Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Unwritten Ending

From August 4th to 10th we remained in the village playing music and hanging out at the local "drinking spots". At the one, our bartender was 15! The other one had a better stock, and a more reasonably aged bar tender. Had plenty of great conversations over a beer over there.

We saw a marching drum performance that led up to a sit down performance that was really amazing - I wasn't able to take a full video of it because my card became full, but what can you do.

From August 10th to 12th, we had to find a place to stay in Accra. We ended up sharing a one room place the first night - me, Sean, Adam, Kendra, and Courtney. The name of the place was Beverly Hills.

Then, me and Adam and Sean moved down the street twice, first to a place I can't remember the name of, then to Hotel President. Hotel President wasn't in our guidebook, but it was pretty reasonable.

On the 12th me and Adam went for a "quick" jaunt to the market to get our last souvenirs - it took five hours. It was fun though.

At the airport, one interesting thing happened: when I went to exchange 30 cedis to dollars, this guy led me away from the airport to this sketchy guy with no eyes who pulled out a wallet full of almost every kind of money. I got a decent exchange rate too.

Unfortunately I don't have all my pictures and video yet, so this will have to do! So ends a wonderful trip, and an online blog!

-Nicholas Diaz

July 1st - August 4th

Hello everyone who may be reading this: this is a digitalization of a written blog I kept while I was in Ghana from July 1st to August 4th. Enjoy.

July 2nd, 2010
Legon, Accra, Ghan
University of Ghana

Journal Entry #1
Arrived July 1st in Ghana at 1p.m. their time. We (Sean and I) were on the same flight as Ross and Mackenzie, as well as a bunch of Canadians on a medical study trip.
The four of us got a ride to the international Hostel ( I learned about the guys who help with bags – no thanks!) and I met some fellow hostellers:
Austria: Doris, Flo
Britain: Simon, Lucy
America: Barry, Clarke
And in our program:

·       Connor
·       Kendra
·       Courtney  x2
·       (Ross)
·       (Mackenzie)
·       Tory
·       Sheri
·       Adam
·       Katie
·       (Sean)
·       Michael Frishkopf
·       Nathan Damptey

Flo took us out on the town, to three different bars. Overall, it was friendly, but there are swindlers everywhere. At the third bar, Flo and I introduced ourselves to the reggae house band. I am planning to play with them at Shangri-La! That will be happening Saturday the 3rdNow I am in the rendeyvous meeting with the whole program. So it begins!

July 2nd, 2010
11:30p.m. – Journal Entry #2
Today, with the rendeyvous and aftermath, was very rewarding. Connor, Sean and I went to the bank in the morning to exchange money (USD->GHS) and withdraw, but we couldn’t do either. We then went over to the Ghana Mall and got it changed over; still have to find a working ATM though! We arrived back around 10:30a.m. and went over to the meeting. Already in the short exercises Michael had us do I felt improvement in my musicality. Following this, we had a tour of the campus. It is beautiful! It is such a shame we cannot roam it freely and safely. Everyone then taxied to the mall to watch the big game-Ghana vs.Uruguay! The theatre we were going to see it in was full, so we watched it in the restaurant. So fun! The Ghana culture impresses me:
-        Passionate! Vuvuzelas abounding!
-        Good willed – When scored against, no booing! Rather, silence, like it’s allowing space for others to celebrate; goalie makes good save? Clapping.
Compared to Canadian sports ritual in terms of negativity vs. positivity, it looks like this:


I am very disappointed Ghana did not proceed in the World Cup, but what they have accomplished is amazing. I have to wake up in 7½ hours for our Accra tour – Woohoo!
- Nicholas
P.S. Lucy the British girl is leaving tomorrow or Sunday. I am going to miss her.
P.S.S. The Seamstress is making me 3 shirts, 1 pair of shorts, and a blanket - $85…GH59.50?–Well spent. 

