Tuesday 28 May 2013

Which way now....

 As everyone winds their way home, I want to say what a fantastic group of travellers this has been! Open of mind, respectful of tradition, curious of difference.  We have all deepened our experience of music and life on this trip. The students' willingness to make each day a great one, despite small illnesses, uncomfortable heat and new challenges was admirable. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and would do it again anytime. They have represented themselves and Carleton University well and I look forward to seeing where they all go from here....  Miaga dogo!

Big thank you from all of us,  to Carleton's FASS Dean John Osborne,
IAS Director Professor Blair Rutherford, and IAS Administrator June Payne
Special thanks also to U of Ghana Professor Joseph Yaro, Kwasi Dunyo and Godsway Dunyo


Sunday 26 May 2013

Random Ghana

Here is a post script, taken from the group journal that was kept in the Lodge. Just a few of our favourite lines and photos. Not everything made it in, but for good reason.

"Its nice to be nice"

"Fanti Kenkey with Fanta"

Godsway,  leading everyone on a walkabout tour of the village our first day there: "this is mud"

Ashley: "Rebecca, I think your dress is ready"
Rebecca: "Why?"
Ashley: "Because Angelina said, are you Rebecca? Your dress is ready."

Emmanuel, (U of Ghana student coming to Carleton in the fall term) : "I'll see you when you see me!"

Jodi: "Dennis, is this going to be a whole ride thing? Are you sure? Okay "

"so sweet"

"The Roof"

Jodi to Godsway: "Godsway, how do you say pineapple?"
Godsway: "pineapple" 

Elvis,  using Ewe tonal inflections: "Let's make it a party"

Samantha, referring to her roomate who shall go unamed: "No, you need to wake her up four times....and not leave! "

Torgbui (our drum and dance teacher but also a chief) : "...And then you shake your ass"

To Elvis: "How do you and Selorm know each other?"
Elvis: "Historically"

Driving up behind a brass band in the back of a pick up truck! Standing and playing while driving. Yes really.  see pic below

Joe complimenting one of our dancers after the show: "You have the butt of an African woman, that's what's good!"

Kathy: "Everyone picture A900 (pre-renovations of course). Now picture here! "

Godsway at the final dinner: "We must eat like a pregnant woman!"

Song composition on the last night,  sung to the tune of Mano Efe. Composer shall remain anonymous: "In heaven, there is no beer, that's why, we are drinking all the beer"

"There's a goat in the back seat!"
"Sounds like my last date"
"Have you ever been in a car ride with a goat?"

Saturday 25 May 2013

Leaving Day

This morning I sat up on the roof of the Kathy Armstrong lodge, in Dagbamete. Watched the sun peak over the treetops and enjoyed the sounds and silences of the village in the early morning (early for me at least-before breakfast!). I thought about all of the events, cultural differences and temperature obstacles we have overcome, as a group and individually. I started to wonder when I will be able to come back. Carrying these last few weeks, such a brief period of time really, in our hearts as we leave, do we ever really leave?

As a travelling group of young’uns we have become quite close, The idea that this time tomorrow we won’t all be dragging ourselves out of bed by 8:00 to get some delicious homemade everything on our plates, is heartbreaking. Like everything in life, it comes to a close and is further explored if our hearts desire. I have enjoyed every member of the team, we really do act and support as a team, our separate backgrounds, moral compasses, ideas and dreams, have all been welcomed and shared. The conversations we indulge in alone have been life lessons, eye openers and sparked interest for more adventures. But the experience I have had here, is incomparable. There are still parts of this trip I have not sorted through emotionally or mentally yet, but when I’m supposed to understand, I will. I feel very privileged and honoured to have spent three beautiful weeks with so many beautiful, well respected people, yes that includes the ones that boarded the plane in Canada.

