Did I ever tell you about my friend Joe? He’s quite awesome. I randomly met him when I visited the Arts and Culture Centre in Accra last month. There were so many annoying Ghanaian men who were harassing me, trying to pick up on the rich, tourist obrunis who visit the art center, following me around, just annoying the hell out of me! After looking around at the art, I sat down at a table in a little refreshment stand and ordered a pineapple juice. As I sat sipping my drink, another man walked up and asked if he could talk to me. I was SO annoyed that these Ghanaian men wouldn’t leave me alone that I was a quite rude to him at first, until he explained that he was a university student doing research for his thesis and wanted to know my reaction to the art. At first I thought it was just a pick up line, but the more we talked, the more I liked him. He’s one of the most educated people I’ve met in Ghana. He told me about the research he’s doing for his final project, and that led to his telling me all about archeology and the wonderful things one can learn while studying it. I found our conversation to be intellectually stimulating, which delighted me so much that when he said he had to go, I agreed to exchange phone numbers.
We’ve hung out a couple times since then. He lives at Legon, the university which is about a fifteen-minute drive from my house. We went out for drinks at a little bar next to my house, and another time he gave me a tour of his university’s beautiful campus. He is very nice, polite, and educated, so I enjoy hanging out with him quite a bit. He told me about this cultural music festival his department (archeology) was organizing on March 20, and I was invited to come. Of course I said yes! I love live music more than I could possibly say, and what an opportunity to experience real African culture! I decided to bring Hannah with me, because I knew that since Joe was organizing it, he would be running around the whole time, and I didn’t want to sit alone. Also, Hannah never goes out, and I thought it would be good for her to attend this free, fun, and educational event.
It was the 3rd African Indigenous Music Festival (or “AIMFEST 2009,” which sounds a lot cooler). The venue was an outdoor patio, bordered with trellises covered with flowers. Plastic chairs had been arranged facing a little stage next to the building. We took a seat in the second row and waited. Of course, since we’re on Africa time, it started way behind schedule. While we waited, I chatted with Joe (when he wasn’t running around setting everything up) and with his friend Sammy. I really enjoyed talking with Sammy, because he asked me smart questions about my reaction to Ghana. (Most people ask me dumb questions.)
Once the program started, however, I was too enthralled by the music to talk to anyone. It amazed me! The first group to perform was called Gonje. The group’s leader, blind man with cool hair, was everything you could want an African musician to be. He had the clothes, the moves, the vibe, the hair, even sunglasses at night. Just awesome! There were a few ladies who sang and shook these instruments. Two men played these instruments that looked like a xylophone, except with clay pots under each note. My favorite, I must admit, was the drummer. He was F-I-N-E. He sat to the right of the group, surrounded by African drums of different shapes and sizes, and pounded away with his hands. It was quite obvious that drumming wasn’t his only work out. His chocolate-colored wife-beater accentuated his very built chest, and the drumming brought my eyes to his strong arms. Not only did he have the most amazing body I’ve seen in a long time, but also, he had a very attractive face. Plus, he’s a musician, and you know how sexy that is. Basically, he’s the type of man who makes me glad to be a woman. Let’s just say if he ever harassed me and tried to pick up on me, I wouldn’t mind it one bit!
Gonje was my favorite, but all the musicians/dancers were awesome. Four men dressed in traditional Ghanaian clothing (a colorful cloth draped over one shoulder and around their bodies like Lady Liberty) sat in a row drumming out a beat on four different types of African drums. Four women dressed in very traditional Ghanaian clothing (these dresses with many pieces of fabric attached to the waist for a skirt) danced traditional Ghanaian dances. They called themselves Amamre mma. There was a group of men and women from Togo called Ajetepepe. They wore face paint and did crazy tribal dances. Another group, Borborbor, was formed of many men and women gathered around singing, with drums, bells, shakers, etc. The best part? One man had a little trumpet! When he busted it out, and joined in the noise, I was so happy! They reminded me of the church choirs that play at Our Lady of Peace in Madina. There were two other music/dance groups. The Dromo Pan African Dance Ensemble performed dances from Nigeria and South Africa that were amazing to watch. Hewale was probably the funniest. Three of their dancers came out wearing miniskirts, bras, and heavy makeup... but they were clearly men! It reminded me of the cross-dressing fashion show in which I participated last summer at my work.
I’m aware that these descriptions suck. Live performances are basically indescribable, especially something as different and exciting as what I saw here. The good news is that I took many pictures and even some videos! The bad news is that I’m still at an internet café, and I don’t know how to upload them, really. Sorry. Someday!
“Do you like our indigenous music?” Sammy asked me.
“Yes! I love it!” I replied.
“What do you like about it?” he questioned. “How does it compare to Western music, like hip hop or jazz? Do you like it better than Ghana’s Hiplife modern music?”
“I like how upbeat and joyful it is. Can you hear it? Every song, every beat, every dance move is joyful, full of life and energy. Your Hiplife music is nice, but it sounds too much like what we have in America, like hip hop. But this indigenous music is SO different! I love how different it is. I love the novelty.”
“Ah, I see. I like how different it is from what they play on the radio, too,” said Sammy with a smile.
Each group was scheduled to play at least one more time, but Hannah complained that she was tired and asked if we could go. Part of me was disappointed to leave early, because I was enjoying myself so much, but the other part was a bit relieved, because I was also tired, and dizzy from not having eaten dinner. We found a trotro right away and made it back to the house by 9:30.
If I had been able to stay until the end, I would have liked to introduce myself to Gonje’s hot drummer. Oh well. I really enjoyed the performances I saw. It was such an unforgettable night! :)