March 24, 2009

It is always good to see familiar faces when getting off a plane in a foreign land. I was lucky enough to have 4 such faces greet me when I arrived in Ghana around 3 weeks ago. No fancy hotels for me, I stayed that night with my friends Ledzi, George, Yao, Oliver and Martin in a one small room, sharing the floor and bed.

After spending the next day procuring a visa for Togo and Benin and getting acclimatized, I headed east to the Volta region which I am so familiar with. First I headed to the village of Dagbamete where I have many friends and is the first place I actually when I came to Ghana for the first time, so I always pay a visit there first. Arriving at night my good friend Baba decided to wait at the entrance of the village in his sleeping gown until I arrived so he could see my face before he slept. Next day I was saddened to hear that one of the old ladies I used to buy breakfast from had died some months earlier. But everyone else in the village was fine though the place itself is slowly changing with new structures, children growing up, people leaving, others dying. I spent most of the day going to greet everyone, having some drinks as is the custom and sharing some smiles with the young and old. Then in the afternoon there was a funeral (which means a 4 hour session of music) so we all traveled in several vehicles and amassed in a smaller village as the Dzigbordi Akpoka Drumming group. Back home I rarely get a chance to dance…..I mostly play. On that day though, I hardly played and most everyone wanted to dance with me which always makes for a sore back the next day since I am so out of shape. But it was worth it.

However my time was short in Dagbamete as I had been wanting to visit the village of Dzogadze where I helped to construct a 3-room school block, which many of you may be aware of. On the road there many memories came flooding back as I had walked that dusty path many times and sweat many litres going to and fro. As I was on the back of a small motorcycle, many of the kids of the village saw me enter and began shouting my name and following me as I approached my compound. Getting off the bike a larger boy took my bag to carry and they all trailed me to the house and surrounded me. It was a funny and odd experience…such that I forgot to even look at the school!! After sending them all back to their classes and greeting some of my friends in Dzogadze, I finally made it down to the school. Seeing it from a distance did create some feelings I don’t think I have ever had before. It was bigger than I expected, and I could tell that much labour went into its construction to give it the aura of completeness that it had. Sizing it up I couldn’t help but feel that this was something that I had played a major part in realizing….maybe this is something like parents feel when they see their newborns or something, I dunno. A sense of achievement I suppose, different than making a record or anything like that. Perhaps it is because this building will have a far greater impact on others, now and in the future, than any music I can think of making.

Still some minor touches to finish but for the most part it is 99% done and a major ceremony to inaugurate this project as well as other developments in the village will happen on April 10, with invited guests, politicians and the like. My parents are even going to come and visit Ghana while this occurs.

Connected to this building and my presence and contributions to Dzogadze were a couple of traditional ceremonies that were completed the next day. The elders and chiefs of the village wanted to thank me for what I had done in helping to construct this building and also for other contributions to the villages development that I had made. Since their own resources were short, they wanted to bestow upon me the blessings of the spirits that protect inhabitants of Dzogadze from disease, maltreatment and general negativity. The first was to Mama Numilgo, a female vodu/spirit, and this was performed in a small round house which is where the goddess essentially lived. About 7 of us, shirtless, shoeless, kneeling, sweating, singing and sacrificing. Much more happened but I won’t detail it here. The second ceremony was to Torgbui Dzogadze, which was done in a sacred grove just outside of town, the actual spiritual home of the village itself. This was quite interesting because it was only males involved, again shirtless and shoeless, about 30 of us in total, divided into age/friend groups and the actual vodu/spirit was represented by a mound of earth covered with a stylized thatch structure, like a tall, conical hat. A lot of camaraderie, joking, singing. I could see how this was an age old practice and helped to strengthen bonds among the folk of the town, or any group for that matter. Both of these ceremonies involved the sacrifice of a ram, a chicken and a male goat, libations and prayers and of course music. Actually, some of the practices and prayers some of my friends had never seen before so it is not that common. I think I made my own offerings in the amount of sweat that came out of me during the day, in the sweltering sun, shirtless, for a number of hours. On this day, they also bestowed upon me the name “Zowornu kpli tu le asiwo gake kpo nya ge” which roughly translates as “ You have a gun in your hand but someone with a walking stick can still defeat you”. The real meaning is open to interpretation I suppose. In fact, many names of towns and people around here are like that, longer proverbs of some sort, which are usually shortened to one or two words. In all, it was quite a full and meaningful day and I very much appreciated the fact that the people of this village really appreciated me.

