Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Some kids dancing to our drumming in Dagbamete
A group shot in Dagbamete with one of our drum profs, Ledzi
Watching a moving (literally) performance in Dzogadze a neighboring village
The Slave castle in Keta. Written on a wall of the castle
Visiting the school in Dagbamete
The Askombo damn.
Entrance to Dagbamete.
Our hostel at the university.
Women from the shea butter co-operative in Tamale
Playing a childrens clapping game.
Notice in the Frank David Hotel, Kumasi.
Kente weaving loom.
Africana dance group.
Photo with the musicians in the Buduburam Liberian refugee camp.
View of Buduburam.
Jamestown. Black Star Square.
Into in the Accra museum on the kpalogo drum. This is what we played the most in class.
W.E. DuBois memorial.
View from the top of the University of Ghana campus.
Marketplacenear out hostel on campus.
HEAT. The humidity here makes the heat ridiculously penetrating. Getting around seems like quite a go ahead (outside of taxis). there's quite a night life and the dress code is less conservative than Kenya. People generally seem friendly and most speak english. Salespeople in markets are aggressive. I wonder if, here too, there's an assumption that because you're white, you're rich.
I'm excited to meet Dr. Frishkopf and learn more about what we're going to be doing.
The culture is certainly not as prejudiced as Kenya. People here, even if they're trying to sell you something for example, will look at you as a person.
Music and God are everywhere. Although sometimes they cross, more often than not they oppose. The personal space so common in the west is non-existent, and, paired with the ever-present hip-hop beat, dancing seems inevitable. It seems like people live their lives to a theme-beat and you can notice it even in their walking rhythm.
I'm pleased with how eager people are to get to know you. I was honored when someone offered to help me find volunteer work after my study. The tour today was fascinating. I thought I was lucky to have my culture, but this is so much more deep-rooted. Black Star Square was inspirational. Jamestown, affecting, and the arts market, head spinning.
There will always be a few bad apples (or persistent suitors), but the culture seems rich and it's people fascinating. It makes me eager to learn more. I'm excited for class.
Today was less active. I attended services at the Legon Interdenominational Church. The building is, by far, the nicest on campus. The high part was most definitely the first hour of music and testimonials. It seems to me that if you're determined to do it, that's the way to worship. I was impressed with the passion people showed and the number of musicians. Not being a church goer, I still found no pleasure in a sermon followed closely behind by a collection plate. The church invited us in for 'refreshments' after the ceremony and to sign their guest book. They were friendly and welcoming. I admit, the idea of an interdenominational church is excellent. In Ghana there's a variety of religions and I'm inspired at how they interact so well.
Speaking of other religions, I met a rasta man at the Brazil House. He works as a fisherman in Jamestown. I found him to be an interesting and open person. We had a discussion about living by the sea and the connection you form with it. Some things really are international.
Class has been fascinating!Professor Nketia, though a little hard to understand, is very inspirational. Ghana's history fascinates me. It's so incredibly deep-rooted. Prof Mohammed accused Ghana of not facing it's culture (history) and of succumbing to the mediocre, but I disagree. I think Ghana's tolerance is often mistaken for apathy ro avoidance, but their allowance of free expression has allowed the country to avoid more violent critiques and in-country division. The forms of artistic expression have created a unique, different culture (although it may tactfully avoid certain subjects). It's also a possibility that a country who bases itself on past injustices ties itself to the past, making it harder to move forward.
The past presidents of Ghana, particularly Nkrumah and Rawlings and their ideals blow me away. They are truly men who loved their country.
The music lessons are challenging. Coming form a structured, western, woodwind background I have to concentrate on letting go (Irony!). I find I'm more successful when I try to feel a rhythm then when i try ot focus on counting and tones. Consequently, my efforts at transcription have been failures. Hopefully I'll remember the rhythms.
Overall, fascinating. But I'm, keenly aware that I still have a lot to learn.
