By John Owoo
In Madrid – Spain
Courtesy – Goethe-Institut Ghana
An international workshop that focused on music, business and entrepreneurship that included participants from Ghana, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom ended last week in the Spanish capital Madrid.
Dubbed Buzz Meets Biz, the programme which focused on young musicians, promoters, PR personnel and managers – took off in the German capital Berlin in October – and is scheduled to end in November with a ten-day workshop on creativity at the Alliance Française in Accra.
Topics discussed at the workshop, which was opened by Vorge Peralta, Head of Department for Cultural Activities at the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry, include “Small and Large Scale Festivals”, “Role of Big Players in the Recording Industry”, “Concert Promoters” and “Live Music Industry”.
Others are “Management of Publishing Rights”, “New Media”, “DIY”, “Distribution and Funding”, “Marketing and Fundraising”, “Intellectual Property Rights”, “Collective Management in Spain”, “Pedagogical Innovation in the Performing Arts” and “Entrepreneurs in New Media Management”.
Speakers include Tali Carreto (Festival Director), Georgia Taglietti (PR / Communication Expert), Mercedes Ferrer (Artist), Noemi Planas / Javier Olmedo (Gerente Distribution), Julio Marti (Sgae) and Carlos Garcia Doval (Planning / Development Director).
“The workshops were highly enlightening and exposed us to diverse opportunities available to artists while gaining a deep insight into the music landscape in Spain and other European countries”, said Nii Quaye Aryee, a music promoter in Accra.
“I have been encouraged to be creative, fearless, bold and non-apologetic. Indeed, this is how most of the speakers started their careers and succeeded in their endeavors”, said Bettina Ntimpirangeza, a participant from Germany.
Buzz Meets Biz is co funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, Fundacion Sgae, Coopearació Espanõna, Goethe-Institut Ghana and the Alliance Française in Accra.Read More »
By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
An inspiring, issue driven and cutting edge performance by talented dancers over the weekend received a rapturous applause from a near capacity audience at the Alliance Française in Accra.
Titled “Wake Up”, the piece boldly questions the degradation and destruction of the environment with an amazing combination of expressive movements alongside grace, speed, power, rhyme and rhythm that reflected the current state of the earth.
Choreographed by Valerie Miquel, the performance remained entertaining and accessible despite dealing with hard facts that has bedeviled the environment over the past few decades. Unprecedented hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis and the gradually disappearance of the arctic ice is a clear testimony.
“It’s soothing to see artists expressing concern over issues that confront the very existence of living organisms through their work. Undeniably, the choreographer translated the problem of the environment in a highly relatable form”, said Andy Miller, a teacher from the United Kingdom.
Assisted by Julius Yaw Quansah and Vivian Boateng – the dancers, clutching mobile phones and wrapped in rubber bags – managed to take the audience through a journey of self-reflection with rapid and restrained movements that highlighted the current state of the environment.
With near seamless transitions and carefully crafted sequencing, Miquel displayed a rich vision of movement vocabulary that was effectively accompanied by her remarkable talent and strong voice, which reminded the audience to save the environment before it’s too late.
Interspersed with music by Nicolas Baby-Niktus and Werner Goos, she incorporated diverse emotions ranging from yearning, ignorance, recklessness, playfulness and gentleness as the stage was engulfed with energy, purposefulness and warmth.
With a number of dance pieces to her credit, Miquel began her study of classical dance at age six and started dancing professionally at age twelve for Janine Solane’s Dance Company. She has equally choreographed and directed the Uganda National Contemporary Ballet.
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By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
Paintings that recall 19th Century expeditions by Europeans on the African continent by UK based Ghanaian painter Godfried Donkor is currently underway at the Galleria Mall, Kempinski Hotel in Accra.
Titled “The First Day of the Yam Custom 1818”, the paintings, which are based on an image by the British adventurer, author and zoologist Thomas Edward Bowdich, explore and expose the contractions that surround such images that were circulated largely in Europe.
The Yam custom, which is without doubt, an important event in the Asante calendar, marks the first harvest of yams and equally involves various forms of tributes to the King, who is usually adorned in gold and surrounded by dozens of paramount chiefs, chiefs and subjects.
Indeed, the festival has both religious and economic significance – religiously, the festival is used to thank the Asante gods and ancestors for the new harvest and to traditionally outdoor the new yam while celebrating a bumper harvest that will ensure food security and economic growth.
In a large-scale work, Donkor vividly depicts the late King Osei Bonsu (1804 – 1824) in the midst of a procession. The items he wears have been chosen to symbolize his fearless leadership and to indicate his role as the guardian of his people alongside flags that represent European countries that trade with the Asante Kingdom.
Built upon a process of mural painting and transported by the energy of applied social utopia, the repainting of Bowdich’s original illustration unfolds within the collective subconscious of belonging to the vast and thick layers of blackness.
With the revival of this work, Donkor draws parallels between analogies of the past and the present. From this perspective, contexts, events and practices are free for transfer and reinterpretation.
Affected, concerned and subjected to the abundant manifestations of white power, the artist’s work challenges the global mainstream’s embrace of notions of transformation and progress, while humorously poking fun at the status quo – whose only transformative and open-minded nature lies in a change of packaging.
