Dienstag, 24. April 2012

Bakatue, Panafest, Fetu Afayhe

The special occasions this year 2012 are the celebration of  festivals Bakatue in Elmina, Panafest, Homowo in Accra and Fetu Afahye in Cape Coast.

The Bakatue Festival of Elmina starts in the first week of July. On Monday there is a special celebration. In the evening will be the traditional Akom dance. On Tuesday is the official opening day for the festival. That is where they are going to perform traditional rituals to open the lagoon to the sea. In this tradition the fishermen take an important role to race with their canoo in various teams. the best four will go to the finals. The winning team gets a special gift and they are the heroes of the year.

You can observe some men in white cloths, wo perform all the tradtitional activities on that day in front of the lagoon. One of them will carry leaves and other ingredients in a special tray on his head. They will walk to the water and enter the lagoon with the leaves and important ingredients. the men will sink to the ground of the lagoon with the tray and leave the items there. Only the empty tray will be brought up by the men. Tuesdays are special days for the people in Ghana. It is the day of the sea. That means no fishing no swimming. We leave the sea in peace. Afterwards they perform a ritual and pour libation. The chiefs and queen mothers will be in thei palanquins, elders and liguists will walk. This durbar will be accompanied with our traditional fontomfrom instruments. We all end up in the Elmina Park infront of the Castle. the musicians perform and the paramount chief gives speach. Sometimes the president of Ghana will be there by himself. If he can't come, one of his ministers will be there. It will be the official opening day. Now the parties go on all over Elmina and even spread to the rural areas.

Panafest it is special Festival held every two years in Ghana celebrating "the bringing Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora together " (from the official Panafest homepage). It is hold in many places all over Ghana and its activities is traditional music and art mixed with modern music and art and discussion. If you are interested in african music and art, this is the right place for you this year.

Additional in the end of the Panafest a big festival known as Ogua Fetu Afahye is held in Cape Coast. Powerful traditional activies will be showed there. On Thursday will be the traditional priest dance in the middle of Cape Coast. Ths is one of thoses special strong days of the festival, which opens the way and strengthen other activities to take part. When all those celebrations are over on Saturday it will be the day of all the chiefs, queenmothers linguist and elders and warrior groups will come together. The durbar will heat up on Cape Coast London bridge, where the symbol of the crab is standing. There you can see the strength of the warriors with their drum communication and waving of the flags. Every Asafo group is showing its warrior‘s power with their own waving style of the flag. Each movement gives message to the other groups.

Some years ago I saw a beautyful communication between the chief and its drummers and the palanquin carriers. The drummers where communicating with the chief so much so that in the end they heated up the chief and he was dancing with energy in his palanquin. The carriers received this energy and started to move the palanquin with dance steps. The drummers heat it more up. In the end it became a competition in between them. This you have to witness by yourself.

In the end of the festival everybody is meeting in the victoria parc near the castle and sea side with a lot of activities going on.

In August we celebrate the Homowo harvest festival in Accra. Homowo means in the Ga language "to hoot at hunger".  Before this festival the traditional priests put a ban on drumming and on loud music for one month in Greater Accra. You can feel the silence of Accra every year in this special month. The wulomas and the traditional priests will go round and make sure, nobody will brake the ban. I saw them several times in my area Nima, because this is a migrant district of Accra. The people there come from all over Africa and you can hear 24hours music.

Twins play also a very important role in this festival. There will be a special performance for them. My favourit part of the festival is the kpekple. this is a special food out of cornflour and the red palmnutoil. The priests will spread this food around on special places in Accra. They offer it to the spirits. If you have friends among the Ga people, then you can enjoy the Kpekple with its special taste and soup with different sorts of fish, crabs and other seafood. It often goes with palmnutsoup or red oil sauce. The party then will also take part in Osu, the chiefs palace and other parts of Accra. You will see beautiful and coulorful dresses, traditional material and hairdresses from the Ga-people.

Come and enjoy these powerful festival with us. It is for all of us.

 This year all of them are held after each other.

Donnerstag, 19. April 2012

Bakatue-Festival of Elmina: Part 6 « benefits of festivals »

In the beginning of the festival we wer all so busy that we concentrated on the activities, our eyes don’t want to look anywhere else. In the end of the festival, the chief and the queenmothers in their palanquin, elders and linguists infront of them leaving the parc back to the palace. There the party time starts. All the spots are playing loud music. It is nice to see that even some of the chiefs are dancing towards the modern music coming from the spots.

All of us are exhausted, but with happyness. So we relax and look for a nice spot to enter. Many spots are full already and you can feel how people also relax and enjoy the coming evening.

This will go on the whole night and some of them will even continue till the morning.

We found a good spot and sat down. We meet a lot of people inside. Ghanaians, Americans, British, Chinese, Japanese and people from the Diaspora. As we sat down and enjoy some cool drink, we started conversing with the people in the spot. We were mostly interested of how the people from outside Elmina few this festival. And we always got very positive answers.

