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Bongofari (with mic) and Katrine Suwalski on sax at the concert
Bongofari (with mic) and Katrine Suwalski on sax at the concert

Here comes another phase of GH music

VIGOROUS Kpanlogo, Kundum and Bamaya rhythms rendered on traditional drums, balafon, kora, guitar and atenteben with tenor saxophone and concert flute embellishments, filled the night air at the Goethe Institut in Accra on Saturday, November 25, 2023.

The occasion was a concert to round off a two-day workshop to expose blooming rappers, singers and dancehall acts to a variety of Ghanaian traditional rhythms and how they could effectively integrate those patterns into their music.

The brainchild behind the project was well-known Atenteben player, Dela Botri. He has performed in over 90 countries with his little bamboo flute, often working assorted Ghanaian rhythms into his repertoire.

A former member of the Pan-African Orchestra which worked with instruments drawn from across Africa, Botri now leads his Hewale Sounds band which also relies mainly on African instruments and rhythms.

Giving back 

As a way of giving back some of the knowledge and experience acquired over the years, he approached Goethe Institut Ghana to sponsor a working session for up-and-coming musicians to be familiarised with Ghanaian rhythms and for them to decide which of the styles they felt comfortable enough with for recordings of their own.

“The older musicians cannot ignore what the younger folks are doing. We need to embrace what they are up to and work out how we can jointly enhance it,” said Botri on the first day of the workshop at Beda’s Pub & Events Centre at Ashongman in Accra.

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With him to help provide guidance was the well-known musicologist and writer, Prof. John Collins. Using a bell, conga drum and ‘asratua’ shakers, Prof. Collins demonstrated  and explained several examples of Ghanaian rhythms that could be integrated into contemporary genres.  

World Music 

He made reference to what was generally termed World Music in the 1980s and how it paved the way for significant African music content to penetrate the Western music market.

He also mentioned the current wave of Afrobeats music sweeping across the world, adding that it had  created a huge door for African music.

“You can mix the rhythms and use them in different contexts; you can break them up into pieces like a jigsaw puzzle and rework them in the studio. You have the freedom to do this and you are sitting on about 600 rhythms from Ghana alone. You’ve got an infinite number of rhythms to work with,” Prof. Collins advised.

Then came time for the  Hewale Sounds to play out some rhythms for the up-and-coming acts. They quickly spotted which ones they fancied and took some time to work out songs based on some of the rhythms demonstrated to them.

Charlz (right) featured Dela Botri on his song

Artistes that participated in the workshop were Mr Merror,  Bongofari, Ortiz, Kweku Santana, Charlz, Bra Jay, Pordor Kake,  J Domain and King Palma.
Producer and recording engineer, Gomez Beatz, was on hand to record what they had managed to put together with backing from the Hewale Sounds, Danish saxophonist Katrine Suwalski and Belgian-Ghanaian flutist, Esinam Dogbatse.

Suwalski has always been fascinated by Ghanaian rhythms. She first visited Ghana in 1994  and learned a lot working with Okyerema Kwamena Pra  and his Twerammpon Traditionals band in Cape Coast, Central Region.

Her albums contain songs influenced by Ghanaian rhythms such as Kpatsa,  Agbadza and Adowa. She’s since been in and out of Ghana regularly since 2015 and has recorded with Ghanaian percussionist Ayi Solomon and Botri.

Born in Brussels, flutist Esinam Dogbatse travels all over the world with her contemporary style of music. Apart from flute, she also plays the keyboard and percussion. Her African roots always reflect in her music. 

She first met Botri in 2015  at a music festival in Denmark and have since kept in touch. She said she was happy to be part of the workshop and also learned from the proceedings.

Hewale sounds

After a couple of opening pieces from the Hewale Sounds, Mr Merror was the first among the workshop participants to climb the stage at the Goethe Institut concert.  He unleashed a fast-paced Kundum-based rap piece that elicited some applause from the audience. Bongofari was next. He is a dancehall man and presented something tasty based on Bamaya rhythm.

The others followed and managed to show what useful hints they had gleaned from the workshop. They sounded upbeat as they all went up the stage later to do a collective piece, hoping the exposure to new perspectives on rhythm would help prop their wings as they kept up their hopes in the world of contemporary music.

The happiest fellow on the night, however, seemed to be Botri. He was grateful to the Goethe Institut because the project  started as a faint idea but the German cultural institution helped  turn it into reality.

He said the songs by the various artistes, after they had worked on them a bit more with Gomez Beatz, would hopefully be released as an album by March 2024.

The Director of Goethe Institut Ghana, Heike Friesel, had earlier said her outfit was glad to support initiatives that passed on  knowledge and taught younger musicians to improve on what they were doing.

She thanked everyone that contributed to the success of the workshop, especially Suwalski and Dogbatse for paying their own way from Denmark and Belgium respectively to come and help with the project.

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