July 4th, 2010
5:50a.m. Journal Entry #3
First, to document what happened yesterday:
We went to the Du Bois Memorial, but the guise was away at a funeral, so we took picture of the plaques around the premise while we waited. This is when we had our first lucky break of the day: we ran into a group of local musicians that Michael knew! Superb! It was a great chance to do some fieldwork and to transcribe some music. One thing I neglected to do was ask permission to record, which I now know to do. Along the same lines, I need to get his information to upload with the video.
After this, we went to a fishing town/section of Acccra (Jamestown, seen above) and walked down the beach. The society developing out of the poverty is at once and example of human adaptability and on an antithesis to our western society. I endeavoured to take pictures of different initiatives while avoiding them and their homes – they aren’t zoo animals.
Before I continue and forget – we went to a museum before Jamestown. Therein we saw: different ritual aesthetics, music instrumentation, stools as “the seat of power”, production methods, combat ritual, and dance tradition. In particular with the dance tradition I see a semblance to our own culture – the exhibition of bodily curves by augmenting clothing. Interesting – I wonder if this can be attributed to our cultures mixing or human mate drive? Exaggerating fertility?
Back to the beach – we went down until we reached a charity group that Michael didn’t know about run by Jay and Nii.
00233 277 1117 286 // 0264 117 286
We took pictures and video with them, playing music and dancing – a good cause to support. They are using their profits to send kids to school.
After we made our way around to Brazil House, where we took picture of the viewand learned some slave history. I scatted with Sean and a local musician/dancer:
Koa Kyoo 0279 704 759
Then, we ate!  At a cheap bar. My goat (and Sean’s “bush-meat” or “grass cutter”) was cooked with the skin on! Didn’t eat that part. Also, fufu is eaten with the hand, and it tastes like raw dough. Afterwards we went to a market, similar to a farmers market, then back to the hostel, where I watched the end of the Paraguay versus Spain match with Flo, Doris, Lucy, and a girl from the Netherlands.
We are going to witness church soon, and later a funeral.
-Nicholas (7:05a.m.)

July 4th, 2010
9:40p.m. Journal Entry #4
Church was alright this morning. We went to the Catholic Church, the music was mostly European + Gospel, with two African influenced songs.
People were sitting largely alone as well – praying and contemplation is more prominent here than in North America, at least for Catholics. Some musical responses were identical to Roman Catholics back home while some were more involved; the music was diatonic with chromatic bass lines.
We then went to the funeral in the shanty town called Ashaiman. We were given traditional garb and introduced to the elders around the canopied compound.
We learned to dance and take the cues for the shaker parts (like a gourd wrapped in dried bead nuts). In terms of ceremony, it played out like a casual church ceremony, with call and response parts separating each speech.
Overall it was a very open and supportive environment, with one speech given by an ewe elder exemplifying this:
“a white mans blood would save my life in a hospital, like a black mans would save a white man – we are the same.”
This entry is a little lock lustre because the dancing went on for almost 3 hours and I am very tired. The only substance they had there was water, fermented corn, and a hard liquor.

July 6th, 2010
10:08p.m. Journal Entry #5
Yesterday (Monday the 5th) was when our classes technically started. Good fun so far.
July 5th
Nketia – intro to Ethnomusicology| Ghanian music
Robert Addo-Fenning – Pre-Colonial to Colonial History
July 6th
Nketia – Ghanian Art Music
Seth Oblosu – Politics in contemporary Ghana
Nketia is a little hard to hear at times, but other than that the lectures were great. It is unfortunate that so much street noise gets into the lecture hall, but what can be done.
Another note is that I’ve been having trouble catching name drops mid-lecture. I’ll have too look them up!
The reason I didn’t write a journal entry yesterday was due to my high fever. We’ll see how I am tomorrow. Connor says dehydration, but Sean has a gastro-something or another ailment. Hm…

