After recently living in West Africa for a full two years, this summer’s six and half week trip to Ghana flew by in the blink of an eye. It’s hard to believe that here I am already, 30,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, typing my final blog entry for this summer’s trip. In my last ten days in Ghana, I put in over one thousand miles on the road, visiting friends, playing music, and saying goodbye in Tamale, Ejura, Kumasi, Aflao, and Accra.
Before sunrise on Wednesday August 5th, Attah, his nephew Kwadwo, and I boarded a over-crowded Metro Mass bus for Tamale, the capital of Ghana’s Northern Region. We were warmly received by our good friend Mohammed Alidu, who took us to an incredibly energetic performance of Dagomba dance drumming at the Tamale Cultural Centre. We slept at the Tamale Institute for Cross-Cultural Studies Guest House, which to my pleasant surprise, had not only delicious breakfast with “foreign” coffee, but a well-stocked library with many rare and obscure publications on Ghanaian history and culture. After spending the morning browsing the library, I joined Alidu at the Bizung School of Music and Dance, his non-profit youth music center operated by the Playing For Change Foundation. I spent the afternoon conducting a workshop with Alidu’s students, and all I can say is wow, those kids have some incredible rhythm!
On Friday morning, I boarded a trotro from Tamale to Techiman, then switched into a shared taxi for the beautiful road to Ejura, passing through the thick green forest of the Brong-Ahafo Region. I met the Kumasi Cultural Centre’s Folkloric Troupe for my final performance of the summer at the funeral for the Ejura Paramount Chief, who had ruled since 1947, presiding over the entire history of Ghana and even a decade of the Gold Coast! Attendees to the lavish funeral included government ministers, chiefs from Kumasi, leaders from the business community, and a strong military and police presence. On Saturday, the Cultural Centre performed from 4am all the way until 6pm, then in the local tradition, I threw a party to thank the Centre’s Folkloric Troupe for inviting me to rehearse and perform with them throughout this summer.
On Sunday morning, I drummed in the daylight from 5-7am, then hit the road back to Kumasi to pack my bags and say my goodbyes. I met my former colleagues from the International Community School, who talked with great excitement about the current state of the school’s music program. Last but not least, I had a going away party with Attah, Agyan, and our friends and family from where we lived in Kumasi’s Asafo neighborhood. To my Ghanaian friends in Kumasi, “me fe mo pa,” which means I will miss you guys a lot!
On Monday morning, Attah and Agyan dropped me off at the VIP Station, where I boarded a bus for Accra. Immediately upon arrival, I left my bags at Legon, met my friend Gilbert, then boarded another trotro for Aflao, the Volta Region town bordering Lome, Togo, in Ghana’s far south-east corner. The day’s travel took eleven hours, two taxis, two trotros, one bus, and one motorcycle taxi, but it was all worth it to meet my friends at the beach on the border of Togo to relax, have a drink, and enjoy the cool ocean breeze. Tuesday morning, we traveled to the Agbeli family’s well-renowned Dagbe Cultural Centre, the first place I ever visited in Ghana in 2006. After catching up with Emmanuel Agbeli, Odartey Kwarshie, and the rest of the staff, we ate the Volta Region’s signature dish of akple for the lunch, then boarded a bus back to Accra. On Wednesday, I visited the J.H. Kwabena Nketia Archives at the University of Ghana for a some final research, made my rounds to bid farewell to a few friends, then headed over to the airport to begin the long journey from Accra to Istanbul, Istanbul to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Boston, and Boston to Cape Cod.
In the end, this summer’s trip to Ghana was incredibly productive and enjoyable. My Kete research was fruitful, and left me with more than enough material for my Tufts University Masters Thesis this year. I was also happy to have ample time to play with professional drumming groups in Kumasi, putting into practice at the highest level what I’ve been studying and teaching in the US over the past year. Now, I look forward to a new year of teaching, performing, and studying at Brandeis, Tufts University, and with the Agbekor Drum and Dance Society
Thank you all for reading my blog updates this summer. Meda mo ase paa.