Another interesting day. The drum lessons figure prominentl
y in my mind. I'm able to do the master drumming, but when it comes to the supporting i have difficulties. It's hard to 'go with the flow' and maintain a beat that the whole group must follow. The prof's solo's are impressive.
I also really enjoyed prof. Collins lecture. I'm intrigued by the cross influencing of musical genres. I can honestly say I'm not surprised that Ghana would be pioneering in mixed music genres, being as diverse as it is.
I was able to go see the Africana group this evening. It was amazing! The drumming was very intricate and coordinated and all done with their hands. The dancers were divided by gender. The men more resembled acrobats, often changing levels in their dancing. The women are exceptional multi-taskers, their arms, legs, and core all seem to be moving to unique but complimentary rhythms. The whole general movements are like nothing I've seen before. They're erratic and coordinated all at the same time
Today was the last day of class for the week. Onto Kokrobite tomorrow.
Our first class this morning was with Prof. Fiagbedzi. He was really into the music theory and structure. I've only got a basic background in music and will have to do some extra research on 'mode' etc. I suppose this is balance for my enthusiasm for politics. Prof. Collins continues to impress me. e's lived through so many interesting times and been so active. I also think his colour gives him a unique perspective.
We played a new drum today, as opposed to our usual talking drum.
The smaller rope is for an answer with your hands, and the larger for calls played with the curved sticks. I didn't enjoy it as much as the talking drums. I love that you can communicate language through music.
We stop at a displaced persons camp of Liberians on the way to Kokrobite tomorrow. I'm very excited. And Kokrobite itself should be excellent. Hopefully we get to learn some dancing as well.
At Kokrobite. And currently listenign to a live drum and dance show.
Buduburam, the Liberian refugee camp was mind blowing. The musicians were all so talented. And listening to their stories was so inspirational. There was Shadow, who at 23 has been living in the camp since age 5. Then Ezekiel who watched his family killed and his in the bushes while rebels threw acid to find him. Yet all these people can laugh and smile, sit down with you and tell you their story and thank god for life. they live in a shanty town with no water and little electricity. The camp size has gone from 42000 to 19000 in still stretches for miles.
I want to learn more about hteir re-integration program. Our visit was pleasant but I can only imagine the levels of port traumatic stress and depression there are skyrocketed.
Many haven't gone home yet. They have nothing to go back to and some hold the hope of getting a visa into North America.
It's sobering, my family is by no means wealthy. but we have food and have never feared for our lives. My heart goes with them. I plan to spend my life working with people like this. I have many emails and plan to do everything I can when I get home.
I'm afraid Kokrobite, in all it's beauty falls short of that place. Their faith in God still baffles me. The things I see in Canada leave me feeling free to question, to have endured so much and still be thankful... wow.
Im afraid my Liberian history is a bit grey. But I can imagine a family taken as slaves, then taken from their new country and brought back to Adrica, having to make a new place in a country not their own, only to have it torn apart by civil war. Constance said it well when she said you can't not be happy to be alive when you see so many of your own die.
Kokrobite has been fun. I preferred the dancing lesson to the drumming yesterday. I love the way they move, but it takes so much energy! I was all sweaty after an hour, and they perform for several!
Big Milly's feels like a resort. There are mostly whites and the beach and dance floor feel a bit like a brothel for black men. Nonetheless the culture is very laid back, and there's always a rasta to talk to or buy something from.
I think I'll be very glad to get back to the 'variety' of Accra. The live Reggae band was enjoyable to listen to. There's less of a performance than with the traditional music and this band played the most 'popular' hits (i.e. Bob Marley). The beach is beautiful, it reminds me of the waves in Atlantic Canada. but warmer.
The roads on the way here were interesting too. Drivers seem respectful, but the roads are often in poor condition and the lines are more of guidelines. At one point we were headed in one direction in the middle of the road while the lanes on either side of us were headed in the opposite direction.
Analyses of Performance
moral no. 1 – Need to know a woman's guises to get a man.
The dancing generally tells a story to the rhythm of the musicians, with performers alternating between the two. There are more male then female dancers, and no female drummers. Acts generally
had a comedic flair.