In repainting Bowdich’s foundational drawing, Donkor combines historical and sociological accounts with a contemporary artistic understanding of a work, which triggered British appetite for Ghana, and paved the way for the scramble for gold.
The exhibition, which is being curated by Koyo Kouoh ends on Monday October 30 2017.
By John Owoo
(In Berlin – Germany)
A three-week training programme designed for young musicians, promoters, music journalists, publishers and public relations practitioners is currently underway in the German capital Berlin.
Dubbed “Buzz Meets Biz”, twelve Ghanaians are part of the group, which comprise participants from Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. They will equally participate in two other workshops on “Business Development” in Spain and “Creation of Music” in Ghana.
The Berlin workshop is offering insights into music business – how to create revenues, deal with licensing and copyright issues, set up a distribution network and navigate the live music sector while gaining a deeper understanding of Germany’s music markets.
Organized by Andrea Goetzke, topics being discussed include “Introduction to Music Business”, “Music Scene in Berlin”, “Music in Film and Television”, “Music and Brands”, “Artist Management”, “Distribution and Labels” and “Touring / Business of Music from African Countries in Europe”.
Others are “International Tour Booking”, “Music Publishing”, “Music Law”, Copyright Online”, “The Role of New Technologies in the Music Business”, “Do-It-Together Strategies”, “Movement of Sounds” and “Techno / House Culture in Berlin”.
“The workshops have been insightful and highly educative – undeniably it makes me question the music industry in Ghana. I have realized I do have a lot to learn since I have plans to take my music to the world scene”, said Alex Wondergem, a musician from Ghana.
“Buzz Meets Biz” is a rewarding experience. I come from a contemporary background of music, which has a specific market. Nevertheless, I have been able to expand my knowledge while experiencing the fantastic music scene of Berlin”, added Jose Luis Fraga Carneiro”, a musician from Spain.
Among the high profile speakers / moderators are Dr. Jan Michael Kün (Academic / DJ), Prof. Dr. Hanno Fierday (Entertainment Lawyer), Dr. Till Kreutzer (Copyright Expert), Daniela Seitz (Writer /DJ), Melissa Perales (Festival Director / Promoter), Karolin Kretzschmar (Artist / Songwriter), Amir Abdullah (DJ / Label Owner) and Andy Inglis (Booking / Management Expert).
Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and Goethe-Institut Ghana, “Buzz Meets Biz” is being organized by Music Pool Berlin, iRights, Fundacion Sgae, Cooperación Española, Africori, Goethe-Institut and the Alliance Française Accra.
By John Owoo
In Accra – Ghana)
The National Dance Company of Ghana together with guest artists recently charmed dance lovers in Accra with “Alkebulan’s Awakening”, a dance drama that is full of contrasts – old and new, soft and hard, pretty and ugly, slow and fast.
Performing at the National Theatre in Accra, the dancers moved in and out of stage with one action smoothly joining the next while a heroin undergoes challenging rites in search of her children dispersed throughout the African diaspora.
Co choreographed by Stephany Yamoah (Ghana) / Colette Marie Eloi (USA) and directed by Nii Tete Yartey, the piece is about the forces that seek to possess her as she goes on a formidable mission that requires the use of an innate power to save her children.
Alongside a brilliant rendition of compositions of Isaac Annoh by the National Symphony Orchestra and play by Mawuli Semevor, the performers exhibited a fluid energetic mix of traditional movements alongside a significant amount of creative ones.
“The piece accurately depicts the emotions invoked by the music – It is subdued, gloomy and interspersed with movements that are not technically challenging. Nevertheless, the production draws from this simplicity to create a focused atmosphere”, said Charlotte Smith, a dancer from the United Kingdom.
“Alkebulan’s Awakening” is a philosophical process, which gracefully and elegantly narrates a story of massive significance. Indeed, it’s good to see a Ghanaian audience rising to cheer two female choreographers”, added Yaa Manu, a lawyer in Accra.
With an amazing show of vigor and flexibility by the artists, this inspiring piece equally illustrates the talent of Yamoah and Eloi in effectively fusing and translating seemingly diverse forms into highly expressive movements characterized by energy and a true sense of purpose.
Clad in different colourful costumes with a huge stylized tree as props, the artists emphasized strength and power as they moved slowly, crisply whilst the heroine spark’s controversy leading to battles as she engages in deft maneuvers to locate and rescue her children.
The National Theatre of Ghana and Global African Total Theatre presented the performance in collaboration with Elwah Movement Dance Theatre. Zulumande, Sankofa, African American Association of Ghana and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture supported the production.
By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
Extraordinary voices from two female musicians Nana Yaa and Cina Soul over the weekend delighted a cheering audience during a magnetic performance at the Goethe-Institut in Accra.
Performing at a colourful event that marked the 60th anniversary of the relationship between Ghana and Germany, Yaa, who had problems with her voice owing to tight rehearsal schedules, managed to rock the audience with poise, flair and a majestic stagecraft.