July 10th, 2010
12:15a.m. Journal Entry #6
Thursday, the 8th – I was feeling better, if a little sleepy, until class. I fell asleep during the movie, was wide awake during John Collins lecture, then got sick during Paul Agbedor’s lecture. It felt like I had been drugged; not a fun experience.
This was prefaced by Wednesday where I felt faint in all three of my classes…I feel better now though. Another medical concern I have is my left big toe: I haven’t had sensitivity in it since last weeks church (Sunday the 4th). Alarming – I’ll ask Michael. Senyo’s thought there must be medicine for it.
Aside from health concerns things have been great. The drum class went really well Wednesday (I received my own hand carved drum!) and I slept away the time between Thursday and our Kokrobite trip.
At nine this morning we arrived in Budoburnamn. The musicians there are passionate and inquisitive – a good thing, given the legal dealings going on now over the Budo. CD. Adding a digital distribution appendix is a complicated dealing to comprehend.
I got to meet and pseudo-interview a few of them and drew some general conclusions:
-        Desperate for capital
-        Christian
-        Surplus of bass players, organ players, and electronic artists. Statistically very few harmonic instruments, but drumming is popular.
-        Very compact studios mean recordings are done in a few takes.
After Budo we went to Kokrobite – it’s a tourist hot spot. Hedonism all around. Alcohol as well. Tomorrow: a reggae show!
(I never did make it to Osu to play highlife…hopefully on Thursday)

July 10th, 2010
July 13th, 2010
10:25p.m. Journal Entry #7
Saturday the 10th

The reggae band was very much a cover band similar to something one would see in the west, if not identical. The dancing however, was much more intense, with some members of the crowd bringing in examples of African dances (some I recognized!). There was a bonfire at Pink House down the beach, but I didn’t stay long. Step back! – Saturday during the day: had the pan logo group lesson for drums and dancing. It was a hell of a workout, and I learned a lot about hand drumming technique.

Sunday the 11th
Had a private lesson with Oko for hand drumming technique – excellent! Then I had a gandze (sp?) lesson with Arouna on the beach – less amazing, but alright. With Oko, I learned skills. With Arouna, it felt like a jam session.
Then I tanned with the British girls, like I did with all my free time at Kokrobite.
Sunday afternoon the Liberian drum ensemble came to do a show at Big Milly’s to pay some debt they had. It bore uncanny resemblance to Edmonton Street performer acts – build suspense through dramatized danger + music.
We then drove a short ways to see Oko’sgroup open for Mustapha Tetfey Addy. They were both amazing. I’m particularly intrigued by the large drums Mustapha employed – I’ve never felt a drum the powerful! Also, the way Mustapha entered through gradual drum procession was neat. There was also a street performer style guy there dressed like a clown doing amazing feats of balance – impressive.
It took a while to get back to the hostel, and I had my reading cards to finish, so I didn’t get enough sleep for class Monday.

Monday the 12th
University of Ghana, Legon, Accra
Only had one lecture this morning – aesthetics in Ewe music. Personally, it felt like an exercise in philosophy, or masturbatory philosophy, to put it crudely. While an honerly and scholarly pursuit, the study of aesthetics seems fruitless. Then, our drum lesson with Johnson, Which was fun as always.
I’m working on my notion of the  music, and I’m having trouble choosing between a “mates of rhythm/rhythmic mate” approach or a “static ostinato” approach.
They’re both right, and I’m guessing static would better suit reading patterns in scores. We’ll see. Caught up on my sleep Monday night! Went to bed at seven after emailing lucy and phoning my mom.

Tuesday the 13th
Three lecture in one day was enjoyable but long.
1)     Patience Kwa Kwa discussed dance tradition and how certain events or stories are told with dance and music. (Drum language coupled with dance language).
2)     Paul Agbedor – Ewe language speaking class. It may be just me but Ewe reminds me of Chinese because of its tonal aspects. It’s fun learning a new language. The primary and secondary school system needs to better apply itself, or be re-written, because there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to speak French after six years of it.
3)     Prof. Mohammed Abdallah discussed more Ghanaian history and brought in sociological perspectives. He had many “notable quotations” that I recorded in my five pages of notes from him – a good lecture.

