of Emmanuel Rentzos’ keyboard, interwoven with the great Paddy Le Mercier’s violin. The powerful vocals of the ensemble singing is awesome, the lyrics in Ga are like ancient parables for people to understand, but are spoken directly in a 21st century style. He has united a group of musicians with roots in Venezuela, Ghana, Wales, Nigeria, France, and The Caribbean. The assembled musicians have played with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Amy Winehouse, George Harrison, Jamiroquai, Johnny Nash, Zion Train and Roy Ayers to name but a few.
Nii says “we have to maintain dignity with each other whoever we are – from city or country; young or old; wise; poor and no matter how rich – it can all be gone tomorrow”. We seek to benefit the world in exploring a side to music and culture people don’t always see – music as health, music as discipline, music for life.