A group of young American girls came in and they were beaming as they entered. We didn’t know why, but we felt they enjoyed the festival and they were just happy. They came closer to the other Americans inside and they were all greeting eachother very loud. It came out, that they all were neighbours in America, knew eachother by seeing on the street, but never really greeted eachother or had any conversations. In this evening you saw them there with surprise and happyness  from their faces and their conversation was just flowing and they started exchange their email numbers.

We enjoyed watching them and the fact, that people meet in a festival and start to speak to eachother. We left them and also joined our other friends and conversed with them the whole evening.

This reminded me of some years ago in the same festival, I meet a lot of friends which I knew in my childhood and I lost contact with them, because of travelling. And I remember how happy we were in this day to meet again and talk to eachother.

For me this festival is a place you can learn a lot of new traditional things which you are not familiar with and take part, understand it in a deeper way. This festival is also the moment of a high inspiring time. Specially this evening after is made for thinking, taking and rewinding all what you have witnessed in the last few days. That makes you to understand things.

Come to Ghana and enjoy Elmina Bakatue Festival! Meet our royals and elders! Join the people of Elmina !

 Come and watch our special fishmarket and learn how to bargain and buy your own fish. We go then together to buy the ingrediants and cook the Ghanaian traditional food in the traditional kitchen. It is very tasty! You can experience how your own power produce a nice tasty tradtional Ghanian dish.

If you are interested you can join also the farmers on their fields and learn how they plant and harvest the traditional food.

There are many places to go, specially the village Eguafo has a lot of historical background to understand the central region.
You can watch here the latest video of Elmina Bakatue Festival:

general:   www.african-music-dance.com

Montag, 16. April 2012

Bakatue-Festival of Elmina: Part 5 „Experiences“

From childhood on being in the audience, watching the festival Bakatue for many years, now taking part in Bakatue with performances and report, that really pushed me to dive into the festival so much.  The more I report about Bakatue, the more it gives me memories of my past. I can see now, formally I didn’t understand it so much I just watched it and enjoyed it.

I remember the warrior groups called Asafo groups: Wombir and Ankobia. I followed them to many places of their performances. Each of their songs tells you which mood they are in. There are songs, which let you feel the strength of the warriors. On their way, everywhere when they reached a special place, they sang a special song. Some of their songs will really let you shivering. And songs which let you realize, that they are on fire.

Anytime they are arriving in the final performing place, they have a special song of appreciation which shows how strong they are. If they enter the music fields it became a bit a challenge with all the other groups. You can really feel the strength of those warriors. Each of them are singing songs about their ancestors and their great warriors. Being among them as a youngster, their spirit touched me so much, that I felt pulled into their mood.

Dancing Asafo music is with understanding a lot of proverbs from the rhythm. You have to be able to understand the language oft he drummer speaking with his drum to you.

I remember once I was dancing and all the elders were surrounding me, blocking anyone not to get closer to me. I did not know why, but I felt like it is a kind of protection.

After all the activites coming back home, they get to know their position. Who was first and strong in its performances. The important part of this performances is the one who is waving the flag. The movemnt oft he flag tells a story. That’s how they find out who is strong and who did well.  Especially most of the time the Asafo group of our village Egufo had good results. You  could hear their songs on their way coming back home. The good mood was carried along. The enjoyment was good.

On that day, when I was dancing, we arrived back in the village, one man called Kobena driver rised me up there and they chanted towards me. I felt like anytime they will go somewhere I will follow them. I did not know my dance steps until one elderly person was telling me, that I was communicating with the drummer so much inside the rhythms and the dancesteps, it became a challenge and that’s why they blocked the others. Since then I was not going with only one Asafo group. If Wombir was going, I followed. If Ankobia is going I was among.

With all these experiences, being among Bakatue and other festivals, everywhere I was, I got good understanding. The best part of it was, I learned their language on the drum.

Anytime I am there and I want to take part in the dancing and druming, I can respond with them.

I remember so much the day of the traditional priests dance. When none of them were on trance yet, they watched around and chose somebody in the audience, gave their special dancing broom to the person and you have to go and dance. Suddenly I have this broom on my lap. With the present of my wife, my daughter and other relatives form the village, I was really shocked, because I don’t wanted to go and desgrace myself. So I run to the priest and kneel down and told her, that I appreaciate her request, but I cannot dance the Akom dance. She then told me, thats why you have the broom in your hand.

I often watched the Akom dance, but I never danced it before. Suddenly I remmber I have to bow infront of the priest and then bow infront of the chiefs, bow infront of the drummers and before I move my steps I suddenly remember the Asafo dance.

I went one round and the fear in me turned into joy and I became so confident and came out with steps which I could not reproduce it any more. I could see, that I find the communication with the drummer very well. After some few minutes I brought the broom back, but they didin’t take it and I have to go another round.

