God himself likes music
Druming is a music. And even before the creation of the whole
world by god - god himself liked music. So according to the bible
- in the heaven there is no weak thing apart from music. That`s
the only weak thing...
The angels used to adore god, to praise him. This is the only
weak. And god enjoys music very much. So when god created man
- I mean in his own image - all those things has to be in man
- so man likes music.
So man started to think of what to do, so that at least to provide
that music. The inner parts of man - you have that feeling, but
outside - this part to use outside so that I mean that you can
enjoy it and that someone also can enjoy it....
Cut a tree
Before the drumming came sometimes maybe when they cut a tree
- I mean the tree falls down, it makes sound. That sound also
they pick it. So always they cut a tree, it falls, it makes sound.
When the wind is blowing sometimes the leaves they make noise.
And even the birds when they are flying, then they are singing,
shouting...all these things!
So that`s how the music came about and then to our Ghana here.
We felt we need some sort of entertainment and we needed some
sort of communication. We didn`t have the means of such communication,
so our forefathers set down and think what can we do? When we
want to communicate to someone - maybe I am in the village here
and then there is my brother in the other village and I want to
call him to come or tell him something that is happening here.
Maybe I need his help or something and maybe I am alone here.
Before I go away from here and call him..
So that communication - at first they shouted: "OHHHHHH".... And
then the other person hears it and he responds the same "OHHHHHH".....
So straight he starts coming... So he comes and then if there
is anything he listens to it and then he goes back. OK! But now
that "OHHHH, OHHHH, OHHHH"....can maybe just move from here to
here! I mean how can this sound travel far? So they thought of
creating something that will give more loud sound.
Cut a tree - part two
So they tried to cut a tree - because the tree, when they cut
it, the tree falls down. They know that this tree can make a loud
noise. When they cut it, they start to use other sticks just to
hit on it. So the sound was not going very far and they tried
to make a little whole in it. So when they hit it, the sound can
go out. So when they made a whole and they hit it, the sound goes
out. And they started to make the whole bigger... and they found
out that now the whole is bigger, so they starting this: they
made a whole here, I mean the whole is through the whole tree
and they put it down like this and they started to hit it with
another stick - then the sound goes here and comes here also.
So this is what we were using at first. And when the time was
going - they try to think of more things - more louder sounds.
So they thought, if they can cover the mouth with a different
thing - maybe and here it is open, when they hit here, the sound
can go further. So they used the skin of the tree itself to cover
This is what they do. And when they beat it, it created another
louder sound. And from all this when they started to think of
more things, than it came to an new masking: When they go hunting,
killing animals, they just wanted to have an experiment: they
put the skin on the tree and then they hit it - it was - I mean
- the sound was very ,very good and louder than all they have
ever tried out! So they thought that this would be very good.
So this is how making drums came about. They tried to put a masking
on the drum. At first they only put it on it and they used a very
strong rope made of trees, very flexible, thin. They used to tie
it very, very hard. - They just tied it and then they used some
things to chock it. That`s how it is now!
When the drums came, they thought, now we can use this drums for
messages. So we have some drums that give messages and they made
this drums - I mean - special for this messages. Because of the
tone of our language, the dialect - there are some words that
- I mean, if you are speaking, you will not speak on the same
level, sometimes you have to raise your voice according to the
words. So they tried to make this drums according to the words
spoken. They made a female voice, and then a male voice. And this
is what they used to send messages. Because before you can send
a message and then a person will know what you are saying, you
have to make sure the voice of the drums goes with what you want
So when today everybody is going to the farm and unfortunately
a wild animal or some dissidents come to the village, then you
have to beat this drum. We have some words that you have to play
on this drum to know that something serious has happened and that
they should come back from their farms, come and help. And this
drums they travel very far. When they play it, all the people
will come back and help, staying it out to fight weather its an
animal or some people from other place.
So this is one aspect of the drumming. The other one is, when
they come back from their farm, they are tired. Though they are
tired, after maybe having their supper and it`s not time to go
to bed, they think of what to do? I mean to relax a bit! And this
is also another way of, you can say, family planning. When you
go to bed early, I mean too early, when you are not feeling asleep,
as a man and a wife you go to bed early - I mean you maybe want
to enjoy yourself.... So often because of these things, it will
bring frequent childbed!
