Dienstag, 21. Februar 2012

Bakatue: Festival of Elmina - Part 1

The special part of Bakatue is the historical background of the area. My village Eguafo takes in this festival an important role.
Since my childhood I went to the Elmina Bakatue. I liked the special and important part my village took in the festival. In the 70ties I lived for some time in the village Eguafo and we went to the Bakatue festival for the whole week. There was a special route to walk from Eguafo to Elmina. This was the way our ancestors walked to Elmina since generations. The elders talked about the time before Elmina was found: One day, long before the europeans arrived in Ghana, a man found the way through the bush to the seaside and settled down there.
Since I heard this historical background about the route to Elmina, anytime we the youngsters enjoyed to walked there in a group and witnessed the Bakatue Festival. We remembered the story behind the way and our village Eguafo. Immediatly we arrived in Elmina the peoeple there recognized us coming from Eguafo.
In fact up till today the Bakatue only could go on, when the special ritual items are brought from Eguafo to Elmina. That shows the very strong connection between Eguafo and Elmina. The festival even will not complete, if they would not bring the items.
The very part which I liked so much since ever was, if the people from Elmina were welcoming us. It was in between a teasing and hero’s welcome. They knew about the route and walking through the bush and forests for more than two hours is not easy. The youngsters from Elmina knew, that they cannot do the journey we have done in those days. Because they are not used to the forest.
Nowadays it is a road, which you can even drive on.
Some people from Eguafo live in Elmina. During the festival we went and stayed with them in their house. Thats why we could witness the festival from it‘s very beginning till the end.
During thebeginning of the festival the traditional priests gathered. As a youngster I really saw powerful priests. I was very impressed of what they could do in their trance dance. There you could really feel the power of the Bakatue, in it’s traditional meaning.
All the chiefs from the villages surrounding Elmina were taking part. The traditional priests from those villages were also taking part. There you saw the strength of the traditional acitivities.
The special part and official opening part of Bakatue was the gathering in front of the lagoon, Nana Benya. All the chiefs, priests, elders, linguists and everybody who took part was there to watch. Special persons carried the ritual items to the water and offered it to the lagoon. They diveed into the water with the items and left them under water.  This offer was guided by prayers before and after the ritual. They prayed for another good year for Elmina and the surrounding villages. In the prayers they also send the good thoughts to Ghana, Africa and the whole world.  A special net was thrown to the lagoon after the offer was given to the Benya. When thye pulled the net back, the fishes in the net showed an oracle to the people. This net was thrown three times and the last pulling was the most important to read the oracle. This is up till today still a main part of the festival and many people like to witness this.

Afterwards the chiefs were carried again to the big park on the seaside in front of the Elmina castle. A  lot of celebrations were going on there. Music was playing, traditional dances were performed, traditional talking drummers showed their communication abilities, which was a competition in between the artists. This went on for several hours on that day and continued in the evening with a lot of parties with participants from all over the world.
The festival was finished and we the youngsters enjoyed it so much. Now it was time to hit the same road back through the bush and forests to the village Eguafo. The nice part of it was in the end, when we arrived back in Eguafo, there was a lot of cheers and heroic welcome. Because the people of Eguafo feared to go to Elmina, because oft he city, the same as the Elminas were afraid to enter the bush and the villages in the olden time. Everybody was curious to hear from us about the oracle of the net and the fishes they got. Because this result stands fort he whole Central Region and Ghana.
Up till today this ritual has an important role for the people of Ghana, the Africans from the Diaspora, people who are interested in Ghana and rituals - and the tourist.

Mittwoch, 15. Februar 2012


This was for me a cultural exchange.

On last Friday evening and night I was performing with a music friend for a party of a carneval group in Kriens-Luzern (Switzerland). As we arrived we could feel the carneval with its very traditional mood.
A lot of people were surprised about us playing there. They maybe thought: what are the African musicians doing here. I can feel from their faces that  they may thought, we were lost and landed in their party. One person came and asked, if we need any help. We told the person, we have to perform here and we are okay. The organizer appeared and greated us with a very warm welcome. Suddenly I could see a lot of people coming and watching the program.
We opened the show that evening right at the entrance of the hall. I saw people watching me fascinated by the traditional talking drum. With my talking drum I spoke in Swiss German a greeting, welcome and other words. the people started to laugh a lot, because they didn't expect the talking drum to speak Swiss German. That was for me a good start to catch the audience.
We performed half an hour and it was so great.

