Donnerstag, 6. Dezember 2012

Did you taste being a star?

I don’t want to miss any kind of festival in Ghana. I watched in the calender and noted up every sort of festival in Ghana. I attended Elmina Bakatue festival, Winneba abokyir festival, Cape Coast Fetu Afahye. Odwira festival, Homowo festival, Fir festival in Tamale, Damba –Takay festival etc.
One day preparing to go to Hobotsotso festival in Anloga, East Ghana, I saw a boy running towards to me saying:“there are two white people looking for you.“ “ Where ?“ I asked him and he continued.“They are going to your mothers house in Nima“ I was closed to my house so I run.  As I arrived in the house with my friends Emmanuel and Dodge. We saw two white men standing in our house. We welcommed them and asked them where they come from. It happened that one was from Israel one from Argentina. I asked them, how they got to know my name. They respond: „We have a friend called Hamid from Israel and he got to know you from the AAMA academy in Accra.“
I was surpised: „Ahhh Hamid¨“ they also explainded:“ We also don’t know him much, but we meet in travelling and spoke about travelling experience and we end up talking about Nima, and we said anytime we are coming to Africa we will go to Nima.“ I asked them.“ When did you arrive?“ They replied.“ Oh we arrived yesterday night and spend a night in a hotel near Accra and then we went to Kokrobite the AAMA academy to book ou rooms. There we asekd about you and they said you are in Nima and they directed us to come here.“ And I responded:“ Oh this is the right place for you.“
 I told them about the festival I wanted to visit the next day and asked them if they are interested.“ They were interested and we made an appointment to go to the Hobotsotso festival. The next day we came together. My friends Dodge, Emmanuel and Yaw also came with me to accompany our European friends to the festival.
My friend Emmanuel came from Aniako and gave us the idea why don’t we do an nice excursion with a canoe on the Volta delta to Amalga. Thats what we did. Arriving in Aniako we immediatly were invited by Emmanuels uncel for a special dish from Aniako: Akpele (like Banku) with special fried fish from the river. We were doubting if our European friends could join us for eating, because it was fresh chillipepper, tomatoes and onions with the fried fish. This was very tasty. Our friends also liked it so much, although it was so hot, but they didn’t care about. After eating we went to the delta. We rent a canoe. We ate so much, that we were just happy to sit down and enjoy the site - seeing. We arrived in Anloga at the right time. The festival was just about to start. We meet our artist friend, who came with a student from US, specially for the festival. We greated eachother and joined them. The festival started and we walked towards the parc. As we arrived the chiefs and participants took their positions. One of the elders and the festival organizers came directly to us and ask to come and sit down on a special place they had for us. Through this US team, we also could take part like officials.
Activities went on for hours, they played very hot Agbadza. I invited all the American and European friends to go and dance. On the parc you yould hear a lot of cheers and laughing. Because they just arrived in Ghana and they never took any course in dancing. So they didn’t know what is Agbadza. They were all shocked and said. „We cannot dance this.“ And I told them just to watch us and do the same. They followed us and we started dancing. The cheering, clapping and laughing became more and more and more. After we finish, we sat down the music stopped and president of Ghana, J.J. Rawlings got up and gave a speach. He said in his mother tongue Ewe: „You see how best our friends can dance our music. I am so impressed!“ The cheering and the laughing became so big as he spoke Ewe, everybody understood, except our friends. I then translated it to them: „Do you see how the president was appreciating your dancing and you were hesitating in the beginning.“
Afterwards we were going back to the palace and we had to walk in groups. The chiefs were carried and all the agbadza groups and adzagbeko groups.
The adzagbeko groups invited us to join them to dance and walk with them to the palace. So we walked with them all the way throught the city to the palace. This festival is always attendend by thousands of people. After all activities finished on daytime, the American group was invited for eating by the officials. We were invited too. But our friends wanted to go and have some cold beer. Everywhere we passed, the poeple were calling us: „Oh yevo (white man), theses are the people the president was speaking about.“ We got lots of fans. We meet a very good friend from Nima, which we didn’t even know, that he is coming from Anloga. James saw us from far and shouted my nickname: „Koria!“ so I knew it was somebody who knew me from Nima. We shouted, run and hugged eacheother. We introduced our European friends to him. His freind was walking with him and said: „James you missed something! These guys put up a show in the parc and the president was so impressed.“ As James was walking with us, he saw the fans we got. He offered to us his family house, if we want to stay over night. Our European friends decided to go back to Accra, because they had an important meeting in the next morning. So we decided to stay. We then went to his house and he requested an evening meal for us. So we went back to the city again to enjoy the festival. We danced so much and took part in all activities. We came back and had our meal. As we were eating, a lot of people alsways wanted to come in and great us. We almost had no time to eat and enjoy the food. We were occupied so much aout this short show inwhich the president recommended us so much. After we continued to party into the late night. Although our European friends were not with us, we got still a lot of fans. As we are returning back to Accra I was thinking a lot about how famous people are cooping with their life. They got famours for many years and we just got it for some days and I was exhausted. Even in the car to go to Accra we still get people greeting us. And on the Aflao station in Accra we heard people shouting: „Ahh here they are!! Well done!!!“ And people were faning us. This moment was following me a lot and I wonder how stars can deal with it for many years.
Today I am watching this and understand, how fame can rise you up and you have to breath.

John Kofi Donkor

Freitag, 19. Oktober 2012

Showers of rhythms

With this story anybody at all knows me in Nima, knows how I live. So I was so scarred and feeling shy of where I should enter with my friend. Hamid enjoyed Nima so much, that he even didn’t realise that there are drops of rain.