The next day we made way for the town of Aflao where I spent quite a bit of time in my last visit to learn from the Setsoafia family. Approaching their compound, I wasn’t even sure if the old Torgbui Setsofia Yibor aka Oluwa was even still alive. Two years ago he was in his late 80’s. Turning the corner my teacher Agbo’s wife saw me and squealed as she gave me a hug and led us into the house proper. I could see the familiar sight of Oluwa’s little shaded corner where he would spend most of his time, thankfully I could also see his feet beneath the fence. I yelled out the customary “Ago!!” (to announce ones presence and to see if anyone was present themselves). He heard me before he saw me and when he saw me he of course smiled and the handshake was powerful indeed. After making the customary giving of water to the visitor, greetings, questions about family and some libations, he said he was happy to see me return after two years, which was exactly when I said I would return. Agbo had returned by now and was also pleased to see me and asked of my group back in Canada and how the teaching/performing was going. After all of this I requested a game of “ludu/ludo” with Oluwa, a game which I could never beat him in. This time however I was doing quite well and nearly had him defeated….but before I could claim victory proper, he said he had to go to a funeral so we had to cut the game short and he pronounced me the winner. Though I still don’t consider it a true victory….next time I suppose.

Then I went to Benin for a week which is a whole different e-mail I have to send.

And some major developments have been occurring here in Dzogadze. For the first time ever, electricity has come to this small village. It was supposed to have come some years ago but due to shortage of electricity poles and some politics, it was delayed until now. I actually helped buy some electricity poles for the town with money I had earned performing music I learned in this place. So finally, last week electricians came and wired everyone’s homes to the transformer that was installed and light came to this old place. I arrived a couple of days later to experience it for myself and you could feel the pride and excitement around the town. From my own house I could see various lights in different compounds and hear different radios playing. Walking around at night was now a bit different from before. Some households already had purchased TV’s and were playing some Nigerian films and dozens of people crowded around to watch. I asked one elder what he thought as he sat with glee watching a film in his own compound for the first time and he said “It is like Accra!!” (the capital city). There is even a joke going around town that the only difference between Dzogadze and Accra is that Accra has an airport. A water reservoir project is also under construction and a health clinic will soon be open so the village is slowly but surely developing nicely.

Okay, so this one is a bit long and bit overdue. I wished to have sent it last week but have been traveling a bit and been busy, away from the internet. Just came back from Togo actually and enjoyed it immensely, especially since I have a visa which means no border problems. As for the future, my parents are scheduled to arrive here on March 27 (I think) and I’ll be busy with them going around Ghana and some villages. In fact, if anyone has any donations, monetary or otherwise which they would like to give to them to bring to Dzogadze for the education project, you can contact my mother at or 709-596-2278. They will be in the Toronto area for a few days (March 24-26) before leaving for Ghana. As for the school, I have attached just a couple of pics for y’all to see. It is quite nice. I will try and post more pics on my website when time permits but that is not a priority right now I have to admit.

I have attached a few other random pics as well. Some of the aforementioned ceremony, kids dancing, school kids surrounding me when I arrived in my house, the house of Mama Numiglo, some musicians and the most common type of lizard in these parts…the one that does push-ups with the yellow head.

Much more to come when my e-mail server lets me send another mass e-mail.


PS: Regarding tax-receipts, they have been received by All Hallows Elementary. I thought that they would be mailed out by the issuing body (the provincial school board) but the school itself has to mail them out. At present, I am not sure what the status of that is, but they do exist and you will get them.

PPS: I have a mobile phone while here so feel free to call me (mind the time difference please) at +233 241954793.

APRIL 29, 2009
MAY 11, 2007
APRIL 21, 2007
MARCH 29, 2007
FEBRUARY 12, 2007
JANUARY 22, 2007
JUNE 10, 2002
JUNE 2, 2002
MAY 10, 2002