Our second performance some hours later was in the big festival hall.
We played our entrance music with the bass drum, Brekete, and the talking drum, Dondo.
Those who came late, where a bit surprised as we entered the hall. We walked with the music around them, before we went to the stage. I could hear, as we stopped the music, a lot of cheering and clapping. This was giving us some strength and courage to continue in that very traditional place. For me this was a real cultural exchange.

I got the idea to involve the audience before we start the show. Because some of them are also playing in the traditional Guggemusic (carneval music band),  I gave to the women the female part to sing and to the men the male part of the songs. It was very interesting and funny, because the songs were in one of the Ghanaian languages. With that mood we entered quickly with our rhythms and songs and got a really good feedback. That increase our energy to dive into the music and performed a good concert with happyness till early morning.

We also really enjoyed their music.

Peter Donkor

Donnerstag, 9. Februar 2012

This was a wonderful performance day, good audience and good atmosphere. That brought a good mood to everybody and  we were all relaxed. It was a Fundraiser Auction day for Africa in Zürich, Volkshaus. The hospitality was wonderful.  This is the feeback from D. Goldammer in Linkedin.

Sehr geehrte(r) Peter John Kofi Donkor,
I've written this recommendation of your work to share with other LinkedIn users.

Details der Empfehlung: "Peter played for a Fundraiser Auction which some of my students recently organized in order to raise money for a local charity working in Africa. Peter's music brought our guests together perfectly. We recieved many great reveiws, and the ambience created by his music helped run a very successful event! I would recommend Peter any time, and surely request his services again in the near future."
Dienstleistungskategorie: Musician
Jahr der Ersteinstellung: 2011
Wichtigste Eigenschaften: Pünktlich, Sehr integer, Kreativbereich

Peter Donkor

Since years I am teaching and playing music from Africa, Ghana and also other coutnries in Ghana and in Europe. I discuss  a lot over emails and publish reports and offers on my website (http://www.african-music-dance.com/). Now I am interested to have more public discussions about music, traditions, ethnological questions and teaching with all its problems nowadays. So I am writing blogs!
Recently I had a very interesting converstion on mail about the music in tradition... in Ghana and of cours this is also concerning Africa as a whole. Read the following discussion and add your ideas about.

I wrote to his questions of what I think about the falling apart or changing of the african music tradition in Ghana.

Thank you for your questions and your interest in the african music and
dance. Our african traditional rhythm and dance should be respected in our
society. Rhythms and dances communicate and they are symbol of bringing
unity. The strength of african music has a very big value and to make a use
of it is to respect it and appreciate it. Many times a lot of people don't
regard our traditional music inside and out of Ghana. If you are playing
traditional instruments, they look at you with the unrespected idea of
"local". But our rhythms and dances have a lot of messages in our african
tradition. The songs are all proverbs. Some of our rhythm games stand for
mathematics. I will advice you to be strong and creative. Send the message
to the public, for them to realise how important our african traditional
music is. We are the ones who are sending the message to let the others
realize the value in music. It is not just african or local music.
I often said: music brings energy, energy brings happyness, happyness
brings concentration and that helps you in your life to be relaxed. Many
times people are feeling shy, speacially our Ghanains to play our
traditional instruments. Because they don't see how music can bring unity
in the comunity.
In our royal houses, after the chief solved problems, they use our
traditional instruments and songs, cheer everybody up with it and bring
unity. It doesn't matter which religion you belong to. In the end we dance
the same music and sing the same songs. For me that shows the strength of
traditional music.

So far - if there are more questions I hope I can help you. Are you using
this for your research? And as you are in the performing art, maybe I also
need your help one time.

Peter Donkor

he replied then...

Thank you very much Mr. Donkor for the information and the advice you gave me. In fact, i must say i am so much impressed and i do appreciate every information you sent me. I am going to do exactly as you said by sending this message to the public. Yes i am using this for my research work and i'll get back to you again if i need more informations on the challenges facing our African traditional drum rhythm and dance, or to know some of the factors influencing the drum rhythm in the volta region and Ghana as a whole. Once again, I really appreciate your help and i am most greatfull to you for your kind help. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you do need my help too some day.
Yours Sincerely,

have a nice day and read soon more about music, teaching, traditions, Art in Ghana or Africa....