Hey African music fans! I’d like to take this opportunity to say “Miawoezor” (that’s “welcome,” or “akwaaba” in the Ewe language) to Benjamin, who has just arrived in Ghana. In honor of his trip, I decided to take a break from my samba-semba blog entries and write a little bit about traditional Ghanaian music.
The dance-drumming of the Anlo-Ewe society of Southeastern Ghana features a complex rhythmic interplay between three supporting drums and a master drum. The ensemble also includes a bell, which acts as the conductor, and several rattles, which embellish the basic rhythm played by the bell.
Check out this video of Agbadza, a traditional Ewe dance. It’s a little long, but it really captures what it’s like to attend a dance-drumming event in an Ewe village. There are great shots of the drummers at 4:45, 6:31 and 7:40.
What I find most fascinating (and most frustrating) about Anlo-Ewe music is that it’s impossible to play it alone—you need at least five people—unlike music in the Western tradition, where individual practice is necessary for group success. Drummer Kevin O’Sullivan has had a brilliant solution to this problem: he has arranged Anlo-Ewe rhythms for drum set, assigning each limb a different part of the Ewe drum ensemble. Check out his arrangement of Atsiã, an Ewe social dance:
If you’re interested in seeing it performed live (with dancers!), percussionist Amanda Duncan will be playing it on her senior recital at Cal State Long Beach on May 15th, 2010 at 8pm in Daniel Recital Hall. And if you want more info on Anlo-Ewe dance drumming, O’Sullivan’s website is one of the best resources I’ve found on the web; be sure to check it out!
Miadogo! (See you later!)