Ga Adaawe recreational music is women’s affair. So far the Dagarti Nuru and Kare musical types, the Dagomba Tora and Lua, the Grunshi Lenle and the Frafra Singyale.
Recreational music in Ghana is dynamic. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that during the first half of the 20th century, over 30 different recreational musical types emerged in Akanland, most of them having a light-hearted character, sometimes bordering on frivolity and obscenity, among them Wompe, Sikyi, Ntan, Aways, Moses, Osibi, Akosua Tuntum, and Sikabewuepere. In Eweland, during the same period, Atseblaga, Dzidsomegbe, Akpalu, Galu and Atsiagbekor, emerged, while among the Ga Ayika, Gombe, Kolomashie, Tumatu, Tumbe and Kpanlogo musical types emerged in succession.
One of the areas in Ghana most notable for its rich variety of recreational types of music is the Fante coastland stretching from Saltpond to Elmina. The villages and towns of that area including Kormantin, Bandai, Anomabu, Biriwa, Moree, Ekwan and Cape Coast are mainly fishing communities.
But above all, they are music-making communities. They sing as they mend their nets or dye them. They sing as they carve, launch and row their boats, or as they draw in their nets filled with fish, and they make music as they smoke fish, or when they relax and tell stories in the nights in their homes.
Although they also engage in institutional music such as Akom religious band music, Asafo cult, royal durbar and festival music, it is in the entertainment musical field that they excel. They have male, female and youth bands which engage in recreational music. Their “musical instruments” are usually drums, castanets, empty bottles, handclapping, and beating of the bare-chest.
The concern with music and entertainment is partly psychological and is meant to take their minds off the risks and hazards which deep sea fishing life involves. Musical types like Bosoe, Abele, Akrodo, Bonkutu and Tusker dwell on themes of fish, finance, marriage disputes and death. One of the songs says:
“We who go to Twuyi dragnet fishing
We have three-penny pieces
We have no respect for anybody”
“Good herrings are coming.
They are from the South-East.
They will come to the North-West.”
A third song runs thus:
“Alas, alas, we shan’t sleep tonight
Do not deceive me and go to Obuase, or else
I will query you.
You will of course, argue
And your sister will support you.
We shan’t sleep tonight,
Alas! To be alone is miserable.”
From coastal Ghana to the hinterland Akan, among the Asante, Brong Ahafo and Akyem peoples, there is a popular recreational musical type called the Nnwonkoro which is mainly for adult women who are related by kinship. The group meets at night in the street under the moon light to sing in praise or honour of a deceased loved one.
Using instruments such as a castanet, hoe-blade or gong, and hand-clapping, they stand in a circle and sing in solo in turns, all the time making dramatic gestures reflecting their feelings. One piece from the Wenchi Nnwonkoro repertoire is in honour of Nana Kusi, a departed Brong Omanhene.
“Akwanansowaa Nana Kusi.
You have made your contribution.
Son of Prempeh and Akwawua of Asafo;
Like the Black Mamba, himself the Great Old Hunter
The Leopard, known to all mankind.
Akwanansowaa Nana Kusi.
You have played your part.”
Another recreational musical type for adult women which is commonly performed in the Asante Akuapem as well as the Ga Area, Fanteland and Winneba, is the Adenkum.
This is named after a Gourd, one of the musical instruments of the typical Adenkum ensemble, and it is common to Adenkum bands everywhere. The Adenkum gourd has a long neck with a bulb and is held by the neck in the left hand, the bulb end facing downward.
Using a castanet, Dono or hourglass they entertain crowds at festivals like Winneba Aboakyer, Elmina Bakatue, and Otuam Yam Festival celebrations. Their song themes vary from love, to marriage, religion, philosophy and praise of great persons such as this one performed when President Nkrumah visited Elmina.
“You have done well.
Congratulations for a successful fight.
Nkrumah, we bid you welcome.
Nkrumah, you have fought and saved Ghana.
Kwame Nkrumah has done great things for Africa.
Ghana has a great variety of institutional types of music featuring specific musical organizations which perform on social or cultural occasions. The most outstanding examples are the Royal court ensembles like the Kete, Fontomfrom and Mpintin.
Music-makers of these ensembles are recruited from numerous house holds to play for the royal court at durbars and festivals. They combine drums, trumpets, bells, gongs and stringed instruments. There are also Asafo warrior organizations or political pressure groups in Akanland which have their own martial musical types.
There are various religious associations attached to traditional shrines such as the Akonnedi shrine of Larteh. They have their own musical type. Many ethnic groups in Ghana such as Dangme, Ewe, and Akan celebrate female puberty rites while some in Northern Ghana celebrate male puberty rites. There are musical types associated with these celebrations. One of them is Bragoro, a musical type performed in Asante during female puberty rites.
The Bragoro group is a female group which employs the Dondo, the castanet, the double gong, the gourd rattle and hoe-blade. Their songs are performed in solo and chorus and they dance through the town and by the riverside where the girl receives the purification bath.
The Ghanaian extended family system and beliefs in ancestor worship and life after death have created an insatiable desire for elaborate funeral celebrations in the country. In this aspect of traditional culture also, many musical types have been evolved.
An example is the Kurunku. This is a small organization which one encounters in Fanteland, Swedru, Winneba, Apam and the mining towns of Asante and the Western Region. Kurunku is believed to have originated in the 1870s when the Gold Coast Company opened gold mines at Tarkwa, Aboso, Obuasi, Akrokerri and Konongo.
It is said that when mines were flooded, people died in the underground shafts. It was during the funerals of such mine victims that the Kurunku originated and evolved. Kurunku is performed by spontaneous bands. Their instruments include the rattle, gong, castanet, Ampaa drum, Ogyamaa drum and the sleeping pillow and they perform in solo and chorus to mourn the dead.
One of their songs reflects their grief on such occasions:
“I love working in the mines
But I have had too much of it;
Let somebody go and see my mother
And say to her, alas,
I have descended into the grave,
Let somebody come to see my present state,
Let somebody come and visit me.”