Ghana 2015, Week Three: Ankaase, Nkwantakese, and Ghana’s Most Beautiful

Early Monday morning, I packed up my recording equipment and boarded a trotro to Ankaase, a small town north of Kumasi famous for having the only Kete group that sings — virtually all other Kete ensembles use percussion exclusively. The Nananom Ankaase Kete Group put on a wonderful performance of five drumming pieces each preceded with its own corresponding vocal melody. A subsequent interview with Opanin Kwabena Afram (Group Leader) and Akwasi Ofori (2nd in Command) shed light on the unique history of the group, as well as the meaning embedded in the vocal preludes.

After paying the group and providing drinks in line with local tradition, Attah Poku and I boarded a taxi for Nkwantakese, a town reputed to contain another one of the oldest Kete groups in Ashanti. In the absence of Nana Boakye Yam, Chief of Nkwantakese, we were warmly received by Nana Agyenim Boateng, overseer of the chief’s palace, Charles Wiafe Akenten, a senior drummer performing since 1976, and Nana Kofi Boahen, who serves as Kete Chief and Group Leader. The Nkwantakese Kete Group also put on an excellent performance including several relatively old and rare Kete pieces such as Oheneko and Sereserebidi. 

The rest of the week offered ample opportunity to put into practice what I have learned in the course of my formal research. Six performances in seven days included a Kete gig with the Centre for National Culture on Monday evening, a spirited and energetic funeral at Manhyia Palace on Wednesday, an early morning Adowa performance on Thursday, a funeral in Kwadaso on Saturday, and a Fontomfrom gig near the airport on Sunday. Probably the most unique and exciting performances of the week — recorded for Ghanaian television — was the Ghana’s Most Beautiful Durbar held at Asafo Palace on Tuesday afternoon. In this episode of the popular Ghanaian television series that combines reality show with beauty pageant, the winner from the Ashanti Region, named Sika, was formally presented to her traditional rulers in an elaborate ceremony including libations, gifts, speeches, and you guessed it, a whole bunch of drumming.