Notes from Ghana #13

Hi All,

Sorry for not posting for a few days.  We took our three day trip to the Cape Coast area, so that’s why you have not been hearing from us (although I know several of the kids got in touch through the internet cafe at our hotel, in between looking at weaver birds and crocodiles…). So we owe you a few details about the amazing time we have been having. Let’s start with where we left off…a trip to the very traditional and always inspiring village of Dzogadze.

…a collective post from chaperones Evie, Jenni and Lynn

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE?

Last Saturday was an extraordinary day. Just breathtaking.

We prepared for the much anticipated performance at the neighbouring village of Dzogadze (Kwasi’s mother’s village were he did much of his drumming training as a young boy). Everyone emerged from the Kathy Armstrong Lodge to “oohhs and aahhs” decked in their new Ghanaian finery. Each of us had carefully chosen our own beautifully rich fabrics. Tailored to fit, everyone looked suitably dressy for the occasion. We were about to witness a performance of Atsiagbekor, the piece we have been learning, to be performed by our teachers, Ledzi and Oliver.

We are experiencing a different sense of time here, and this day was no exception as we had our usual wait in the bus to leave for the nearby Dzogadze. Forty-five minutes later, we were zooming down narrow red country lanes. As we approached, we could see the village children bouncing with excitement. We were welcomed as honoured guests to this tiny humble hamlet. A procession of dancers and drummers led us through the village to sit and be greeted by the elders. Once again we were awed by the honour that was bestowed upon us. As guests of Kwasi, who grew up in Dzogadze, we were welcomed like family. Formal and gracious words of welcome and gratitude were exchanged, as were the traditional offering of local spirits (akpoteshie or distilled palm sap). After a prayer and libation offering we were led back through the village to settle under the protection of a large shade tree. And here the real joy and excitement began.

The rest of the village settled to the right and to the left of us. There we all sat, collectively anticipating as the men and women of Dzogadze – young and old – promised to dazzle us with their dancing and singing traditions. The male dancers clustered in the shade of the lush trees as their sisters sang them forward. Lithe and agile, their bodies swooped and swirled with strength and beauty, telling the story of battle, cued by the hypnotic beating of drums and bells and encouraged by the chorus of female voices beckoning them onward with courage. Slow and fast Atsiagbekor took the first full hour…amazing really, and then they continued with renditions of Gadzo, Brejete music, Adzogbo, and Kete.

The make-up of Dzogadze’s performing troupes – Brim Shi Brim, Gadzo and the others – reflected what we have observed many times since we arrived at Dagbamete – Ghanaians value the inclusion of all – young and old, black and white. The performance groups included not only the village’s best adult dancers, but also their best young dancers. They were every bit as serious and focused as the adults. The drummers also included young and old – each as fierce, focused and integral as the other. The chorus of villagers formed a tight cluster to the right of the drummers, singing with joyous abandon between each of the individual pieces. A few of the older women would break from the circle and begin to dance. It was not long before they invited many of us up to dance with them, two at a time. These beautiful women must have been in their sixties or seventies. Yet they had the stamina and joy of the young, and were so generous to ensure that we all had a turn up dancing with them. It ended with a playful community dance for all of us to join in, Ghanaians and Canadians laughing and dancing together.

This whole day was one of rapture. The vigour, energy, grace and exuberance of the dancers left us all enrapt. We were shaking our heads in astonishment throughout the three hours of non-stop dancing, singing and drumming, performed with generosity of spirit and a deep sense of pride.

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