By John Owoo
“Music Across Borders”, a documentary film by the Ghanaian filmmaker / composer Gameli Tordzro last week premiered at the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, Legon.
Shot in Ghana, Scotland and Denmark, the 45-minute film, which centres on Danish saxophonist Katrin Suwalski, explores how music cuts across physical and mental borders, power of languages and its impact on both artists and the public at large.
The film, which forms part of a research into “Creative Arts and Translating Cultures”, equally makes allusions to migration in the light of the ongoing risky trips amidst loss of life by migrants attempting to reach Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
Employing Ewe, Danish and English, languages, Tordzro ensures the emotional, spiritual and multi cultural essence of the documentary vividly pops up at the viewer as artist after artist narrates his / her experience with music collaborations that cross borders.
Interspersed with scenes of performances and rehearsals, percussionist Ayi Solomon (Denmark/Ghana), singer/composer Elivava Mensah (Ghana), percussionist Odomankoma Okyerema Pra (Ghana) and others join Sulwalski in recalling a journey she made over twenty years ago to Ghana, which resulted collaborations that were musically and spiritually rewarding.
Solomon, who is a member of Suwalski’s band “Another World”, joined her on a tour of Ghana in 2008, which was full of reminiscence of her previous trip and it’s positive influence on her career as a musician. Indeed, Suwalski relived her first visit with further performances in Cape Coast and Accra.
In spite of some limitations, there is big-heartedness at the film’s core that comes across powerfully while revealing the uncanny flow of energy among artistes notwithstanding their background, culture or country of origin.
Music Across Borders forms part of a wider study on the role of translation – understood in its broadest sense in transmission, interpretation and transformation – as well as sharing of languages, values, beliefs, histories and narratives.
Others are research interpreting, translation and multilingual practices in challenging contexts at the borders of language, body, law and state as well as evaluating appropriate research methods (traditional and arts-based) and develop theoretical approaches for this type of academic exploration.