I was lucky enough to have my first drum lesson in Ghana on my birthday. I should say that I’m not a Baobab kid, but a total novice. The backdrop to our drumming was a pure blue sky patched with towering clouds. In the middle distance, birds and butterflies flew up from the glossy leaves of a tree. We sat under the Ah Chi Gate; the biggest tree with the most shade. A circle of brown drums were ready on the bright red sand.
I was nervous about playing in front of the pros from Ghana and Baobab, but Kwasi assured me I had a “natural computer” and that I should use it. I can’t say that I played well, but I certainly tried. It was, for me, like a combination of sport and music. We played Kinka and Gadzo.
We got to try the Gankogui ( a metal hand bell), the Axatse (a bead covered gourd) and hand drums. I had stiff muscles and little tiny bruises on my leg from the Axatse, which might be a sign that I was working hard if not well!
As we played, people from the village came by to watch and listen. Women dressed in bright colours paused as they carried their water home on their heads. One of the village elders sat observing us from the thatch roofed summer house. The women from the dining hall started dancing along.
We knew when school was let out for lunch, because the children in their brown and orange uniforms came to watch as well. They leaned against our benches and watched us at work.
Kwasi brought two teachers that the group hadn’t worked with before; Sammy and Kofi. Sammy is very knowledgeable and super patient about explaining things twice. Kofi helped me again and again with the Axatse part, throwing his whole body into it and showing me where to put my feet. I very nearly almost got it.
At one point Kwasi was trying to explain how we should put expression and passion into our drumming. As an example of how not to do it he did a perfect impression of how we might sing in public, standing ramrod straight and apologizing for making a noise. Laughing helped me relax into learning.
I’m so proud that I tried, and so happy to be working with these people. I felt doubly blessed on my birthday, by music and good friends.