We learned a new song in Johnson’s class today, bringing us to a grand total of three. My notation came a lot easier this time…I seem to be getting better at reading their 12/8 4/4 hybrid.
Then we all went for pizza! (Sheri, Courtney, three guys from campus, Sean, Ross, Mackenzie, Connor, Adam) and I talked to Nii about getting me a hardshell case for my drum. Which reminds me that I need to get the name of it written down so I stop forgetting it.

Wednesday July 14th, 2010
Journal Entry #8
Dr. Sonyo Perbi was up first for lectures – I wish it had been one on one. His expertise in sub-saharan African music was really lost on our class of little to no musical background. Still, he provided some insights into different aspects of the music, like compositional technique, drum language and African musical sense.
Next: Prof. Kifi Anyidoho – Poetry – interesting to see how important proverbs are to African tradition, that poetic skill is inherited, and that they are “creationists”.
Had our final day with Johnson! I hope I got full recordings of all 4 songs – my recorder wasn’t working today. Working with him was a lot of fun.

Thursday July 15th, 2010
Journal Entry #9
Alhassan Suieman Anamzoya – Dagomba studies. Very informative, but he seemed to get caught up on certain ideas ( he spent ten minutes making us “understand” what aunts and uncles were…”
Dr. Akoosua Perbi – fascinating woman! Her work on indigenous slavery is very good. It’s strange that there are no other explorations into it.
Free day! I’m calling it in early though, I need rest.

Friday July 16th, 2010
Journal Entry #10
Today we drove down to the coast to Cape Coast. It took a long time (but apparently only three hours?)
Checked into Sammo Hotel in West Cape Coast, rooming with Sean! It isn’t too shabby, but we don’t get water pressure on the third floor. There’s a restaurant on top of the building that serves as a reception area, so that’s nice.
I don’t know if it’s just where we’re staying in Cape Coast, but it seems a lot more run down than Accra. It also seems a lot less tourist driven than where we’ve been.
We took the short trek over to the Cope Coast castle. It’s a very conflicting place…tourism vs. slave history vs. amazing views of town, and the ocean. Got some of my best photos of the trip so from here. That isn’t to say that the dungeon tour and museum weren’t informative as well. I didn’t know the castles in Ghana changed hands so much, and for so long, and the conditions in the slave rooms must have been atrocious. It was a little hard to associate all that pain with the room while we were on the tour, but it was there.
After that we Cape Coast University for a ridiculous lecture on “African Art Music!” they themselves might think African Art Music deserves the title, but I can honestly can’t tell the difference between what it’s imitating and itself. It sounded just like serial music…and jazz is already exploring Africanisms in harmonic music – they’re a little behind. Maybe I’m just ignorant of its subtleties.
Dinner and sleep – sounds good!
(This is one of my favorite pictures from Ghana, and is my computer desktop picture right now)

Saturday July 17th, 2010
Journal Entry #11
Couldn’t find anyone except for Michael, so we all went for cheap breakfast in this woman’s little shack establishment down the way. Her and her sister’s meal was pretty good but the tea clinched it.
Canopy walk was fun, but I need to get a strap for my zoom and my camera, I was afraid I would drop them the entire time.
Apparently Canadians built it in the 80’s, and it’s one of only three in the world – lucky us! Someone must have told them though, because the price inflated a lot. I never did find out how they perform maintenance on the bridges…oh well.
On the way back from the canopy walk we were stopped by an ant column – very cool! Our group had a collective “guy” moment, seeing how it reacted to stimuli.
We went to a place with crocodiles! ( and maggots, but that’s beside the point) Hon’s Cottage Bottel.
P.S. Some 7 Canadian girls wanted us to go to Oasis, but we couldn’t find it!
(Ant column picture! It's bad but it gets the point across.)