So we have something we call "ancestor story". So they gather
up with the children and then they start to tell stories to them.
Some stories are from old, old days how our ancestors lived. Some
are just creative stories. So they will sit together and then
tell all the stories. Before everyone gets asleep almost one quarter
or one third of the night is spent. And when you go, all feel
very sleepy, so you go to bed, and just some seconds later you
are gone. So it saves on this things also!
And then during the "ancestor" or this storytelling, there are
songs in some of the stories, so when they are singing, clapping
hands, some things have to come in to make it more lively. So
they started to bring clapping hand and then drumming into it.
So when they are singing and then they are drumming and then they
are clapping, it make the whole thing very, very lively and enjoyable.
So when they are drumming, no one will sleep, rather anybody will
We use the drumming also for wakekeeping or for funerals. Drumming
came in this the way we use our drumming. And all the things started
from our ancestors and it passes from generation to generation.
And we think, it`s a good thing. Because any generation that comes...
- we take it as a custom from our fathers and forefathers. So
we have to continue it! But the world is changing and we are also
trying to modify some of the things!
Because for example, at first, maybe girls of the age of twenty
up to twentytwo, so they don`t put on pants - they danced just
naked like that. And now with their dressing ...! When they were
drumming, they came and they did their dancing nakedly, just like
that. And nobody thought of that, because that was their time!
That`s how they lived! But now the world is changing, so even
a two years baby - you like to dress him or her when him or she
goes out. So it started to change some of the things!
This is how the changes came about, and then it turned to become
contra ??? It turned to become entertainment. So the real traditious
dances and drumming, you can`t see them no more today. You can`t
see them again! And let`s travel to the hinterlands, very distant,
...maybe when you ask for,.... ....there are some small parts
of it, but they can not do it as towards the beginning.
So in all this is about our drumming... I like that -that drumming
and dancing - I mean, we don`t feel well at all, because everything
now, our funeral, our parties, everything goes with drumming and
To me, I don`t know how about to say... We have people who are
naturally musicians, so any type of music at all, ...they like
to listen to it. They feel happy in their bodies to music. And
some people are not naturally musicians, they only follow the
tradition, you see... So anything that is not their tradition,
they don`t like it!
To me - with the western type of music - I like it! I like hearing
it. But I don`t like dancing to it. I just like the rhythm, the
harmony, the whole thing. So when I am listening to it, it is
very, very nice to my ears and my spirit feels it. But to stand
up and dance on it, I don`t like it!
But when they are playing the local drumming, I don`t feel all
right, something pushes me to go and then dance. I feel it very,
very much. But some people, they even don`t want to hear the western
music at all.
Because of travelling - people travel from here to Europe, they
stay there for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, one month, one year, two years,
so they don`t hear the the local music or the traditional one
again. The western music is the one they hear. So when they are
coming back, it became part of their life. And when they are coming
back, then they bring along those things and they use to play
it....So at first we didn`t have this western type of music, but
now because of the travelling... people are now enjoying it very,
very much - especially the youth. Because of watching the tele,
cinemas, video, all the things, they copy the western things.
And in fact it came to a point where our traditional music collapsed
totally. It collapsed! Now - if there is any occasion where they
play our traditional music, no one goes there at all. Unless they
bring in this western type of music. They will jump into it, enjoying....But
now it started to bring the whole thing back, because we don`t
want to leave our culture.
Hilife music is a traditional music of Ghana. At first we didn´t
use this instrument - this guitar - we had our own guitar, I mean
our locally guitar and our local organ. We have something like
a box with a whole in here and with a bamboo stick, this shape,
about 4 inches or 5 inches. When they are playing it, because
of the whole in the box, it makes a very deep sound: "dudududud......"
This part they used as our guitar.
So Ghana, what we do is Hilife, Hilife is the whole way. The root
of Hilife is from Ghana. This is our folk songs. That is the rythm
of our folk songs. We have the "Titi gamao", that is Hilife music:
ba ba baaaa..."Titi gamao, titi gamao....It`s a folk song. So
most of our folk songs have this beat. So when they try to combine
all the instruments to it, it becomes a very nice peace.