It started raining. I woke up, sitting down on the mat, but Hamid was fast a sleep. It reach a place, that the roof of our littel shelter could not stand the rain anymore, so it started to drop on us. That is where Hamid woke up and also sat on his mat. He did not say anything, but just watched me. I just wanted to turn everything to fun way and told him:“Did you see how it can also rain in Ghana?“ sometimes the rain comes with wind and you can hear on the roofingsheet, that thre are a lot of rhythms which you cannot describe. I wanted to make everything funny so that we can stay there for longer. I started to speak about the rhythms oft he rain drops: „This rhythm fits to Fumefume!“ then you can hear the wind blowing and it was changing to another rhythm: „This is Kpanlogo“ and I kept on mentioning a lot of rhythms until the rain would just stop and we can continue sleeping. But the floor could not take the water anymore, it turn to mud. The water began to flow the shelter. There was no possiblity anymore than packing the mat and go inside. I did so and run to the room. Hamid followed me. Both of us stand in the room and Hamid could see that there is no place for him. - I don’t know what to do.

My mother got up, my father also. They don’t know what to do and my father wanted to mention his name and said.“ Emid. Come and sleep on the bed.“ I know where I can lay my mat in the room to sleep. Hamid said then „ thank you Daddy!“ jumped on the bed and slept immediatly. I was not asleep and saw my mum and my dad standing in the room around 2 o’clock in the morning, till I fell asleep. I didn’t know how they made it til the next morning. I woke up and heard the first prayers of the moslems, which was my alarm clock to catch the first bus. I immediatly started to wake Hamid up for us to leave. Hamid got up, saying good buy to my mum and my dad. I didn’t know what to say to them and I just said: “I am going back to the school“. Hamid took a packed of Zigarets out of his pocket and gave it to my father. It was still raining, but not so much anymore.

On our way to the bus stop, we got a vehicel, going to Caneshie. We sat in the bus, I don’t know if I should feel embarrased or I should just think it was an adventure.

Around 6.30 in the morning we were back to the academy. The programm as usual continued around 8 o’clock.

This was a story I never shared with anybody in my life till today.

After I left AAMA I went back to Nima. Back to my root and my group. Business as usual began. From rehearsals to rehearsals with Kusumgboo dance ensemble. As I came back I was so interesting with art.

One day Mr. Tyson from the art Center of Ghana came to our training gound and watched our rehearsal. After he left, the leader called all of us and told us, we have a performance next week Friday in the Novotel and Sunday in the Academy A.A.M.A.

I was very happy about, because now I am going to perform with my team there. We decided to performe on this day the dance drama: „Together we build“. In this drama I was palying the main role. It is about two families who are fighting about one land. I love this drama very much, because there is a lot of emotions in and it has a happy end. So on that day in the Academy I gave all my power. In the brake time the leader of the group told me, that I have to perform with Mustapha Tettey‘s group Obonu. I was happy an dshocked at the same time and asked: „What I didn’t have a rehearsal with them?“ But the leader said: „But they chose you to go and play with them!“ as I was in the academy, I often watch the rehearsals of Obonu to prepare their tours. I know how powerfull and dynamic they are. They have a lot of brakes in the rhythms, which makes the music special. That is their style of playing. I had to go and play the bell. That means I have to keep the timing and drive the music. I was shaking, because the little mistake I will do and fall out of the rhythm, I think I will not find my way back and I will then destroy their whole show.

Suddenly they called me. As I was there I shaked hands with all of them. I was standing there dreaming, really scarred to go to the stage with them. By then I wear the costume and saw that now I have no other possibility than be strong and play with them. As usual before they go to the stage, they have chanting songs with other percussion instruments. This was helping me a lot to vanish the scare in me.

We went and start the performance. Finished it without mistake. I could feel how they accept me in their music. I enjoyed it so much. As an artist if you entertain the audience and also enjoy the music – this is great, beautyful, enormous, you cannot name it. We got a huge applause and cheering. The same way we came in, we went out of the stage and went closer to the audience, walked inbetween the people and chanted with songs and percussion instruments. In that moment I was so proud and happy of myself. As we went backstage, removing the costume, they said thanks to me and I responded back: „Thanks to you!“

I went back to my group for the second part of the performance. In the dressing room, they started to laugh at me and made a lot of teasing – but positive. They then told me, that they saw me smiling so much: „You really take part inside their show. Do you think you are Mustapha?“ we are all laughing and I was so happy that day. -That’s how I got to know Obonu.

Donnerstag, 11. Oktober 2012

How to share your Opinion with the world

How to teach,what I have learned and experienced in my life as a traditional artist, was the difficulty. I found through the Acloa dance company my solution with A.A.M.A (Academy of African Music and Art). This academy is located near Accra about 25 km on the Winneba road, near the Kokrobite beach. This place opened my eye to know, who I am and what I can achieve. With this I found my opportunity to lead my life. All what I learned in life, I have to now proof it in the academy. With the help of Akloa dance ensemble, I got a better understanding of art in the Academy.

The academy gave me an opportunity to understand how you can share your oppinions with other students from all over the world. Additional I meet famous artists from Ghana and abroad. Thanks goes here to Amono, Freddy and Lae. Last but not least to the owner of the academy: Mustapha Tettey Addy – our hero.

