Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Ghana Troupe Captivates American Audience

Anis Haffar

Ghana today is beset by unprecedented economic and political upheavals, rumours of coups, government disorders, etc. But you'd never guess it by watching the electrifying performance of the 26 member cultural troupe touring the U.S and Canada. The company was declared the best in the 15th Ghana National Festival of Arts in December 1980.

The ode to their name 'Odomankoma Kyerema' is a dance symbolizing the spirit of togetherness, dedication and readiness of the youth in the national reconstruction. The drums talk and so do the bodies in motion. Unless you knew the language, you'd miss the meaning of the dance.

They have done Europe and represented Ghana at the 21st festival of the child in Yugoslavia. In Italy, they performed in the cities of Milan, Varedo and Rome, appearing also on major television networks. The children - ages from 9 to 18 - unquestionably gave audiences a flashing, hypnotic gleam of their motherland with liveliness and unselfconscious elegance.

"Akwaaba. Akwaaba. We bring you greetings from Ghana," the sonorous talking drums of the ancient empire introduced presentations in Washington, Seattle, Chicago, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Hollywood, and other U.S. music halls. The people of Atlanta too got a look at Ghanaian culture. The youths dressed in an array of colorful uniforms excited a standing room only audience at the Georgia State University where they illustrated the myths, legends and heritage of nine of Ghana's peoples.

It was an eye-opener to watch the skill of the 9 year old virtuoso wielding two crooked sticks over a set of mushroom-shaped drums, and then taking a gourd in hand for a vibrating jig. The quiet enjoyment of his slightly older colleagues was clear. For all the brass and savvy, it was apparent that they had discipline and the best of stage manners.

In the finale, they performed the popular 'twist' and 'bump' dances done by Americans in the 60's and 70's. The director pointed out to the cheering onlookers, "Africa's been doing the twist long before Chubby Checker". Mayor Andrew Young proclaimed that day in spring the 'Odomankoma Kyerema' day for the promotion of a better world.

In Florida, the drums rumbled. The feathers quivered. The children squealed. For a few loud moments just after noon, the songs and folk dances of Ghana filled the corner of Miami with kind of glad fury. At the first outdoor activity ever held at the downtown center for the fine arts, even the workmen putting finishing touches to the center's gallery lay their tools aside and watched the dancers.

"I can't see how they do that," said a 12 year old spectator attempting to mimic the dancers' frantic shimmying. The audience loved the show. The center's director used the term 'kinetic sculpture' to describe the harvest, play, courting and mood themes in the music and choreography. The troupe aimed at rekindling pride in their own culture and fostering understanding among other children who held the key to the future world and peace.

In New York, they participated in community programmes such as Marcus Garvey day, the Harlem week, and the 13th African American day parade. At the criminal correction complex of Rikers Island, the children turned the prison house into a frenzied West African disco. They added finesse in dancing, acting, singing with ease of form and style. The combination of classroom balletics and street corner blues was an instant hit with the inmates.

The Ghana cultural troupe anticipated taking part in the 1984 Olympics to be held in Los Angeles.

talking drums 1983-11-07 which is the voice of the people