h o o t s

[ 01:26 wednesday 15 november – jisonayili , northern ghana ]

i’m just back from another funeral (that sounds terrible !) , this time the other side of jisonayili . more drumming and dancing . i first dropped in on this one on sunday evening but things were far more furious tonight . the lead drummer was quite exceptional , a young fellow by the name of hadi . he’s agreed to give a me a few lessons . i now know that the big bass drum is called the gunguan and the under-arm one with the flexible tone is called the lunga .

immediately prior to this i was in a village called zayuri a few miles north , where i tracked down a couple of trumpeters with the help of iddrisu . he and isiah cycled up there with me and acted as interpreters . we picked our way between the clusters of huts in the moonlight until we found the right one . a few minutes later a lamp had been lit and we were all sitting round on stools . the two trumpeters , of whose names i am uncertain , were clearly masters of the tradtitional dagomba song repertoire . i had my saxophone with me and asked them to teach me a few songs . they confered then played through a short tune twice over . i played it back , not perfectly but pretty close . there was laughter and nodding . the first test had been passed .

they proceeded to teach me a further three songs of varying length and complexity . it soon became clear that i was not going to be permitted to get away with the slightest error . several of the songs had notes which repeated four or five time at various points . these would be easy to get right if one had the words of the song in mind , but without them they were infernally difficult to remember . it’s a long time since i’ve had to concentrate so hard !

when we left i was invited to return on friday night when there will be a larger celebration with drummers and singers . i gave them money to buy some kerosene for it .

as i write i’m listening to minidisc recordings from this evening’s funeral , which have come out magnificently . i also got some great sound and photos at a political rally into which i got swept on sunday afternoon . that was for npp , the main opposition party . i spoke to one of their mps and have hopefully secured a grandstand position to film their president , mr kufuor , when he comes here for their regional uber-rally on the twenty-third of this month .

music and dancing seem to permeate so many areas of life here . in complete contrast to the traditional practices i’ve witnessed i joined in the monthly street-dance in the centre of tamale , where a sound system and a couple of thousand revellers displace traffic for most of the night . it was pretty damn wild , and i was glad to have iso and jonah there to take care of me , but i had a terrific night and the music was excellent . hiphop , highlife , hiplife , reggae , ragga and a bit of calypso . the crowd’s reactions made me suspect it had been a long time since a whitey had been seen there . the low expectations they have of us were revealed by the many amazed (but inaccurate) exclamations of “you can dance !” . i got some good photos .

: cH

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