The academy gave me improvement to get to know a lot of students from all over the world and their aim. I meet a few students, whith whome sometimes I shared my daily life with. Some of them appreciated where I was born and they were eager for visiting the place.

One day I meet a student called Hamid, he was there in the academy with his sisters. Hamid became my close friend and he always asked me when he could come and see Nima, my area. He heard about Nima from me, as a place full of art and music, so he always wanted to see it. As we are all busy in the academy, we cannot just leave.

One day we got our free time and I invited him to come with me to Nima.

We left in the evening around 6 o’clock. By then it was not easy to get to Accra in time, because of traffic. So we arrived around 8 o’clock. We were lucky that on this day there were a lot of activies going on. We arrived with trotro in Nima. Immediatly we heard music from Northern Ghana. They held a calabash which was filled with seeds and shaked it around with two hands. This was amazing for Hamid to see, while he was just dropping out from the Trotro. I approached one oft he followers of the musicians and they said, that they were goin to a funeral in mamobi. They showed me the place where the funeral is going to be. They are going to pass my area in Nima and we follow them up until we reached our place.

In Nima the people were at this time not used to see foreigners from outside of Africa.So our arriving in Nima was a big boost in my side. Everybody wanted to speak to my friend Hamid. Through speaking with a lot of people we got an idea where traditional music is going on today. I knew all the corners they meant. So within two hours he saw a lot of different sort of traditional music.

That reminded me of my friend Scott, who was my first european student in Nima. With him I got a lot of credibility and appearance in everywhere I am. I end up introducing Scott in Nima as my brother. As I mentioned in my blog that Nima is full of Immigrants from Africa and anything can happen. To make him safe was to introduce him as my familymember. That showed as usual that if anything happen to him, will happen to my family. I quite remember sometimes if he comes to Nima, mothers , fathers and children, brothers and sisters informed me: „ Your brother is around, I saw him looking for you.“ Sometimes I got confused and didn’t know exactly who they meant. I have only one real brother who is known as Accraman and in my oppinion not looking for me. So I also asked them: „Who do you mean?“ and they will say: „ The white man!“ and I quickly remember that it is Scott. I then run to the area and I find him nearby either in a drinking spot or in my area know as trafalgar square. In Ghana we chose a lot of areas oft he world, US or Great Britain, which non of us has travelled to the place, but we took it to be a symbol of our area. If you arrive in Ghana, Accra, Nima and you mention that you want to go to „California“ everybody knows where you want to go. If you mentione „Bronx“ everybody knows where you want to go. Even if you want to go to Bankok or Russia, everybody knows where you want to go. Nima is full of places all over the world. That is how we lead our territory to be known fast. If they mentioned „your brother the white man“ then I knew it is Scott. I looked for him and found him among a lot of my friends. So Hamid had to face the same things like Scott.

In that night I brought Hamid form the academy to Nima and everybody in Nima we meet, was calling him Scott. Then he will tell them: „I am not Scott, I am Hamid.“

Because he is also white, they didn’t watch the difference of the person they just called him also Scott. Me and Hamid had a good time in Nima. But the bad thing was, that we room around so much that it was too late and we could not get a vehicel back in the same night to the Academy. So I decided that we should sleep in my parents house and take the first bus to the academy in the next early morning.

By then I stay with my parents in Nima. Just in a one room flat in a compound house. Hamid enjoyed Nima so much, he did not think of where he is going to stay. I brought him home, waked up my parents to say hello to him and there he found out, that the whole family just lived in one room.

After my parents and compound people wellcomed him, everybody went back to his room. Hamid said: „ I would like to drink some tea.“ I took him to the main street. Where a lady works from 6 to 6 in the morning and sells tea, hot choclate, bread and eggs. You can request as much as you want. Hamid invited me and we enjoyed in the middle of the night tea, bread and egg. This was just close to my compound and we headed then to the house. I went and took one big mat from the room and told Hamid to sleep outside and enjoy the fresh air of the night. Alhtough it was raining season, I was happy the sky was clear at that moment, because I don’t know where I should place Hamid in that one room flat, where already my three sisters, cousins, nephews, my mother and father were sleeping.

A friend of us, known as Baba, whose mother has a local restaurant in a compound, had a shelter. I decided to sleep under the shelter. Because I know they will come there 5 o’clock in the morning. By then we should have left already, because we have to catch the first bus. We just layed down the mat, slept about one hour. Then all of a a sudden I heard the rain dropping on the roofing sheets, which sounded like a rhythm in my sleeping. I got up in my dream and saw that it is going to rain. I was praying to god that it should not rain, because I don’t know where we are going to fit in the room with my parents. But a heavy tropical rain started.


How we survived I will tell you next week.
Koria Peter John Kofi Donkor     

Freitag, 21. September 2012

Nima in my life

I was born and grew up as a Fante in Nima, a district of Accra, Ghana. This is a place where a lot of immigrants arrive and start their new live. The people come from Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger and basically from all over West Africa. The most common language was therefor Haussa. Of course a lot fo people speak the original language of the capital Accra, Ga. Many people speak Akan, Ewe, Dagbani and Frara, which are some of the many Ghanaian languages.

Nima is an area, which many people watched negative, because a lot of immigrants come and just settle and make their life there. So it is like everywhere in this world, when many people settel fast together from many cultures, a lot of different life styles and ideas of how to earn their living. But exactly this situation has also its positiv side. The district is very livly and if you get to know the people, you can see its beauty. This situation of many ethnics living together gives a lot of creativity in your daily life activities.