Sunday July 18th, 2010
Journal Entry #12
Today we toured Elmina castle and the nearby fort. They were very similar to Cape Coast castle. What was different was the locale – the port was packed! So busy! Good to see one of the big financial and food supplying hubs.
Other than some more good photos we did nothing. It’s good to be back at ISH – feels like home, ha ha.
- Nicholas (Pizza outside the gate of the University! Held by Courtney) 

Monday July 19th, 2010
Journal Entry #13
Nathan Damptey – It was good to finally get a lecture from Nathan! He talked more about ethnomusicology than the Akan, but it was still good.
Esi Sutherlan-Addy – Very good insight into women’s roles in Ghanaian society. Good to see that women’s rights have a voice here. Mackenzie’s question about homosexuality was also interesting because it revealed the same reasons for denying it exists everywhere.
Had our Xylophone and atenteben lessons today – I much prefer the former, and I wish it were one on one.
Dinner and sleep!

Tuesday July 20th, 2010
Journal Entry #14
Rev. Prof. Eloxm Dovia – detailed the course of religion in Ghana. His bias? Being religious of course. I can’t see anyone in this country being Christian if they knew fully about why their Christian, but here I am proven wrong. African religious history shows to me again how misguided and pigheaded religions are.
Last day with xylophone and flute – we needed more time on them! The two days was nothing.

Wednesday July 21st, 2010
Bus trip to Kumasi! Stopped in Aburi Gardens – interesting that the British thought planting a garden made up for deforestation.
Rooming with Adam for the king David guest house; went out to the place next door with Conner, Katie, and Sean.
Thursday July 22nd, 2010
Manhyia Palace tour – learned a lot about Asante history and practise.
Kejetia Market Area – huge! Didn’t find anything I wanted, but it was interesting to see. Explains why corporations haven’t invaded yet.
Cultural Centre – More relaxed/touristy. Might go back, I need more gifts.
Bonwine Kente Community – Very pushy, almost to the point of it not being worth it.
Carving Community – bought a chair – worth it!
Went to the liquor store then back to the “dinning” room.

Friday July 23rd, 2010
Journal Entry #15
A day for bussing – villages along the way were neat. Cool to observe that they’ve grown from the bus industry.
A little ridiculous at one stop, where they had a 1000% mark up for white people. Racism?
Rooming with Connor at the guest house, and there’s internet across the road – woohoo.

Saturday July 24th, 2010
Journal Entry #16
Tro-Tro to Mole was painful – I have a bruise on the back of my head.
Arrived and moved into the presidential suite – good job Nathan! There’s a pool here, and a lot of tourists, plus a videographer guy, Erik.
Connor, Adam, and I went on the driving tour and it was a big waste of time. We saw a couple antelope and nothing else.
Stayed up late drinking with some Americans – they may have been Christian and Mormon, but they were racist and prejudiced against everything imaginable.

Sunday July 25th, 2010
Journal entry # 17
Did the walking tour – amazing! All other gifts pale in comparison to the 10 minute video of elephants playing for my mom.
Didn’t have much time to do anything otherwise – we left around noon.
While at Mole – warthogs, baboons, and elephants all display pack behaviour. (Humans too actually). Dog psychology works on warthogs and baboons ( warthogs more so).
Back to the Catholic Guest House!

 Monday July 26th, 2010
Journal Entry #18
Got to learn Dagomba music today! Also, received my money gram, phew. Met a French looking girl from Denver, here for dancing. This was at the YCC.
Tamale is much more relaxed than Accra, probably because it isn’t the tourist capital, or the capital. The Muslim influence is visible in the attire of the people (shoulders covered, more robes). There’s a lot more bikers here, because they’re safer to drive than Accra, and brand new cost GH2000. There is still a gigantic Christian presence, however.
The lecture with Fuzzy Kombat was a nice addition to the one we got a Legon.

Tuesday July 27th, 2010
Journal Entry #19
Another day of Damba. Fun.
Then we went to the shea butter collective – a great initiative, and a good product. I spent Gh30 on gifts.
Our group hung out drinking at the Catholic Guest House drinking till late.
Also, got to meet Kat’s stalker, an employee of the guest house; or should I say ex-employee? He had apparently been making moves on female guests for months. Overall a strange situation. In trying to get him to leave, we used a strength in numbers approach. Connor, Sean, and I stood there while the three male employees escorted him out.