This trip is just the beginning of a new chapter. The lessons learned here will flow over into the rest of my life, they will encourage me that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to and be a friendly reminder that I, Rebecca, can dance!
Much love to you all <3

Celebration & Goodbyes

 The Dunyo Family has two strengths among many: gracious hosting, and their ability to make and enjoy a great party. When those two elements are brought together, it really is magic. And that was our last night in Dagbamete. A dance party and buffet to send us off in style. After an all ages thump thump dance party on the porch, we all squeezed into the Lodge: the Canadian visitors, our teachers Torgbi and Selorm, our drivers , some village elders and various others. As well as the whole assembled Dunyo clan who have been our amazing hosts for the last two weeks. The table was laid out with all the finest dishes Vivian, Mawukwenya, Adzo and Mansah and all the others could think up: chicken, fish from the catch we witnessed the day before, crab, goat kebabs (see Random Ghana blog post for some words about THAT) two kinds of rice, akple, dzakple (a personal favourite), mixed vegetables, salad, red sauce, goat soup and minerals (Fanta, Coke etc). And Torgbi hauled out the “Red”  a local herbal drink made form palm sap ;) and had Kofi, his star drummer and dancer from Dzogadze pour shots for all in the room. It was an amazing feast and there were many happy faces in that room!

 One of our students, Jodi, initiated making homemade Guacamole with all the lovely local ingredients. We all loved it, but it was a new taste for our Ghanaian friends. Served with rice crackers we found in the Mall in Accra (what, we haven't told you about the Mall?....a whole other post I suppose)

After dinner we assembled in the summer hut to pay tribute and thanks to our teachers as Salorm had to leave Dagbamete.  A few tears and lots of hugs.  Its been a very special time. Our father, Kwasi, who was not able to be in Ghana for this group’s tour, can be proud of what he has built and put into place. It’s a one of a kind experience for all who come. I was feeling pretty moved myself, thinking about all the years we have collaborated and shared some amazing times. Watching the next generation rise to the task was beautiful.

Friday 24 May 2013

Last night Reflection...

As I listen to the booming speakers on the front porch, beckoning a good time, I realize this is our last night together. On the first night of our trip I remember thinking that I have to spend a whole three weeks here, by the end I’ll be begging to go home. The days crept up too quickly and the thought of not seeing my newly found friends everyday doesn’t seem real. Signing up for this course worried me, being in first year I thought it would be harder to appreciate the company of the older students. That wasn’t the case at all. We bonded and supported each other through every activity. Students from different programs taught us new things and new outlooks on our trip. What one person struggled with, another would understand, balancing our weaknesses. Practicing for our final concert felt safe, no judgment was brought to class. The concert was a blast other than the persistent sweat that drenched us like rain. Our first piece struggled slightly, but it was nothing our enthusiasm couldn’t handle. Nervous looks shot around which was then relieved by a peer’s reassuring smile. By the second half our focus was no longer on the audience or the fact we were being graded, but enjoying ourselves. Throughout this trip I’ve seen many things that have changed my perceptions, particularly about social situations. We don’t need to separate and make ourselves the prime focus in our lives; together we are stronger. 


--> One of the course assignments was to perform a concert for the village of the pieces we had been working on here in our lessons. This happened Friday afternoon, under the canopy of the community drumming trees.  No better place to play drums in my opinion. With a small grouping of elders in front  of us and school children assembled after school let out, we began with an ad hoc Kinka to gather the audience. Soon after, we did our “set” which was an instrumental version of Gota, then one with dancing. Then came our Bobobo,  with singing, trumpet,  drums and dancing. It was magnificent. Some of the group was nervous, especially when a burst of laughter erupted in one of the Gota moves, but as soon as they realized their local audience was in fact thrilled with their efforts, everyone relaxed and gave a great show. Our teachers Torgbui and Selorm led us, along with a couple of drummers form Dzogadze (Promise and Kofi) and our own Dagbamete friend Jambolah. A fantastic musical end to the trip. Congrats to the performers, some of whom were totally new to this music.