Additional you can achieve a lot of music styles. That’s why I like to call Nima a pool of art and I am proud to introduce myself as a Nima boy on stage. Its multicultural music was always part of my life. With this gift of art you are able to perform anywhere.


I lived in a compound house in Nima, where people from various cultures lived. The children played together and we all learned the language from eachother. I benefit from this situation, because I learned a lot of different languages and still speak them fluently.

As I got older I had opportunities to go and listen to music in other areas. Because I spoke many of the languages so I could understand the songs they are singing. This made me to dive into music. The power of the traditional music gave me so much joy that I sometimes fell asleep continue listening.

With all this knowledge I got, I was able to play in the churchroom or on traditional religion festivals. I got an opportunity to teach music in the 31rst women movement day care schools, Privat schools and arabic schools. The arabic schools did every year a theatre. We tought some oft he student drumming and dancing. Some times We backed them on the theatre production with music.

In my blog I mentioned the group Ghana Dance Ensemble Legon. Years ago I got selected together with some of our group members from Kusumgboo to take part in a performance on the festival of June 4th in Ghana. The choreographer was Professor Nii Yartey. Watching him working with hundreds of artist at the trade fair, I learned a lot from him. From there we moved to the stadion, where the performance was going to be infront of a huge audience.

One thing he did and I am still using it in my life was: He often asked us to remember the first part of the choreographing rhythms. He will then choose one drummer to introduce the rhythm of the first steps, to call our memory. Afterwards I immediatly went to our rehearsal room and practice all what I have learned with one of the drum. I was always thingking that one day he will call me to come and demonstrate the entrance rhythm.

This helped me so much that everything sticked in my mind and I enjoyed the rehearsal so much, because I knew the rhythms from A to Z.

During the rehearsal we had to learn Fontomfrom rhythms by a famous drummer called Big Boy from the Wulomei group, which was very known in Ghana and abroad.

These Fontomfrom rhythms was new to me and I was really swimming. After a while he devided us into three groups and each of the group had to play different rhythms. Unfortunately and also luckily I was among the group who had to play the diffcult and long rhythm. At this time, I didn’t understand how those rhythms should fit together. He then let the other group begin and helped us to join in with our rhythm. After we practiced for many hours I started to understand how, when and where those rhythms will merge. With this understanding I was very happy and I could open myself and drum with energy. I think he could hear me louder than anybody.

On the next day as we started the practice, he told me to bring my fontomfrom to his side. I was immediatly sweating. There were about hundreds of drummers from the Greater Accra Region and the smallest mistake you will do, it could follow you for a long time. I was really scarred. He then let everybody give a timing on the side of the fontomfrom and told me to start the rhythm, which we trained in my group the day before. I began to play very soft and got courage, because I could hear myself on timing. Big Boy asked the other group to join in. He then was playing a solo towards our rhythms. This was so beautiful. I could drop the fear and come with power and energy. All the fontomfroms, about 60 drums, joined in. This was really hitting us in our stomach.

On the next day we had the performance in the Sports stadion of Accra. A lot of people joined the festivities. We welcomed the president of Ghana with the Fontomfrom music.

Often I carried drums on my head for other drummers to play, but in this program some students carried our drums on their heads and we played it while we walked towards the president.

The show in the end of the festival was so powerful and well choreographed. For me this was the first time to join a big national program like this.

After the performance, we arrived in Nima with our costumes and we were welcomed like heroes. I first thought it is just because of the costumes we could take home, not knowing the TV GBC was showing all the program and was zooming some of us for a while. The people from Nima recognised us. When we arrived in Nima they started to tell us about seeing us so big on the screen.

This experience was helping me and I benefit from it up till today, if I have to program a workshop, concert or a theatre.
Peter John Kofi Donkor

Freitag, 7. September 2012


After many performances in various places we became a very strong team. With the help of our formal leader Atsu Hehealolo, we were able to get a good understanding from the traditional music.  Since we came to Nima, with the lack of the drummers, I was often playing the leading drum. Atsu really put us into work. Among the executives Richard was one of the youngest among us, but we chose him as our new leader.

 What I liked from the members of Kusumgboo was, everybody gave out all what he or she can. We always gave to everybody the possibility to bring his or her idea. The dancers had to bring some dance movements and Richard was taking it and rearranged it into a new dance. The communication inbetween we the drummers and the dancers brought good understanding of our creativity.

As everybody knows, this is not every day easy. Sometimes we ended up missunderstanding eachother. Some of the members could not take it and put it into tears. But what I liked was, no matter how hard it was, we made it happen. That rehearsal compound in Nima became our second home. We made sure everything we wanted we then achieved it. If the dancing got complete and we are performing it on stage, you can see that the music is really cooking. Everybody was in the mood of creating art. Most of the time the other groups referred to us, that we play too fast. We agreed with them, because we put competition among us. Our energy dancers wanted to show us, that they can dance so fast and we the notorious drummers wanted to tell them, that we are also there. Combining all this music harmony together brought always good results.

To be honest we all became like brothers and sisters in the Kusumgboo group, like it was in the formal peopel’s cultural group.

You can see in our creative dance the character of Nima. When I say the character of Nima, I mean the variety of the different ethnics living together with their different traditions and music. In the 80s till 93 music was played in Nima 24 hours a day. If it was not an outdooring celebration, it was a wedding of funeral. A lot of events happened with its own traditional music.

