Ghana 2015, Week Two: Research, Funerals, and a Wedding

After a weekend of performing, the Centre for National Culture’s Folkloric Group normally takes the day off on Monday to rest. I spent my off-day at the Centre’s Cultural Jazz Bar, researching Kete in Professor Kwasi Ampene’s wonderfully informative monograph Engaging Modernity: Asante in the 21st Century. Attah Poku, Director of the Kiniwe West African Music Ensemble at Tufts, has been incredibly supportive of my research, and has helped me track down two of the Ashanti Region’s oldest Kete groups at Ankaase and Nkwantakese, which we plan to interview and record next week.

On Tuesday, I joined a group of Fontomfrom drummers to perform at a funeral in Asienimpong, a remote town 30 minutes south of Ejisu. Among the chief mourners at the funeral were the CEOS of Agya Appiah, a well known Ghanaian alcoholic beverage company, and Kalyppo, a Ghanaian fruit juice company. These wealthy patrons put on a lavish ceremony that included four separate drumming groups - Fontomfrom, Adowa, and two Kete ensembles. To the delight on the Fontomfrom group I performed with, these patrons appreciated my obroni cultural dance routine with a shower of Ghana Cedis, money which gets shared amongst the group members after the show.

This weekend was truly a marathon of drumming and traveling. I arrived at 9:45am at Asafo Palace on Friday, comfortably late for a 9:00am call time, but was still the first person there. Our “9:00am” bus to Accra finally left at 1:30pm, and arrived after sundown. On Saturday, I joined a group of Kete drummers including Attah’s nephew Kwadwo Augustine, Ben Yancherah, and Doctor Asuming to play all day at the Asafohene's brother’s wedding. Immediately after closing at 8pm, we boarded a bus back to Accra, departing at 10:30pm and arriving at 2:30am. After a brief nap, we went straight to a funeral in Buokrom, Kumasi, to play the Kete at the early morning wake keeping from 4:0am until 7:00am. Went home for a much needed rest, then returned to the funeral grounds around noon to drum Kete again until nightfall.

 Prof Poku and I with the Ankaase Kete Group at Asienimpong. We will travel to Ankaase next week for an interview and recording session.

Prof Poku and I with the Ankaase Kete Group at Asienimpong. We will travel to Ankaase next week for an interview and recording session.