Finding Inspiration in Dzogadze

Coming to Dagbamete, I was most looking forward to taking traditional drumming lessons from the experts at the source.  Our lessons with Selorm and Torgbui were fulfilling and fun, but as the week progressed, conflict between different teaching and learning styles began to show.  In the Western world we are so used to breaking things into simple steps, explaining them thoroughly, and then adding everything together.  Here in Ghana, the music is learned through enculturation.  Meaning, people simply learn by observation and repetition.  Torgbui and Selorm did a great job at simplifying things for us, but there was still come confusion at times.  By the end of the week I was feeling very frustrated and discouraged.  There were a couple days when I did not even want to go to our lessons. 

On Tuesday we headed to the nearby village of Dzogadze, where Torgbui is the chief.  Many smiling faces, and clusters of children welcomed us.  We heard some drumming across the grounds, and soon they joined us where we were waiting.  They led us in a drumming procession to a shaded area under a huge, beautiful tree where the performance would take place.  We were greeted by Torgbui and the elders of Dzogadze, and then the show began.  

They began with Atsiagbekor, which was the piece we were most excited to see.  Astiagbekor is a traditional piece of the Ewe people.  It is known as a “war dance” as it represents events in battle.  This incredibly athletic, and high energy piece was traditionally used to excite and inspire soldiers, as well as tell the story of the soldiers’ journey to battle.  Today, not many groups have kept the tradition alive.  

We were so lucky to be invited to Dzogadze to experience such an amazing performance.  The young men and women who danced and drummed were all smiles and shared their energy with the entire audience.  I could not believe the ability they had to perform, and there are no words to describe how excited it made me feel. 

After an intense Atsiagbekor of about 45-60 minutes (and a quick break), the younger performers returned to show us their version of Kete.  In this piece, the dancers formed a circle.  There would be a couple people, moving and dancing inside the circle, and then they would tag another person in to dance in their place.  It was a sort of game.  

One of the best things about these kinds of music and dance is the sense of community.  The children were interacting and having fun with each other, and soon they reached for us to join them, too.  Dennis and I were first chosen from our seats to dance within the circle.  We had a partner show us how to participate, and then we were quickly on our own.  At first, I felt a little awkward because I was not really sure what to do, but I embraced the moment and had so much fun!  Others from our group were also pulled in, so there was a mix of everybody participating.  I know I had the biggest, cheesiest grin on my face!  It was so fun to participate and enjoy the dance with everyone there.  I added my own style to the moves I had been taught, and I did not care if I looked silly at all because I was having so much fun.  

After Kete finished, everyone cheered and we returned to our seats for what we thought was going to be goodbye.  However, the music just continued.  The next piece, Kinka, was a very casual piece where people are invited to take part in a small social dance together.  Watching everyone dance, and being able to dance with those from Dzogadze, as well as our friends from Dagbamete was amazing.  These people have moves!  And the positive, exciting energy that they share with us makes you feel so great.  One of my favourite moments was when I danced in a group from Dagbamete.  I was next to Abey (Robert), who is normally a shy, reserved man, but as soon as the drum call started his smile shined so bright that I couldn’t help but smile, too.  Not only did he have great energy, but his dancing was amazing, too.  

Many master drummers took turns at the lead during Kinka, including Kathy.  In Ghana, it is very rare to see any female drummers, and traditionally they are only men.  Not only was Kathy breaking that stereotype, but she is also left-handed and a Westerner!  The looks on many of the men’s faces were very entertaining to me.  Some of shock, some of amazement, and some just couldn’t believe what she was capable of!  That was an empowering moment.  

When everyone had finished dancing and the drums were silenced, we thanked everyone for their generous invitations and outstanding performance, and headed home to Dagbamete.  The whole ride home, I was so happy.  This had absolutely been the highlight of my trip.  I loved each and every moment that I shared with my Ghana family, and with the people in Dzogadze. 

After all the frustration I had experienced throughout the week in our lessons, our visit to Torgbui’s village confirmed my love and passion for this music.  Through all the tough hours of polyrhythms, syncopations, singing, dancing, and even some crying, the end result is so worth it.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if your technique isn’t perfectly correct, or if you miss a beat, what matters is the connection with the people around you who are also enjoying and making music with you.  The love and joy in the community is a very wonderful thing, and I just hope that I can continue on the route to keeping the spirit of drumming and music in my life forever.