Anytime I was playing in my group, I found myself palying some rhythms, which I heard from one of these traditional events. This was inspiring me so much, that I had selfconfidence, when I lead the drumming rhythms. Coming from Nima, the cooking pot of cultures, gave me a huge pool of various rhythms and musicstyles. Thats how we all benefit from. The dancers of course as well.  Speaking about music, I really miss Nima and my brothers and sister from the group.

Recently I went to Ghana and watched Kusumgboo with their new comers inside. The energy, the movements and the power of the performances was the same like before. I was very much impressed about that.

With the help of sister Comfort we had to perform in the PAFAM 1990. Afterwards this festival was called Panafrican festival.  There we performed infront of many big artists, like Jeremiah Jackson, Isaac Lee Hayes and Steven Wonder. It was a very great and big performance for us. We performed the dance drama „slave trade“.

That was the first time we performed on a  professional stage with a lot of light effects. It was in the evening and we were not able to see the audience. By this time I didn’t know this effect. After the performance we came to the stage again and we took a bow. Only then we saw, that we performed infront of a huge crowed, with many international known artist sitting in the front row.

In the days after, our leader brought the newspaper, which we were in and there we could see also the world known musicans , which were listed up beside the picture. We were proud and happy. I was very happy, because I really gave my best on that evening and I didn’t realised the audience.

I‘m giving a lot of credibility to my acting collegues Mercy (akpene), Victoria (Mama), Kate, Mafiu,  Noah, Late Mosee (aba the warning), Godwin, Dodgee, Vincent (Sampele), Steven and Late Richard. Also from the drumming colleagues Koshi, Vovo, Late Bernard, Late Emmanuel, Etienne, Goro, ODjata, Edo and others.

In my Blogg I mentioned Panafrican Orchestra. They also took part in PAFAM 90. On that festival we had an ID-Crad to visit all places of the festival in the Trade Fair Accra. There I found a stage where the panafrican Orchestra performed every afternoon and evening.  As I saw them I didn’t want to go anyhwere else anymore. I found out their rehearsal times and their performing time. This was the first time I saw traditional instruments from all the different ethnics of Ghana in a orchestra and I was very fascinated about it.  I always stood there and watched them through the window.

After the festival I sometimes got the possibility to watch their show and I learned a lot from them. Later I got to know one of their members who lives in Germany now and I started to play with him on concerts. Still up till today I am performing with the leading flute player of the panafrican orchestra Nana Kwesi Ansong.



John Kofi Donkor

Dienstag, 21. August 2012

Suffering under character: this is the continuance of „comprehension of traditonal music“

The program of sister Comfort demanded a research. I have to understand the characters she gave to me. I had to play the main character in all the plays. Therefore I went to various places to study people‘s daily life activities and behaviour.

First of all I remembered my work I did at the Nima market as a child who cleaned the shelters for the market women. I did this work for many years and I got  a lot of customers so I needed to „employ“ workers. Of course as I was also a child by then I employed my friends and we shared the money and gifts we got from the market women. So this memory helped me in the beginning for understanding the character for the child labor play. By this time I was working as a two-wheel-truck-pusher at the Malata Market in Accra. I played the character, which was filled with all my experienced  emotions to be myself a child worker.

In the play „Drug abuse“ I had to make another research in Nima and go and learn from the adicted persons, some of them were my friends. So I had access to them and the topic.

I found the characte fort he play „teenage pregnancy“  bit harder, because I was a boy and I had no expereinces about the young women. I became then friends with young women who experienced the teenage pregnancy.

With the conversations I had with them, I could act as their boyfriends. With all these experiences my acting became fluent if I am on stage. I made people laugh, I made people get annoyed. Some parents used to cry, because their ciildren were in this situation. Often if we act in schools, some of the teacher encouraged me and told me to continue with art and become a professional, because it was touching them. I was always laughing because they didn’t know, how much I suffered to play this character.

Getting to the end of the program we performed at Nima. There I gave all my power in acting. It was organised by the 31rst women movement of Ghana and it was advertised good. So we got the market women and the youth watching the play. That was without knowing the beginning of a different kind of suffering.

After the program I felt that I am not welcomed anymore for some friends and parents in my area. I didn’t understand why they behave in this way towards me. Later I found out that it is because of the character I played. I played  a person in „teenage pregnancy“, who abused the girls. Some of the parents could not accept this as a role telling a story and me being another person. They mixed the character and me into one person.

By then my mother owned a local restaurant and I had to go and buy meat for the restaurant at the Nima market. Immediatly I entered the market the women were yelling on me and called me a lot of bad names. I was surprised and got frustrated. The bad thing was, that I had I have to return to the same place, because I had no other possibilty to choose  a different way out of the market. So as I was standing on the meat selling place, my mind was running. I began to understand what was going on and why some of my friends didn’t speak to me anymore and ignored me.

As I was returning from the meat selling place and I reached those women again, they repeated the yelling. I got annoyed and felt ashamed at the same time. I was shouting on them with tears: „This is just a theatre! Leave me in peace!“ But the yelling even increased.

I walked home and felt so empty.

One day I went to the Malata market to work, but some of my friends who watched the theatre were telling me then, that I cannot go and play a theatre about them, come and work again with them.

There also - that character hit me. I didn’t know anymore what to do and where to go. These bad characters followed me everywhere. Suddenly the children of area began to call me by the name of the characters I played. I hde to respond positiv. But the bad experience I got from friends and parents made me to react harsh. Which didn’t help me, because if they begin to tease you in Nima and you react with annoyance it will remain a teasing.