Wednesday July 28th, 2010
Journal Entry #20
A long bus ride followed by a night at Labadi beach with Flo and Doris and an Alaskan girl and a Nigerian (Mohammed?). Good night! I’m going to miss my Austrian friends! I’m not going to miss Rastafarians though – all of the ones I met there tonight were pushy, either for drugs, money, or drinks. They’ve earned their bad reputation in Ghana.
Here’s hoping the ride to Dagbamete is more eventful/shorter than Tamle to Kumasi to Accra!

Thursday July 29th, 2010
Journal Entry #21
We have arrived in Dagbamete! This village is great. Running water, electricity, and running water. Did I say running water? It isn’t what I was expecting at all, with the stigma attached to the word village.
The people are a bug family here – the communal society really shines through.
We’re staying at the “Xathy Armstrong Lodge” around the corner from where we drum and dance. We were given a tour and some “Red” by Quasi (pronounced qua-shi; kashi; quasi; kasi), our drum instructor and local priest chief. He seems to command a lot of respect.
I’m looking forward to staying here for a week!

Friday July 30th, 2010
Journal Entry #22
Today we went and saw another funeral in the afternoon (Drum and dance Gahu in the morning). It was a little different to the other funeral we went to. I found it harder to find the beat for dancing, and people seemed less celebratory overall. There was a very negative vibe. Even when the speeches happened, less people were responding than at the other funeral.
Starting near the end of the funeral I felt drained. My hand shaking has gotten worse as well. Going out for a drink with Connor and Ross after I study for my map quiz tomorrow.
- Nicholas
P.S. Had a good chat about the trip, human nature, the “ideal” woman, and other things. There was also a group of 10-12 year old boys joking around with us. Good times!

Sunday August 1st, 2010
Journal Entry #23
Saturday – test on Africa Drumming, sleep. Felt run down
Sunday – The Shrine
First thing? Screaming goats sound like children. It’s eerie.
The shrine begins with an opening ceremony, which we missed. The proceedings thereon are a mix  of people repaying the thunder god for things has has granted them, people praying for things, initiations and settling grievances.
1)     Repaying – giving back whatever you promised, for what you received. Usually gin, money, and a chicken or goat. They threw down the goat or chicken and if it stays still the gods accept the deal. If it moves to get up, you have a secret in your heart.
2)     Requests – same process minus animals. They only bring gin up. If people go on too long they get cut off.
3)     Initiations – Same process minus money. They are asked why they want to join the shrine. When the chicken (goat) is thrown, the same thing is looked for.
4)     Grievances – Disputes are brought up. Animals for same purpose.
1)     When people go up they go on their knees and kiss the ground, then tap each elbow in turn.
2)     They periodically pour gin and palm oil on the ground to summon the gods.
3)     Chickens are gathered in bunches then grazed over the tops of people’s heads, counter clockwise three times. This is during 1) and 2).
4)     Every so often drumming starts to ease tension, and bring back happiness. It’s the “chicken Dance” around the mound.
5)     Every week at least 25 people join, if not more.
6)     Food from sacrifices is fed to children. There’s also a closing ceremony, but I missed it.

Monday August 2nd, 2010
Journal Entry #24
Today, we went to the Akatsi market…
Edit: Everyone else did, me and Tory went to a health clinic. Tory’s flying home sick tomorrow. My bad timing, today is the first day in 4 I haven’t napped every waking moment and actually feel good. I don’t have malaria though, so that’s good news.

Wednesday August 4th, 2010
Journal Entry #25
Today after drumming we went and saw a marching performance and a different performance (gadze?). It was great, but so long my video cam couldn’t capture the whole thing. I couldn’t join the dancing because of fatigue, but it was still good.
Later in the day we gave our sizable donation to the school – around 800cedi – of books and slates. I’m glad we did this, it will make a change here.
At the other village though, I felt like a charity again. Whenever we get performed to they ask for money or help. People don’t understand that white doesn’t mean super wealthy.
Again later in the day this was reiterated – Courtney asked a man if she could take a picture of his stand and he said yes, for 10 cedi. Really…? So my budget should be twenty times food for pictures? Ridiculous.