There were two drum groups and a gymnastics act. Each of which asked for money. There were no quiet transitions. One group would start before the other finished.
The performers seemed to enjoy themselves.
Today was out 2nd last day of lectures. They were extremely interesting. I'm still amazed at all the diversity on Ghana (especially religious and ethnic), and how they're able to maintain peace. Getting a Ghanaian opinion on their involvement with the World Bank and IMF was enlightening. The prof summed it up well when he said that their plans made sense economically but bred social discord.
We also started a new instrument, the xylophone. Its a really bizarre instrument with little pots bulging under the keyboard. The prof talked about how and when the instrument is played. I thought it was fascinating how different music is played not only on different holidays but even from different funerals. And from the music you can tell who died, like whether they were young or old, male or female.
I'm still finding the music challenging, after ten years of flute playing doing two different thing with your hands takes some getting used to. I realize how lucky I am thought, and am glad to have the opportunity.
Today was the final day of lectures and to my surprise I really enjoyed it. I walked into our women in writing lecture expecting a dose of feminism and a list of names. Instead I learned about cultural female empowerment within the preservation of tradition. While women appear silent on African tradition, the assumption in generally made because researchers aren't looking in the right places. Womens oral traditions is parallel to the male role, not in it.
I attended a reggae night on Labadi beach last night. There's a larger live music scene in Ghana than in Canada. Like everywhere the 'male determination' was present. I spent a great deal of time talking to Rasta's, their beliefs make them much more laid back and it's possible to have a conversation without being invited to bed. I never realized they believe their soul is in their dreads.
Barack Obama has left Ghana. I wonder how long it will take for all the Welcome signs to come down.
In Kumasi and exhausted. I experienced the 'Accra club scene' last night. Very loud, very expensive. We started a BaiWel with a live band that played highlife and salsa. From what I heard highlife is like mix of jazz and salsa with something unmistakably African thrown in. I invited a musician who invited me to check out his music video on youtube under Shacka Music Video.
We then moved on to Aphrodesiac. More standard 'club' with less of an abruni crowd.
The economic disparities here were expected, but still shock me. We caught a drive with a Nigerian fellow, whos car has leather upholstry and gps navigation. He also demonstrated how to bribe cops (for having an extra person in the car) for which the exchanging hands of five cedis will suffice.
We had a drum show and dance lesson today with Koo Nimo. I find African dancinf similar to drumming, it's not necessarily about synchronising perfectl, but feeling the music.
I have malaria! It's so funny I have to laugh. Its 1+, which is the second of 3 stages. The people at the hospital were extremely nice, but I have a strong impression that we were subject to some preferential treatment (queue jumping, private waiting room). The test was done quickly, and the injections. I really appreciate that Dr. Frishkopf was there to help me. I also have a chest infection, but all in all I'm recovering nicely.
I noticed that tipping is never expected in Ghana, but often times people will go out of their way for you (like in the hospital) and I'm sure it's because they're hoping for something extra for themselves. I genuinely appreciate the goodwill, but it's disconcerting when you consider the possibility that it's all due to skin colour and the misled stereotype that all whites are rich.
The vendors in Kumasi were also rough to deal with. Outside after our tour of the Ashanti palace they would openly accuse someone of being racist for not buying their things. I wonder if they realized the depth of what they were saying.
I was impressed in the Ashanti museum at the equality of the King and the Queen Mother.
We're in Tamale, and I can't say I'm not glad to be rid of the Frank David Hotel. Tamale seems to be more religiously oriented (if that's possible). For example, all the guest houses on our road are denominational (catholic, methodist, etc). The food is westernized and locals understand tourism. I think the town is used to foreigners. None the less, they all seem very sweet and I think I'll enjoy it here.
We had a dance lesson and saw the market today.
The drum and dance lesson was interesting, and HOT. It's much warmer here than in Accra, probably because they don't have the wind off the water. There wasn't much to the drum lesson, the prof didn't even speak, he just played and we tried to copy.