Accompanied by a cool blend of traditional Ghanaian rhythms with diverse music genres, Yaa took to the stage like a hurricane and simply affected every single member of the audience as she run around singing, dancing and cajoling the audience onto their feet.
With her hands up in the air – she seemed to be absorbing energy from the universe – as she unleashed the power trapped within her body by delivering a performance that was simply magical, intense and compelling.
Backed by the Deep Wave Band, Yaa managed to get most of the members of the audience to the dance floor as she engaged the audience with hilarious anecdotes and virtually inviting some of them for dance duets.
“Nana Yaa is a talented musician with a gift for performance – she is without doubt one of the new generation of musicians who will help sustain Ghana’s presence on the world music scene”, said Kokou Mensah, a Togolese music critic in Accra.
Earlier, Cina Soul, who is noted for her unadulterated vocal power, dazzled the crowd with layering songs alongside beats, loops and rhythms that kept the audience at the edge of their seats. With wild rhythms flowing from the band, she calmly interspersed her singing with subtle dance movements.
With a penetrating mind and voice, storylines from Soul – which are delivered with high-pitched energy – are similarly captivating and quite therapeutic. Indeed, while in full swing, her songs seem to flow from the bottom of her heart.
A dynamic performer whose energy can transform a show into a joyful and unforgettable festivity, Soul has constantly been growing, learning and developing to the point where she’s on the verge of a breakthrough into a new realm of recognition.
German Embassy in Accra in collaboration with German companies and institutions in Ghana supported the performance.
By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
Africana Dance Ensemble last Saturday delighted dance lovers at the Alliance Française in Accra with a curious blend of creative and traditional dance pieces from Ghana and other African countries.
In an intense performance that marked the activities of MusicXchange Ghana (MXC), the group showcased a dramatic fusion of “Atsiagbekor”, “Fumefume”, “Yve”, “Akli” (Guinea), “Zulu Warrior Dances” (South Africa) with creative dances such as “Africa Must Unite” and “Korokoro”.
With a host of traditional African instruments, the ensemble delighted the audience with visual originality, technical brilliance and emotional potency as they moved in unison while recalling ancient ritualistic dances and songs.
Clad in colourful costumes, the group vividly brought into sharp focus, the beauty, richness, diversity and variety of traditional African culture as they delivered this well layered performance with style, grace and effortless ease.
“It’s always refreshing to see exceptional blending of dance and music from other cultures – it magnifies the fact that there is beauty in multiplicity while reminding mankind of the need to respect all cultures and traditions,” said Yaa Ampomah, a dancer in Accra.
Later in the evening, dondo virtuoso, Mohamed Alidu’s charmed the audience with a cool synthesis of elements of reggae, highlife and other styles that are fast paced and driven by strong percussion. Undeniably, Dagomba rhythms take centre stage and tend to grab the attention of the listener in sustained manner.
Performing with jazzy spontaneity through firmly intertwined arrangements of songs that have passionate content and logical meaning, the five piece band transported the audience into several directions of the world with a climax in the Northern regional capital of Tamale.
MXC is an international non-profit organization that supports positive change through the power of music and has successfully executed events in Accra, Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi and Aflao.
In 2016, MXC released a compilation album of traditional Ghanaian music featuring a diverse selection of artists and cultural troupes from around the country. The album was sold through a crowd funding campaign aimed at raising funds to support various projects in music education, music therapy and music production in Ghana.
MXC has equally supported the following projects – drum and dance classes for students at the Akropong School for the Blind, Trinity Yard School and Berekuso Music Project as well as an audio engineering workshop at the Music Department, University of Ghana (Legon).
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By John Owoo
(At large in James Town – Accra)
Ghanaian performance artist Va Bene Elikem Fiatsi and his German counterpart John Herman recently stunned patrons at the just ended Chale Wote Street Art Festival with a durational performance and living installation that explored human vulnerability, death and the will to survive.
Set in the now closed James Fort Prison, which ironically is a former colonial legacy, the two nude artists immersed themselves in mud and water that have been mixed in a huge wooden structure with animal bones scattered in strategic parts.
With their nude bodies entirely covered in mud, they crawl on their knees, hands and stomachs in well calculated movements as they search for everything and nothing while attempting to re-examine the human sense of incompleteness or otherwise.
Surrealistic scenarios emerge as they grab the bones in a vain search for some kind of metaphysical clarity while seeking for factors, circumstances and social constructs that solidify our identity as human beings.
They equally examine society, tribes, family, relatives, customs and traditions, political economy, political powers, gender roles, cultural and social beliefs, religions and climatic conditions as they freeze in various postures and maneuvers.
After two hours of non-stop performance in the prison grounds, the pair spotting bruises from falling, crawling and walking in mud and stones struggle onto the street amidst cheers and surprise from festival revelers as they paraded the streets hosting the festival.
The performance is equally an investigative commentary into how water, a veritable common denominator of our shared existence binds social ecology together in ways that nurture peaceful co-existence as well as deadly wars and conflicts that has characterized the world in contemporary times.
Chale Wote Street Art Festival 2017 attracted over 30 thousand local and international visitors including nine artists from various African countries, who were invited under the Moving Africa Project of the Goethe-Institut.
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