As I mentioned in my last post about royal hartigan, I traveled for three weeks around Ghana with a jazz quartet as they blended western jazz music with the traditional African rhythms found regionally around this country.
Our first day of shooting was here in Accra, and we were lucky enough to use the facilities of the W.E.B. Du Bois Centre in Cantonments as blood drum spirit arranged High Fly by Randy Weston with Kpanlogo dance drumming of the Ga People. Our shooting location fit perfectly with the mission in every sense of the word; there wasn’t a better place to which African American music could return.
The following day, we left for a short trip to the Volta Region. We were hosted at the Kopeyia-Aflao Dagbe Cultural Centre by master artist Emmanuel Kwaku Agbeli. While in a short time span, we managed to film inside the village of Kopeyia, the Cultural Center’s main stage and out at the ocean. Each spot consisted of a different type of music and a slight variation in instrumentation. All in all, we were able to experience Adzohu dance drumming of the Fon and Eve peoples, Eve Agbadza and Kinka songs, and even some atenteben wooden flute music. We traveled west to Anyako village where we were joined by director Kpeglo Ladzekpo, master drummers Olu Nudzor Gbeti and E. K. Yevutsey, a drum ensemble, and over 100 spectators (about half of which were children). We were well prepared for the Anlo Kete drumming of the Eve people as blood drum spirit played a piece of the same name composed by royal himself.
Unfortunately time, distance and budget restraints kept us from traveling all the way north, but we were able to remedy that and represent the northern region in Medie, just outside of Accra. Tijan Dorwana led music of the Lobi and Dagara peoples, including Lobi and Bawa with the gyl xylophone, and Sulley Imoro led music of Dagbamba, including Bambaya dance drumming. The longest day of filming included multiple wardrobe changes and a number of intricate, meaningful dances that told stories of hunts and other traditional life situations.
Everywhere we went, the musicians were able to connect with one another almost instantly. Without a background in any instrument, it was fascinating, for me, to see musicians who had never played together blending genres for essentially the first time ever and creating something that was so enjoyable to listen to. I couldn’t believe that a Ghanaian teacher could tell someone to play (da da da…) and in a matter of minutes, something completely new was created. Away from the stage, these bonds were still palpable because we were there not only for musical purposes, but primarily for human connections through music and dance. Even though I was holding a camera and not a bass or saxophone, I was welcomed in a way that I have not experienced in other fields of study or even personal traveling.
Enjoy the videos of a small portion of the musical pieces and stay tuned for Part 3, which will overview our travels in the Asante Region and the final concerts held at two of Accra’s premiere jazz clubs.