The dancing was better. Dancing in Tamale is more 'twisting' whereas around Accra it was more 'popping'. Definitely more challenging.
Before the lesson we had a bit of a show from 3 drummers and a set of dancers. They perofrmed the Takai, a festival dance . They wore large smocks, and odd pants that looked like bags with ankle holes. The dancers also had leg wraps with bells on them and carried sticks to clack as part of the rhythm. They moved in a star-shape, moving in and out of a circle to create the peaks.
They also performed the Jerra dance. It was performed by dwarves in the woods then transferred to humans when a hunter saw them.
Finally, they performed (then taught) the Bamaya, done when women returned to the village after finding water.
I like how all the dances have meaning.
We had our second drum and dance lesson today, it was pretty much the same as the first.
In the afternoon we were able to visit the Womens Shea Butter Co-Operative. They work so hard to produce what they do and sell it so cheaply. Some of the girls were saying that the quantity we bought for 3GHC here sells for 20$ back home. I was impressed by their system and how nothing goes to waste. For example once they've heated the crushed nuts to draw out the oil the remains are poured in a kind of cistern where, when they're ready, are sued for fuel. I wish I knew a better way to explain to those women how much I respect them.
I'm on the bus on my way to Accra. The transport system is as inefficient as anything else here, but I don't mind queuing .
We went out with some of our dance teachers last night. a lot of what I saw confirmed the strong influence foreigners have had on the area. For example, it was the first time I's seen Ghanaians like that smoking.
One fellow I spoke to was very interesting. He's studying art in school and teaches dance on the side. He was watching his friends chase women and said they had to be careful because how they acted around their students (even outside of class) reflects on the school. It was the first time I'd heard a Ghanaian criticize men for going after women the way they all seem to.
I also went back to the market in Tamale yesterday. It's completely a personal view, but I don't think understanding of a culture comes from trying it on. Buying a scarf in a market and wearing it on your head for a day won'y make you understand muslim culture in Africa, it takes something deeper.
My hostel is lovely! It's run by an elderly couple and has 13 beds, 6 rooms. I'm paying 5US a night to sleep on the roof. It's a bare bones but my hostess is very sweet. We're only a five minute walk from the Dakuman circle station, so it will be easy to get to wherever I like in the city. And I found Fufu for only 50 peswes.
I got my first taste of true Ghanaian hospitality yesterday. Ellis took me to met his sister in her home. I got there early afternoon and stayed late. She was so sweet and genuinely nice. In talking we found out we had common tastes in music, then really hit it off. She made sure I was never sitting alone and my cup was always full. At first the hospitality was overwhelming but after many reassurances from Ellis and Evelyn that it was 'just their way', I really enjoyed myself.
I met one of Evelyn's friends as well. A businessman I think, who spoke fluent French. I'm continuously impressed with Ghanaian level of proficiency in other languages.
I'm also starting to notice that African men are a bit spoiled. They sweet talk like there's no tomorrow, and are protective, but there're also used to having (for example) their drinks brought to them, or all their cooking and cleaning done. It's funny, but it reminds me of my scottish grandfather. I guess it's like that in any traditional society.
I also forgot to mention that they live in military housing, originally built by/for the british. Definitely one of the higher end spots in Ghana.
From the reading I'd done before I arrived I'd known to expect economic disparities but they're nonetheless staggering in person.
We're in Dagbamete. The village is very peaceful and out lesson was possibly the best I've had yet in Ghana. I'm not sure what it is in the music yet, but it was the first time I could clearly hear and count my part in the music amongst the other ones. àThe guest house is very nice, but the food is western. From the moment we arrived there's been a crowd of children out front, all looking to hold your hand and get a present. I wonder if they have foreigners coming year round which leads them to expect it. I hope once we're here a little while as part of the community things will change.
People in the Volta Region don't seem to differ overly from the rest of Ghana, though if Kwasi and my Prof. Agorde are any examples, their teaching style is pretty eccentric.
