Sunday, June 2, 2002 9:55 AM


Writing this now by candlelight...well sort of. There are candles going and the power has been cut, but this laptop gives light enough to see what I'm doing. Anyhow, I'm back in Ghana, West Africa after a long 5 year hiatus to which everyone here agrees was too long, myself included. What to say?? Not sure where to begin. I arrived in the motherland almost two weeks ago, from snowy St.John's, Newfoundland to not so snowy Toronto then to the ho-hum airport of Frankfurt......over the snow capped and not-so snow capped Alps, the Mediterranian sea, the timeless expanses of the Sahara desert, a small stop in Nigeria and finally touching down in Accra, Ghana amidst the clapping hands of the native Ghanaians and myself on-board the plane. Not sure who would be meeting me at the airport, I was indeed glad to see the faces of three of my good Ghanaian friends waiting for me. My face hurt from smiling for the rest of the evening and for the next three days, which were spent between two villages as I made my rounds to greet everyone, and I mean everyone, in the villages of Dagbamete and Dzogadze. Since my beard is now quite small as compared to my last visit (now half an inch as compared to 12 inches), some people either didn't believe it was me or didn't even recognize me. But after some few small words and a look in the eye we all burst into smiles and laughter.

After getting settled back in, I began learning an old war dance called Adzogbo, which is perhaps one of the hardest pieces of music that the Ewe's have. All is connected....drum, dance and song and they are constantly changing according to the lead drum so everybody must be listening well. And the hands must move fast. After some frustrating moments, I am now coming to enjoy it more. My friend Ledzi has been showing me the basics of it and in a week we both will travel to the border town of Aflao to learn from an old master who stays there. Entering his compund, it seemed like most others...random kids running about, some chickens and chicks doing the same, someone sleeping on a bench. We were pointed to the place the old man stays and I could feel this was to be an interesting meeting as both me and Ledzi stayed quiet and humble. In the reclining chair like most old men have, was Torgbui Setsoafia the Adzogbo master of Aflao. Apparently he is the one who brought the dance from Benin(formerly Dahomey, one of the ancestral homes of the Ewe people) to Aflao many years ago. How many years ago I can't say. I had trouble placing the old mans age. I will say at least 80, but was still quite strong, almost muscular and though his voice a little hoarse, his eyes blazed with a fire of vitality and joviality. I could sense from his demeanor and aura that this was going to be an interesting time spent indeed. After our discussion, he ordered for some akpeteshie (local moonshine from palm wine) to be brought, made some prayers to the Earth god and to the ancestors that our mission would be succesful. It will be an adventure.

Besides that I've been absorbing all I have only been living in my memories. Sundays spent at the shrine in Dagbametey amongst many friends....amongst the many sacrifices, the drumming, dancing and voices in unison for the god Apetorku. Attending funerals(which are more celebrations than mournful times) and dancing until your back becomes sore but not being able to sit down because everyone wants to dance with you, which while flattering, can have its downsides. One evening I joined the Brekete(a kind of traditional religious sect) group from Dzogadze to a nearby town who were hosting a festival of sorts. There were maybe 10 of us, plus drums on the top of the van, 4 in the front, another 12 or so inside singing along the way with the master of the group following on a motorcycle with 3 others. I stopped along the way to visit a friend and joined them later. It was something amazing. The music of Brekete itself is extremely fast and frantic, designed no doubt to induce trance among some of the members which it was doing this night. Possession is best something you have to see to appreciate and comprehend. Approaching the playing ground in the dark your hear the pace of the music quickening and getting louder. Maybe a hundred people of so under a makeshift canopy of leaves and branches and a single lantern (no electricity). Most of the important members are seated while the rest make the music. As a guest we greet the leaders and I'm escorted into a dark candle lit room to meet the local leader of this group. After some drink we go outside again to the vortex of drums, dance, song and spirit. They beckon me to dance which I do to the delight of all as I don't think many Yevus(white people) dance this kind of thing. The master drummer in front of me, his strokes on his drum are more like that of a hammer against a nail, each one driving the dancers further and further. It is sweet. Then they give me the axatse(rattle) to play as I don't know the drumming at all. It is fast enough that my arm begin begins to ache after a few minutes but the energy of the whole experience works its magic and soon you don't think about it at all until we finish about 30mins later, drenched in sweat. On the way back, atop the car again, trees beating us as we pass under them, we all smile and life is good under the stars.

And walking....too much maybe. I'm usually in Dzogadze, a large type of village a few miles off the main road but still has no electricity, which is a novelty in a sense, but also very inconvenient, especially for doing normal household things. Though there are still many families who live somewhat independently off of the land and their own hard work which is enlightening. During the day its fine, everything cooked on open fires and the like and social graces are paramount. If you plan to go visit one person, it may take you 30mins to get there as you stop to see others along the way, exchange greetings have some drink and then onto the next before you get to where you want to go. But its all good. At night however, things take on a different hue. The town becomes a maze as you navigate, I'm slowly remembering the routes but still get lost sometimes. And most all light is by candlelight or a lantern so its cast certain mysterious hues upon everyone and thing. Add to that the lack of loud soundsystems and TV's and it makes for a peaceful existence of sorts, though romanticized a little. But the final touch is the drumming in the night. Almost everynight, as I go to sleep, you can hear drumming in the distance, usually miles away, from some village which you can't exactly trace. And above all else is the symphony of numerous insects that permeate the ether, easily inducing sleep. So as I was saying about walking...... whenever I want to travel to another place to make a phone call or buy something special or go to Dagbametey(even more miles away), I usually walk to the main road and catch a car for the rest of the journey. So after walking so many miles, in some fairly sweltering heat and dust, ones pace of life slows a little bit. Even on a bicycle, I find myself going slow. Perhaps this is a good thing. I know that I walk much too fast back in home.

Surprisingly though, I'm finding myself a little cold in the morning s and middle of the night. It is due to the Harmattan season. It is a dry wind which blows from the Sahara and should be ending soon. I even fear to bathe as the water will shock to the system in the chilly morning air. And everything has become is a a struggle to keep anything clean for any length of time. The one bonus of this Harmattan (besides helping sound to travel over far distances) is that it drastically reduces the number of mosquitoes, my mortal enemy and bringer of malaria. I'll take being dirty over malaria any day.

Now Ghana, like India (and perhaps many other places in he world) is a cell phone crazed population. On every corner you can top up your phone, transfer units, make "space-to-space" calls, charge your phone, buy a new one, choose from 4 different networks. I brought a phone I was using in India and am now using it here.

The number is 233-27-5788023. Feel free to call anytime, though not usually after 9pm Ghana time as I may be asleep (there's not much to do in a village with no electricity when the night falls). And they have introduced new money since my last visit. Now they have 10,000 and 20,000 notes which drastically helps reduce bulging pockets or carrying bricks of money around. Now, there is even talk of chopping a few zeros off the numbers and changing the whole monetary scheme.

I have attached few photos of some kids from Dzogadze and the Alps. Apologies if you get any of my e-mails more than once, it is hard to manage hundreds of addresses. And if you find all of this to be too long then don't read it. I was thinking of starting a blog but requires to much then stopped thinking about it.

Until next time,

curtis kwadzo

PS....sorry if I didn't get to see/talk to some of you before I left...was kind of busy and had to take care of business. We shall meet again when I return in a few months.

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