Thursdays, March 29 – April 4, 2007
R E F L E C T I O N S
Journey through song, dance and collaborations
A GLEAMING, whitewashed Elmina Castles could be spotted from afar as one approached the historic town from Cape Coast. Controversy cropped up over why it had been spruced up to host guests last Sunday for activities commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in the United Kingdom.
Different positions were stated on the issue but a matter which did not generate any argument at all was the fact that some interesting artistic combinations unfolded at the event which was organized by the British Council and the Ghana@50 Secretariat.
Billed as ‘a reverential event’ and tagged Reflections, it showcased performances by artists from Africa, the UK and the Diaspora. For some of them, the forum was a sound platform to collaborate and share experiences.
The drum has always played a key role in African Culture and Mustapha Tettey Addy’s Royal Obonu Drummers beat hard on different sizes and shapes of it to formally herald proceedings in the Castle. They kept playing as the Aboase Mmenson Group emerged to blend their horn sounds with the energetic drumming.
Even more compelling to hear was the combination of the Royal Obonu Drummers and the Maroon and African Carribean drummers. The drum has gone through all kinds of transformation in the Diaspora and the improvisatory runs of the huge fontomfrom and the sonorous steel pan sounded like an experiment worth pursuing. The two groups got the guests to engage in the first singsong of the evening as they marched off the stage with Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.
Also worth nothing was the joint presentation by Prof. Kofi Anyidoho and hiplifer, Obour. They did a lyrical poem written for the occasion Anyidoho and accompanied by two atenben players. When Obour’s name appeared on the programme, many assumed he was going to dish out his usual hiplife stuff but the young man came on clutchin a dondo drum and in serious dialogue on African identity with the renowned poet. He showed how versatile he could be, following recent appearances with highlife star, A.B.Crentsil.
Veteran Koo Nimo and his Adadam Agofomma were predictable with their material anchored in Akan culture but had two colourfully-dressed personalities as guests during their set.
Asabea Cropper and her guitar-playing brother turned up for what looked like a totally unrehearsed take on one of Asabea’s compositions. The lady never goes on stage without her soprano saxophone so it was intriguing hearing her being backed by only acoustic guitars and percussion.
The most conspicuous union of talents on the programme was the bit between violinists Eliza Carthy from UK, kora master Wali Cham Jobarteh from Gambia, goje player Merigah Abubakar and seprewa player Osei Korankye, both from Ghana.
They had solo sports before joining forces for a piece. That was an unusual combination of instruments but Jobarteh told Graphic Showbiz that it was no problem at all fitting in because he has played with big symphony orchestras in Europe and has also worked a few times with Merigah in London.
It would have been exciting to see the London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC) do something substantial with the Winneba Youth Choir but it didn’t turn out that way. The two groups, however, had a brief moment of singing together when teamed up on When the Saints Go Marching In for the procession that led the guests out of the proceeding to continue outdoor.
Amandzeba is emerging as the best entertainment with firm Ghanaian roots and it was no wonder South African trumpeter, Hugh Masekela, decided to collaborate on a song with him. Masekela himself is an experienced entertainer who knows how to sustain audience interest. Offstage, he appeared to have good rapport with Amandzeba and it would be great if they can make their friendship evolve into a serious joint work.
Other performers in Elmina last Sunday to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the UK were poets Linton Kwesi Johnson and Zena Edwards from UK, the Christ Little Band of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Cape Coast, Wulomei, the National Dance Company, Sappers International Band and students of Montessori School, Cape Coast.
Discussions about the Trans-Atlantic slave trade which quashed development and impoverished Africa for centuries but fueled the rapid industrial growth of the West, often stirs up strong contradictory feelings even among continental Africans. Opinions remained divided over the mode of the Elmina celebration and whether too much emphasis was not being deliberately put on African involvement in the slave trade.
Whichever way one looks at things, it is clear that music and other art forms have proudly survived and even flourished on the continent and in the Diaspora. Events like the one held in Elmina last Sunday could help forge stronger links on the arts front amongst the people callously separated by the Trans- Atlantic slave trade.
Graphic showbiz - Thursdays, March 29 – April 4, 2007 Page: 9