Nii was born into a family of kings and king-makers. From earliest memories, he remembers people coming from far and wide to play for the royal households. Living and breathing the music, tradition and culture was part of everyday life and his particular fascination and uncanny ability to mimic movement was a gift that he pursued from the age of 3. He was surrounded by master drummers and dancers including his grandmothers, uncles and aunts who taught and encouraged him. He frowned on formal education knowing that what he was gaining from his roots would be his fertile learning ground.
Nii arrived in Britain in 1990 as a principal performer and teacher with the Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble, founded by George Dzikunu in 1984. Adzido had been the UK’s only large- scale black dance company then and they toured productions extensively around the world. His immersion in the diverse dance and rhythmic traditions of Ghana marked Nii as one of the most talented in the company despite being one of the youngest. But the longing to learn did not cease and so followed several years of travel back to Africa. This dedication gave him a meticulous eye for the different postures, gestures and stances of different dance vocabularies. Many global stages, street and TV appearances later, he left the company in 1996, returning only briefly in 2000 to help with the production of ‘Sankofa’.
In 1993 Nii founded Frititi meaning ‘ancient’ in the Akan language of Ghana. In a world where diluted, homogenized African music and dance forms prevail, Frititi looks to honour the great spirit and ancestry of African music and dance by dedicating time to studying and respecting the different dances from the African continent and the people who are the keepers of this knowledge. Looking back on rich cultural heritage, Frititi passes on to future generations, traditional artistic expressions using music, dance, poetry and ritual. Naturally, this will propel a positive image of Africa and help dispel the myths and negative stereotypes of the African continent. Nii’s mission is to cultivate a sense of self-awareness within the individual, and a global awareness of Africa drawing on the abundant history, wisdom and inspiration which are the origins of man.
Adzido Pan-African Dance Ensemble
Nii's dedication to dance goes hand in hand with his creativity and choreography. As well as creating pieces for Adzido and Frititi he has also choreographed for Patti Boulaye’s Sundance at The Royal Albert Hall, The Eurovision Song Contest, Peter Gabriel’s Millennium Dome Floor Show, ‘The Jungle Book’ in Dubai, the Enthronement of Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Enthronement of Archbishop Justin Welby, as well as creating original material for ADAD, Shikisha and African Headcharge.
In 2005, working with the late Bernard Bruchet, Nii embarked on a groundbreaking project in conflict resolution to create a historic performance with Congolese 'rebels' in Brazzaville for the ‘Fespam’ festival. Drawing on his extensive teaching experience, Nii faced the challenge of working with people from opposing rebel forces to unite them through the common language of music and dance. Hopeful participants came from the hills to audition armed with guns and machetes. After many auditions and a six-week intensive training period, the project culminated in a captivating show, charting the history of mankind in Africa with over 200 dancers who previously would have been fighting one another. It was a huge success and a massive achievement in the demanding area of conflict resolution. Nii and Frititi were invited back to Brazzaville to choreograph the 2007 African Football Youth Championship’s opening ceremony.
Nii brings to all his work his wisdom and experience from Adzido and Frititi. He also has a black belt in Kung Fu where he spent years being dedicated to the discipline. He continues to spread his great love of African arts and culture throughout the world, teaching regular classes in London with Frititi and his company Sankofa in Singapore. For more information about upcoming classes please visit the events section. If you are interested in booking Nii to teach please visit the Teaching page.