John Collins is a naturalised Ghanaian who came to Ghana from Britain in 1952 and has been involved in the West African music scene since 1969. He is a guitarist, harmonica player and percussionist and has worked, recorded and played with numerous Ghanaian and Nigerian bands; the Jaguar Jokers, Francis Kenya, E.T. Mensah, Abladei, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Koo Nimo, Kwaa Mensah, Victor Uwaifo, Bob Pinodo, the Bunzus, the Black Berets, T.O.Jazz, S.K. Oppong and Atongo Zimba. In the 1970’s he ran his own Bokoor highlife guitar band which released 20 songs and in the 1980s and 90s operated his Bokoor Recording Studio 8 miles north of Accra which recorded 200 bands
Collins is also a music journalist and writer with over 100 journalistic and academic publications (including seven books published in the UK, USA, Ghana and one forthcoming in Nigeria) on African popular and neo-traditional music. He has given many radio and television broadcasts, including over 40 for the British BBC. Collins has been a film consultant/facilitator for several films on African popular traditional and art music.
Collins obtained his first degree (Sociology & Archaeology) from the University of Ghana in 1972 and his Doctorate in Ethnomusicology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has given lectures/workshop in Canada, the USA, UK, Scandinavia, Holland, Germany, France, the Caribbean, Ghana, Mali, South Africa and the Cote-D’Ivoire. He has been a resident research-fellow at the North-western Univ. African Studies Department at Evanston in the US and Dartmouth Art College in the UK.
Collins was on the Executive of the Ghana Musicians Union (MUSIGA) in the 1970’s and, together with Professor J.H.K. Nketia and the Ghanaian folk-guitarist Koo Nimo, was in 1987 made an honorary life-member of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM). During the 1990’s Collins was Technical Director of the three-year joint University of Ghana African Studies Department/Mainz African Music Re-documentation Project, and for seven years was with the Ghana National Folklore Board of Trustees/Copyright Administration. In the summer of 2000 Collins teamed up with fellow guitarist Koo Nimo and went on a performance tour of the US eastern sea-board with him.
Currently Collins is the Acting Chairman of the Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation (BAPMAF) formed in 1990 that operates a Highlife Institute that was opened to the public in Accra in 2007. He is a patron of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA). Between 2000-3 was a consultant for a World Bank project to assist the African music industry and is currently working as a consultant with MUSIGA on gathering statistics on the Ghanaian music industry .
He is a Full Professor at the Music Department of the University of Ghana where he has been teaching since 1995 and was Department Head between 2003-5. From the Department he co-runs (with Aaron Bebe Sukura) the Local Dimension palmwine highlife band that toured Europe in 2002, 2004 and 2006 and released a CD in 2003 entitled 'N’Yong' on the French Disques Arion label.