As teenager I didn‘t know what to do. I then had an idea to put the whole thing into a comedy. In stead of reacting with annoyance I made them laugh. I tried to convert the negative feelings into positiv. Slowly I got all the people back, because of the funny jokes and movements I did.

We performed a lot of theatres. Sometimes I had to play a crazy man, a drunkard or a leader of the slaves. Things began to change, when I played the leader slave. People began to feel sympathy and pitty for me. Because I am the leader of the slaves, they punished me more than all the other slaves.  

In our group we didn’t use many effects. So the beatings were real and that shocked the audience so much, they got furious.

My character in the play slave trade wiped out all the negative responds in my art work.

From there on I understood how art work can effect people and their view on reality.

Now I can use those experiences in my art work. If  I get  bad experiences in the art field, I remember those events and I can now accept it in a positiv way.

More about next week….

Peter John Kofi Donkor alias Koria

Donnerstag, 9. August 2012

Comprehension in traditional music

Being a member of people’s cultural troupe, playing the traditional bell for two years gave me a good understanding on the drums. With this I got courage to go to the training early. I trained on the rhythms I didn’t know well. Some of the dancers listened to my rehearsal and danced towards it. This made me to understand function oft he leading drum. This was communication in between drum and dance movement.

People’s cultural troupe was in the earlier 80s till 87 one of the top cultural groups in Greater Accra Region of Ghana. We had very great artists among us. That made our performance so strong and powerfull. We travelled a lot in Ghana. From the Eastern Region  up to Tamale, from the western parts to the Central Region back to Accra. During all these performances we became like brothers and sisters in the group. In some performances some of the group members could not join and if it was me, who was not selected I felt so pain. That gave me power and endurance to train more, so that I could always be selected. So I did.

In 1987 came a very sad day in my life. We went to rehearsal and after prayers we started our training. The chairman of the group got up and informed us that the group cannot continue anymore. I was not a member of the committee and so I didn’t know why. The chairman then said that he will form a new group and any member who wants to be in his group should stand in his side. Many of the artists did. Tears were flowing in my eyes and I watched the leader. The leader then said:“ It doesn’t matter how many people are left, we will still continue the people’s cultural troupe.“ The instruments were devided into two. Many of the costumes were taken by the chairman, because they belonged to him.

 We the members who didn‘t understand what was going on start to yell and say, that this is mean, we are like brothers and sisters, why we cannot understand each other. It was a debate  for about two hours. The chairman just said, I quite understand all of you but this is the solution. He was saying this with a lot of emotions. The other members in his side packed the drums and costumes and left. As they left  some of the members remain with the leader. He then bursted into tears and said: „the sad news is now, that we cannot train here anymore and I don’t also know where we will store the drums and the costumes.“

Then my sadness turned into ennoyance, because by then I dived really into music and it was my everything I had. I said, that they see that some of us come up very well and now they want to destroy the group. The leader then said, that there is  a lot  behind it and we cannot say it now. We are three member who came from the Accra destrict of Nima by then. I said then, that we will take the drums to Nima and we will find a new storing place and look for a training ground. The two other members from Nima then agreed that the drums can stay in their house. So then all the rest of the members packed the instruments to Nima.

Slowly we got an idea to look for a new training place. There was a school in front of my house and I knew the headmaster and I consulted him. He gave us the condition not to damage anything in the school and we can have a training ground there.

I felt as if I won a lottery.

We informed all the rest of the members. One Saturday we all came for rehearsal again. We payed with reduced members, less drums and no costumes.

But in each of our rehearsals we got more and more audience. The young girls and young boys began to get interested in the art we did.

One day after rehearsal we informed the audience, that anyone who wants to join, can come and write his name, register and we will try their ability. Immediatly we got about 15 young girls and boys. In two week we had about 25 young and talented members from the age of 6 till 15.

The difficult part was that our leader, who was training us  had a job in a kitchen in town. So he didn‘t have much time to come to us. The rest of the member who could help, they also had different kind of jobs and could also not come so often.

I was also working, but I always found the time to go to the rehearsal. So the whole work of training the new comers fell into the hands of the three of us living in Nima. Richard was teaching the dancing, me and Koshi were playing the drums and trained the new comers on the drums.

We didn’t have enough drums. I knew a traditional priest in our area. I went and consulted him. He agreed to lend to us some of his drums. His son Emmanuel Aheto was my best friend and he also joined the group through this request. We also rented some of the drums from Kpanlogo groups.

The group was growing big and the drums became many. The result was, that we became loud for the people who lived in the area. They made us to loose the rehersal hall, but just shortly afterwards we found another one. Also there after three week they realized the powerful sound and we have to leave again. The luck was in our side and we got another school, which was called Ananni. There was no problem and we could really heat up and come out with real training without worring about the sound.

Because we are lack of costumes, on our first performance in the area we asked our members to bring cloth of their mother. Each member had to bring at least two yards cloth. We invited the old members to come an join or watch. We performed a great show, which impressed them so much. They began to come to our rehearsal again and with their experience in art, it helped the young ones to pick up the styles from them.

The new ones were really eager to learn and we trained Monday till Friday, every evening.

In one year the old members found themself, that they didn’t fit in anymore. Because they were dancing with the young girls and boys which were full of power. So they also began to help to teach skills.

There was a competition in Accra Kokomlemle and all cultural groups took part. So we also had to train hard.

With these new members we got, we reached the semi finals and had  to trop out then. I felt pain and sad but in the same time I was happy about the youth and I was shouting:“ At least we made it. You are the musical youth!“ Among all the artists we were the new comers and the youngests group. This is were the people’s cultural troupe became the Kusum gboo dance ensemble .