And then all the things came together, and it`s a very, very nice
music! But when people started to travel, when they saw the guitar
- also that there is a whole in there, they thought: "Oh this
is the same thing as our local tbox guitar!" So they started to
bring it here and then started to replace it with this box. So
the electric ones came in...and then the organ came in.. to replace
that old ones.
So the root of Hilife music is from Ghana. They take it from our
folk songs. It´s the same thing!
I don`t know the exact year when it started. But it started in
this century, ... in the early state of the century. .. 1900 over
something... It started from a very, very long time, but as I
say, I don`t know exactly
The root of the reggae music is also from Africa. It`s from Africa,
because some of our drumming .. when you go into it deeply, you
see reggae beats in it. And if you follow exactly where this reaggae
music comes from - it came from Jamaica, or the Carrebean - and
this people, they have their roots from Africa!
So I think, it`s something that they inherited from their forefathers.
So I think when the slavetrade came, and it brought them there,
they didn`t forget their traditional drum and dancing. So maybe
sometimes they might have been allowed at least to have a little
of time to themselves and they still enjoyed their traditional
drum and dancing. And it was through this, they started to pick
other things, like they also pick the Hilife from our own rythms,
they also started to pick this rythms, which turned to become
this reggae music.
So since all the people came from Africa, you can surely say the
reggae music - the roots of it is from Africa. So it has a connection
Many different type of drums
And we have so many different type of drums according to the tribes
we are having here. Every tribe wants to have it`s own drumming
style. They started to create or form their own drums according
to the tone that they want. So every drum has it`s tone. We have
the Agaba sets, that`s from the Volta region, the ???sets, that`s
from the Ashanti region, Fantomfrom sets from the Fanti and Panlogo
sets from the greater Accra region. The xylophone assemble or
the Brakate from the northern parts. So we have a lot of different
And when you go around all this places, before you see different
rythms and then different dances. But we have even more than 100
different rythms and dances in Ghana, because we have so many
tribes. So that`s how it is in Ghana.
One great, great grandfather
Yes, a lot! A lot! The Fantis, the Ewes, the Ashanti.. Lets say
the whole Ghana, they came from some place. The Algerians, the
Sudanese, a lot of tribes in Africa, they all came from the same
place. On their way they started to raise and then they branched
out... we have so many empires in Africa, the Sudan Empire, the
Mali Empire, the Ghana Empire - we had some other empires before
this present states. So Ghana came from the Sudan Empire - we
were there before we leave to the Mali Empire, then to the Ghana
Empire and then to this present state. So we have connections
with some other African countries.
If you watch our dances here and you go to East Africa, yo see
the same movements, but in a different style way. There is the
same movement in it. Our Agaba - when we are dancing we move like
this with the hands, ...and with a short cloth - we tie it like
this. Some countries in East Africa they also do this movements,
the same movement, they also tie their cloth on thier hips, but
a very, very long one up to here. They also do the same movement,
you see....So I want to say, we have maybe one great, great, great
Is there any question? because our time is up?
I had a very good teacher. It is his profession. He has been to
a lot places in Ghana, so he knows a lot. After school he took
it upon himself to do researches. He travelled all around Ghana
and outside Ghana just for researches. He knows the history of
most of the dances.
During or after our lessons I sit down with him and asked a lot
of questions. I provided drinks, when we sit down totgether and
then I started to ask questions. This is how I got him! And he
told me a lot of things and I also visited him at home. Beside
this I visited elder people and asked them about stories about
the past. And they also told me their stories. This is how I got
to know some of the things. So I tell you now all the things which
I heard from others.
It was the leader or the founder of the group, he invited this
man to come and train us. So it is from the group that I wanted
to know this man. And then after closing the lesson I thought
about how I can attended him - this made me to know more ...
He took me to Accra, I stayed with him in Accra. And he is the
one who sent me to Takoradi. He heard that some groups in Takoradi
wanted an instructor, and so he sent me to Takoradi. And in Takoradi
I heard of this place and then I came. So I never knew I would
become an instructor.