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