In my stories I mentioned the school of performing arts. One day one of the students of that school known as sister Comfort approached us and she wanted to make a program with us for her studies. The program was planned to educate the public about teenage pregnancy, child labor and drug abuse. We worked with her for many months. With this program we had to perform in many schools in Ghana and finish it in the school of performing art at the University of Legon-Accra.

Through this I got access to watch their rehearsals and performances. After this program I got a lot of experiences, comprehension and creativity in art.

More about next week.

Peter Donkor

Dienstag, 24. Juli 2012

Childhood drumming

In my childhood I loved music a lot. So everywhere music was playing, either traditional or music which is not familiar to me, I was listened and enjoyed it. I understood some of  the text and some songs, but I didn’t know what it was about. I just let it enter me and it told me the whole story.

 I then followed traditional music groups from the Northern Togo, who lived in Nima, Accra. They often played at marriages and birthday parties. During ceremony all the elders and the women will sit in a circle. One is bringing the songs and the others are responding.  Sometimes you can see tears flowing from some people of the group. It was touching them. They then will jump into the middle oft he circle and began to dance. Others gave them coins. The musicians will then kneel down and pick up the coins. If one of the musicians stopped playing and pick up the coins, it brought the spirit oft he music down.

One day there were many people dancing and a lot of coins fell on the floor. It was too much for the drummer to pick it, so I went in and helped him to pick the coins. Suddenly he left all the picking of coins to me and played. I brought those coins to the leader of the group, he arranged it and the women came and changed it into bigger notes. I think this is how they earned their money. In the end they thanked me so much and gave me some of the coins.

Everytime I heard them, I run and stand near by them. The leader will touch my hair with a friendly welcome. I didn’t speak their language ,we communicated in Haussa. I will be with them for hours, working with them. They introduced me to other groups also, such as the Nigerian talking drum players, the Kidi-group.

I loved to do this, because in the end I am proud in front of my friends. The group had important people with them, like their chiefs, queenmothers and royals, and it was not easy to get closer to them. Specially as I am not even a moslem, nor speaking their language. I am Fante and Christian. But they just watch me as a helper and let me do the work. In the end they began to let me change the money.

This gave me the courage to form my own group with my friends and…with milk cans and Milo (chocolatedrink) cans.

Because I was there everytime the musicgroup performed so their music became familiar to me. So we the children group tried to play the same.

Sometimes we tried to sing their songs, but we don’t know what we are singing. The elderly people of the Northern Togo group will pass by and smile to us. This showed to us, that we did well.

Since then I was always looking to join a real music group, but at the same time I was afraid, that I maybe cannot do it.

So one day I went and see at the roman church school in Nima and they were drumming and dancing. I was very interested, but I didn’t know how to approach them.

So I went home and still played my can drums with my friends.

One day a friend of mine, whose father was a traditional priest, had a ritual ceremony. There was a lot of traditional music from the Ewes going on in their house and compound. Because of his son, many of the priests knew me. So I could get closer to their ceremonies, though I am also not Ewe.

Among the Ewe drums my friend was playing the Kaganu ( a smal ewe drum). I was sitting beside him and one of the priest came suddenly with a second Kaganu. He gave it to me and brought also a stick to play.

As I listened this rhythms and music a lot, I didn’t feel difficult to watch my friend and play. I think the two of us just felt happy or we don’t know what it was, that you can feel the music was cooking and heating the priests and the audience. It was powerful day and many of the traditional priests came out with their powerful performances.

Today I remember these days and I can see, how much research I have done for myself in those days, without realising it.  

I talked a lot about groups in Ghana already and those who gave me courage to have a very big interest in the traditional music was the Sankofa group in Art Centre Accra.

One day I followed my elderly friends to the Accra beach near the Art Centre. By this time didn’t know anything about Art and its Centre. As we walked through the Centre I heard drumming, but I didn’t hear this rhythm before. The music called me and drawed all my attention away from going to the beach. I went near and found out that you are allowed to watch the group. I asked the friends I came with to stay with the group. They agreed, but I have to stay in the Centre until they came back from the beach and get me again to go home. Because there are always a lot of people on the beach and I could easly get lost.

I enjoyed this day so much. The whole rehearsal of the Sankofa group was so amazing. What I was so surprised about was, that some of them are in the age of my father or mother. But they were on fire. The dances they did and the rhythms they played was not familiar to me.

Later I found out they are playing Tora, Takai, Adjagbeko, Kpanlogo and many other dances which I know now and play it on every occasion.

In the following days I walked often from Nima to Accra to the Art Centre, which is about 90 minutes walk to find out if they are there again and play. I missed them and slowing I found out all the day of their rehearsals. On those days, I went to the Art Centre and there was no music, I saw them teaching the dances and rhythms to foreigners.

This gave me courage to take part in our primary school music events. I was doing well in the drumming and dancing courses. One day we have to play a theatre to thank our parents. Our master Mr.Dogbe wanted me to be the chief and pour libation before we start the show. The play was in the Ewe language.  By this time I spoke Ewe, but not fluently.

But the others in the classes, who didn’t speak Ewe at all were sad, but it was fun.

I that primary school all are mixed ethnics and religions. We had  lot of fun with this theatre. Master Dogbe would not give us  chance to fool around. So he really put us into work. We performed for our parents very nice with joy and happiness. In the end we called our artists name, which we got through the art course in the school. Some names were too big for us.