With that cheers of the audience, I could not say no. I bow to the drummer and the movements start. This round I felt more comfortable and remembered some movements from the priests. I went one round and changed the steps into their dancing. I could see the priests from far, they were suprised. I was a bit scarred and cut it short, went and kneel down infront of them and wanted to give the broom back. Again they didn’t accepted it and they wanted me to repeat the second dance again. In my head I felt I went and caused some trouble now to myself. I watched the drummer with a sad face. The drummer then took a rhythm I knew very much from my village Eguafo. So I danced very strong and powerful and end it with the traditional priest‘s dance. The head of the priest hugged me three times and took the broom. If my family was not sitting there,  I think from the stage the journey will be to home. I felt so heavy and scarred.  As I sat down I was shaking. I saw some people from the Diaspora came just before I started the dancing and after my dance one of them also got the broom and has to dance. He did  so well and the audience was also on his side. After this man came and sat down again, three people from the priests got into trance.

 As I was sitting down there I could understand, that the priests don’t just give the broom to anybody. They watch and choose. With our funny dance we heated up the audience and a lot of laughing was around. Just for me I was thinking that we opened the way for the spirit to arrive on that event.

Afterwards I had to go with my family and sit in a spot to release the heavyness. It was something which I cannot explain, but I felt like I am not on my feet.

Everytime I am in the music field or teaching music, I use this influence also into my class. That helps both me and my students with a good understanding of music language: the communication of the drumming and the dancing.

John Kofi Donkor

Mittwoch, 11. April 2012

Bakatue: Festival of Elmina - Part 4 « The music is cooking  »

We joined the Bakatue in 2004 again. Through those interview we did with a lot of chiefs, our coming that year was so special. That gave us chances to take part in all the activities.

I didn’t take part with my cultural group and I could concentrate more on the filming of the festival. I got a lot of good material through out the Bakatue. Specially the fish catching ceremony was very special on that day. On that day they didn’t catch a lot of fish, but the spokesman who was pouring the libation was appreciating it and call it a good success.

From there we moved to the parc and the joy and happyness was visibile form the faces of the chiefs, queen mothers and elders.

With the good material we got, we were able to cut some short documenteray and put it into Youtube in our channel: http://www.youtube.com/kofimusicful

This video gave a lot of feedback and sent the messge to a lot of instiutions, specially to the US Universities.

It became a challenge for us because of the filming and publishing it on Youtube.

Last year 2011 we arrived in Ghana on a Monday. We were so exausted and with our three smaller children we could not take part in the beginning of the Bakatue. We then join them a week later. That was the vote-of-thanks day.

Immediatly we arrived infront of the Elmina Palace, we got a warm welcome from people from the chiefs and the elders. As the traditional musicians were preparing themselves to join the queue. I used that possibility to enter the palace and took some nice picuters and video shots. As they got ready and we start to move towards the parc, the mood was so good. I liked that moment.

The chiefs in the palanquins were enjoying that moment. The traditional drummers started to heat up the place with their dynamic Fontomfrom drums and other percussion instruments. All what you see and feel was cheering and appreciation from the people. The people who surrounded the chief wanted their chief to be seen in a good and happy mood.

That brought a bit, I would call it music harmony with competition. This day I was so much among the people doing my filming and taking pictures. I was always taking good position to have a nice view. As I was standing on the Elmina Castle bridge and the crowed was moving towards me and the gorgious mood was catching me -  I was lost for some seconds, carried away from the mood of the cheering crowd. As I opened my eyes the chief of Elmina was just infront of me in his palanquin. Our eyes crashed and he rised his thumb up.

I came back to myself and run towards the parc to get a good position for the final arriving.

Groups were already playing music in the parc and the chiefs and the elders are also coming with there powerful music.

As they all arrived on the parc, you can hear different styles of traditional music playing, but they all merged it as if they made a rehearsal and wanted it to be in this way. But it was just coincident. This is for me a wonderful experience of live traditional music events.

Slowly the chiefs and the others got their positions to sit down and everybody start to sit in its position. The Kumasi Anyum kuo were coming with their special Adowa dance. From their they asked the Elmina Apatampa group to also perform a few songs. The Apatampa group is like a radio or TV station. They knew all activity which was going on or will go on. They are also like a newspaper. They always use the latest new of the country or area and create a song with it.

This day on the parc. They appreciate the Elmina chief so much, that Nana could not stand on his feet anymore. He then took some steps with dance movement. The queenmother and other chiefs joined him. The cheering was really amazing. It doesn’t matter which religion you belong to, everybody enjoyed one music and want to fan the chief.

As Nana got closer to the Apatampa group he then took a special instrument called Afrikyewa. This instrument is very small, but pretty loud. It drives the music and keeps the timing. If you are not good in timing, the least mistake you do, everybody will hear it. As Nana took that instrument I was a bit shaking behind my camera. As a traditional artist I know the value of this instrument.

       In Akan: Afrikyewa (also called Grello in literature)
Nana then joined the Apatampa group with the other chiefs, the elders and the queenmothers. He started playing the Afrikyiwa. I start to smile behind my camera. I found out that Nana has really skills in music. He drove the music, coloured it and the drummers were so on fire. You felt the music was really cooking. The Apatampa group also came with their dynamic appreciation songs about Nana. There you feel the music was cooking. I wanted to join the dance, but I relized that I will then miss the interesting part to film.  I continued filming with the joy in me.

I will inform you when the new video is online.