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