Today I feel pitty, there was no pictures or videos of this event, because the feedback was so great. This theatre gave me the power to look now seriously for a group to join.

I went to the roman church school and wanted watch their group. But I didn’t find it powerfull anymore. So I looked for another one.

It was difficult to find a group to join in 1980.

I saw a group playing on the funeral. They played some music and danced  like the sankofa group. As they closed I followed them up till New Town, Accra. I saw then where they put their drums. I asked one of them about their pracitice days. He told me and I came on that day to watch.

This group was known as „people’s cultural group“. I was afraid to ask them that I want to join, because I don’t know how they will test me. So for many months I always came and just stand behind them. Sometimes I was just standing behind the drummers, but they never asked me to go back.

One day I was earlier and only a few drummers were around busy. I picked up the bell and supported the rhythm they were playing. They played Agbadza and I knew it. One of them asked me where I come from. I told them, that I am from Nima. The leader introduced himself to me as Atsou Hehealolo. He told me, if I am interested in the group, they start rehearsal around 5 pm. If I could come earlier he can teach me. So I did.

I got knowledge of all the rhythms of the ten regions of Ghana with the bell. I played two years only the bell in the group. I sometimes felt shy, becaues everywhere we went I was behind the bell.

One day we have to perform in Nima and I asked the leader, if I could today play the kaganu, one of the supporting drum. He then laughed and told me, that I am not ready yet. You will one day sit behind the drums, if I can see that you arrived. He continued accusing me that I watch the bell as a shameful instrument, while I supposed to learn, that this is the leading instrument in the group. This instrument is keeping the rhythm and drive the music. Every music we play with the bell in, the bell is leading. There I felt a bit proud but still disappointed.

Today as a music teacher I tell my students exactly the same and understand their disappointed feelings very well.

Peter John Kofi Donkor

Donnerstag, 12. Juli 2012


On the 24th June we took part in the integration festival in Muri. The performance was great and you can really feel it in the audience. In the end of the festival I saw how people united, conversing with each other and it didn’t matter were you come from. That reminded me what music was doing in our area district in Accra some years ago.

Some years ago there was a misunderstanding among the young people of the area, which affected us so much for many years. We could not use some ways  and they were also banned of using our passages. Everywhere we meet, there was a tension.

There is a traditional music called Bobobo . Anywhere we heard this music, we the boys from the area were dancing, because it was touching so much with its rhythms and dance. The Bobobo rhythm and dance was like a disco for us. We didn’t get this music often, so everytime we heard the bobobo music in a different area, we even will walk one hour to go and dance it.

One day we went to Kotobabi, an area in Accra, where bobobo was playing. They had there own dancers, but we danced around the music with a lot of audience. Suddenly we saw our neighbours, which we are not fine with them. Their group was also there to dance. We are all dancing, but our eyes were wide open on both sides. You can feel the tension was very high from both sides. Non of the audience and the bobobo group knew about our problem.

Then one of their member approached my colleague with a very strong dance movement. He then responded with weaked steps. Their conversation with the dance draw the attention of the audience. They started to cheer and clap for the two. That incouraged us to form a circle around them. Everybody was giving his colleague a support. One of the other group came and took over in the middle of the circle. One of our member also went and took over. It became like a tiny competition, but with a lot of laughing and cheering from the audience. Many of the audience know our group as artists. So they belived we are going to win. We understand the bobobo rhythm and its movments very well. Mostly we were dancing according to the leading drummer. But our opponent didn’t know anything about this bobobo. They just danced freestyle. Some weaked movements which were coming from them was getting more fans from the audience than we did. Sometimes we even were impressed about their dance. This went on for hours.

Suddely a song came out from the bobobo group, which is standing for unity and love. We all respond it with loud voice. This song was a very popular song and everybody knew it.

We then danced in a circle according to style each person will bring.

We danced together until the bobobo group closed. We all, our enemy neighbours and we sang together and walked to our area. We reached our area, continued singing together and we led them to their area and continued singing there.

Since this day, all the tension which was inbetween us and disturbed us so much and we were afraid of each other, vanished without judgement. We became good friends till now.

This is the value of the traditional music with its movements and songs. It heals wounds and brings togetherness. It is  touching me so much and makes me happy, if I remember that it is „only“ bobobo music and dance who brought us together again. The song enter our mind and we sang it with joy and happyness which opened our mind. None of us even made any comment about the past. It was just like washed away.

The reason why I am telling this memories is: as I went last time to Ghana in 2011 I saw our youth getting interested back into traditional music and movements. They just do it as fun. I am asking my fellow artists to also share their ideas on the line with our youth to get a better understanding about traditional music.

I learned a lot from a group called Sankofa, Ghana dance ensemble, Kokrobite academy obonu group, school of performing arts and panafrican orchestra. And many groups from Greater Accra Region.

We followed the footsteps of many artists of Ghana. Why don’t we share ideas with the youth as they are using the internet more than we do. They might come a across your website or blogg to read and learn something from it. I am asking all artists which some of them I know personally, we should bring our talent out. We should not be scarred of the media and think somebody will take it. Nowadays everything is in the net.

You can even read about the archive of your little village in Africa in the net.

We should try to be open.

If you use your ingrediant and bake a cake. Then you find out someone has baken the same cake with a different color, you have two possibilities and benefit. The possiblity 1 is, change some ingrediants and bake another one. The 2. possibility is to add more. Its benefit is to get creativity.

 John Kofi Donkor