Girls in the Village

Girls in the Village
Girls in the Village

Friday, December 24, 2010

Kids in the Village

The kids in the village were absolutely adorable. One day, Mensah, a teacher at the village school and an instructor at the center, got a group of kids together to show us some of the games that they play. The following videos are of a game called Hollo Hollo in which the kids pass around rocks in rhythm with the music. If you miss a beat and end up with two rocks in front of you then you are out. They play until there is one winner left.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


While I was staying in the village I learned about Gahu, an Ewe social dance. I studied the dance and the different parts of the ensemble, including the master drum. Gahu was originally a slow dance from Nigeria. It gained in popularity and spread to Ghana. The Ewe named it Gahu, or money dance, on account of how expensive the costumes were. The Ewe keep the slow part as an introduction, and perform the rest of the dance at a faster tempo. The following video was taken during a private lesson with Wisdom Agbeli, one of the master drummers who lives in the village. There is a basic form for Gahu, but Wisdom is playing some of the different rhythmic variations that can be played. As he played a crowd was forming behind me to watch him play. He keeps laughing because I was teasing him that he was showing off.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This World Music

Have you ever wondered what it's like to live in an African village? Travel with Jeremy Cohen and This World Music this summer to have the music and cultural experience of a lifetime! This is the latest promotional video!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Electronic Waste

Have you ever wondered what happens to your old computers and cell phones when you throw them out?

While in Accra we passed multiple slums, and at times you could see smoke in the air or people burning things. After we returned from Ghana, the director of This World Music, Jeremy Cohen, sent me an email regarding electronic waste in Accra.

According to the NY Times,
"Exporting waste illegally to poor countries has become a vast and growing international business, as companies try to minimize the costs of new environmental laws, like those here, that tax waste or require that it be recycled or otherwise disposed of in an environmentally responsible way."

The following article and slideshow from the NY Times are truly astounding and heartbreaking. In addition, I found a Greenpeace video that describes the current state of these electronic waste dumps in Ghana.

Funeral in a Ghanaian village

While we were in the village, typically, most drumming stopped by night fall. One particular night, however, you could hear drumming throughout the night. We asked a couple of the villagers about it in the morning and they informed us that someone in the neighboring village had passed away. The director of the cultural center explained to us that the Ewe funerals are a celebration of the life of the person who has passed as well as a social event where, in his words, "You may even meet your next love interest."

To pay respect we all dressed in traditional African cloth and left our village to walk through the cornfields to the neighboring village. Again, there is simply NO WAY you can prepare yourself or imagine what we were heading to. I did not take pictures of the actual burial or the ceremony that took place with the priest out of respect, but there were multiple drum circles set up in different places all through the village and I took many videos of that. The dance that they do during these funerals is called agbadza.

In African cloth to head to a funeral...

Walking to the funeral...

On the way to the funeral...

Street Porters in Accra, Ghana

While in Ghana we traveled around by tro tros, which are large van-like buses similar to taxis. Check out the Wikipedia definition of tro tro or share taxis and you will get the idea.

So everywhere we went in Ghana you could see street porters. Street porters walk along the main roads selling all types of goods such as flip flops, combs, calling cards, and food. If you were stopped at a red light or sitting in traffic the porters would walk right up to the open tro tro window and try to sell you whatever it was they were carrying in a basket on top of their head. They were just part of the scenery and we grew accustomed to seeing them.

However, I was checking out You Tube on International Human Rights Day and this was one of the featured videos. Because the street porters were so common everywhere, I never thought about how or why some of them may do it. Check it out...a very powerful and moving story.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


One Sunday morning in the village we were invited to attend a church service. The village soccer team had a big football game that afternoon and the whole team was there to receive blessings. They were called up to the front of the church along with the coaches.

The football team dancing at the front of church.

Singing a hymn.

The leaders invited their "American friends" to come up and sing a song.

After we sat down the leaders invited the football players back to the front for this amazing prayer.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Beach

Women on the beach.

A cuttlefish- you can easily see them swimming in the waves on the shore.After spotting the cuttlefish in the water, this boy ran in and grabbed it, bare hands, and then brought it back to the beach and set it next to him.

Ghanaian fishing boat.

Wisdom helping to pull the net.

A family of pigs on the beach.
"NEVER SAY DIE".......Ghanaian fishing boat.

Every day in Africa was an adventure. You really never knew what to expect when you walked out the door. One of these events occurred the day we took an excursion from the village to the beach. When we arrived there was literally a village of people fishing. What was amazing was the way that they were doing it.

The topography of the Atlantic Ocean in this section of Ghana is interesting. The ocean floor drops off immediately which can create riptides that can cause dangerous swimming and boating conditions. Although the Ghanaians fish from the boats and the shore, they have a very healthy respect of the ocean. While we were at the beach our friend Odartey was extremely nervous when we got into the water. They don't swim very often, and Odartey said that people die at the beach often due to the conditions.

However, due to the dropoff, fishing is ideal. Dozens of Africans set out a massive net into the ocean. The net was about the size of a football field. The men heave and pull the net together from either side, and women wait with baskets to collect all of the fish to take it to the market. Some of the guys in our group helped the villagers pull in the net. Whoever helped in the process got to take a small bag of fresh fish for free. The whole thing was like watching a National Geographic documentary.

Adding the antelope hide / drum head.

They use a bottle head and ash to remove the fur of a hide.

They put ash on the hide to help scrape off the fur.

Getting ready to add the drum head.
This is a pile of wood that they use to carve the drum sticks from.
Antelope hides hanging from the shed.
Drums waiting to be finished.
David explaining how they put insecticide on the drums.

David showing how they fix damaged wood.
Demonstrating how to pick the drum size.
David with a hollow trunk.
This past summer I traveled to Ghana, West Africa to study drumming and dancing. When we arrived in Accra we had the opportunity to do a workshop with the master drum maker David Amoo, the Artistic Director of the National Dance Ensemble of Ghana. David walked us through the entire process of making these beautiful instruments. He demonstrated how they carve the drum from the trunk of a tree.

Wood that has been damaged by insects can be fixed and patched over a long period of time. However, in order to prevent this from happening, David puts insecticide on the wood to protect it. The next step is to do all of the carvings on the drum. They use an instrument that looks similar to a giant protractor to make precise markings around the drum, and then they chisel out the carvings. Then they stain the drums with hair dye and shoe polish in order to get the brown finish.

The final step in the process is to put the antelope hide/drum head onto it. In order to remove the fur from the hide they put ash on the fur and scrape it all off with the top of a glass bottle. Then they thread the hide onto the drum and tighten the drum head. The process is obviously a lot more complicated, but this is a general description.