I also chewed on sugar cane for the first time today. It was interesting. And i'm determined to taste a Kola nut in the village as well.
We woke up at 330 this morning to go to a wedding.
The service was fairly traditional catholic, beginning with a church service, then the wedding vows. It was long though 2.5 hours. The sermon was about submitting to one's husband bothered some people, but I didn't find it so offensive. They did come down quite hard on anyone non-christian though. And there were 3 collections this time, which we were quite abruptly informed we had to get up for. The church was a nice building, it may come harsh but in this country I think money would be better spent on development or care than a building used for a few hours once a week.
I also found out that this was the couples second marriage, but this style of ceremony justified it in the eyes of god.
I've got ot be careful, my bias towards churches is interfering with my analysis.
The region itself was beautiful. The lake is great and I got to see the Askombo damn, which I was looking forward to.
I'm looking forward to getting involved with the commuinty. I still feel like we're a bit of a novelty. Right now there's two little boys sitting in my room. They heard my music and are now playing with the webcam on the computer. They're more absorbed with the computer, the oldest understands english, but doesnt speak it.
We're still in the village. Our days have consisted of lessons (lots and lots of lessons), a festival, visiting the school, and going to the market.
Kwasi has been interesting to study under. He's an adequate teacher, but as a person... as a person he's a hypocrite. For example, he preaches fair treatment of women, but balances three wives. He's against a collection in a church, but you have to pay to become a member of his shrine.
The village seems to revolve in large part arouns the shrine and traditional religion. Just this morning there was the sacrifice of a goat and a chicken. Kwasi justified it by saying that sometimes sacrificing the life of an animal can save your own.
The music competition festival was interesting to watch, especially the drama representing morals.
Visiting the school was another experience. Once again we were treated like guests of honour. I think it's difficult to truly understand a culture when you're watching it from above and aren't really in the thick of it. The teachers were pleasant and the kids eager for the gifts we brought. They nicely skirted some questions (for example the discipline of children) but I think they've had those questions before and wanted to avoid the western response of shock and criticism.
Last night we celebrated Cathy and Erica's birthdays, and in a very short time the community put together a celebration. It was very kind of them, there was lots of food, and they were very eager to show themselves as good hosts.
I realize that I'm judging the village quite harshly. But in a place so based on spirituality I'm trying to feel with my spirit and it's ill at ease.
There have been some nice people, and I'm looking forward to know them more.
The village also seems to judge harshly. The past two mornings at practice there's been a young woman walking around and lifting her shirt. It may be argued that it's the way of the village, but there was no heat (which is generally why the women do it) and her movements were exhibitionist, not neutral. She speaks good english and seems to have most of her faculties, but people from the village don't speak to her and avoid eye contact. I wonder whether her actions caused the treatment or the inverse.
I finished my novel “The Healers” by Ayi Kweh Armah. I won't go into plot details, but it talks about a healers work as developing through inspiration, not manipulation. I find it very fitting, especially when I see the fearful respect that's given to Kwasi.
This is my last journal entry so I suppose it's time to summarize. I got a hard dose of reality on this trip. I came thinking that I could give my time because I had no money. But a lot of people see skin first, want money, and have no interest in getting to know you or what time you have.
In some ways it's been inspirational as well though. Experiencing things firsthand is a million times worth studying it. And seeing these things at 20 years old while I'm still in school will help me so much later in life.
The people I've met and truly made friends with have been kind and open people. As always there's been a few you have to watch out for. Regular presence is an important piece in building strong relationships. when people here see that you are truly interested in their country and want to integrate yourself into their way of life, they are very accomodating.
The village, I think , would have been better if I'd come alone or were staying longer. There hasn't been much time to know everyone personally, and we came with an agenda.
I still need to do interviews, I want to focus on stories in music to make mine unique, but I still find it difficult.
We went to another village for a music (drum and dance) demonstration today in Dzogadgi. African dancing doesn't focus on synchronising, but they feel the music more.