By John Owoo
(National Theatre, Accra)
Cool winds from the low nighttime temperature lash the magnificent edifice of the National Theatre in Accra as I move past several patrons while acknowledging greetings from artists, arts administrators and academics.
My mission – a very simple one – to see “Diema”, a contemporary Ghanaian music and dance performance composed and choreographed by Prof. Paschal Younge and Dr. Zelma Badu-Younge (Ohio University, USA). It eventually turns out to be one of the inspiring productions in recent years.
Comprising members of the National Symphony Orchestra, National Dance Company, Noyam African Dance Institute, Bi-Tonic Singers, Azaguno, Chinese dancer Chengxin Wei and Osu Presby SHS Choir, the production is without doubt a creative brainstorm with indelible images and fast moving scenes that kept viewers glued to their seats.
With influences from several Chinese, Korean as well as indigenous classical / folk dance forms derived from Chinese opera, martial arts and temple dances, one could clearly notice the commitment of the dancers as they move in near flawless formations.
Directed by Nii Tete Yartey and conducted by Isaac Annoh, “Diema” is indeed a thrilling, magnificent and spectacular performance that is packed with rhythm, songs, dance and drumming that appear to raise the roof of the theatre as loud cheers and applause greet every scene.
With soft, nimble and swift movements alongside flailing arms, wrists, hands and heads, the dancers sometimes move in unison while interspersing delicate moves with solos and duets that move in harmony with tunes from the orchestra.
Undeniably, the use of traditional dances form several cultures by the choreographer dazzled the crowd who applauded while showcasing their appreciation for a highly contemporary production that has its heart firmly implanted in ancient traditions.
Employing Japanese Taiko drumming, Korean Samulnori alongside inflections from Mande pieces (Guinea and Senegal) and Adzogbo, Gadzo, Adowa, Tora (Ghana), the orchestra together with the dancers engaged the audience in a dialogue as they made explorations into the idiosyncratic world of music and dance.
With shakers and other light instruments made available, the enthusiastic members of the audience joined the fun as they play the instruments at the least opportunity -sometimes interfering with refreshing sounds from the orchestra.
Ohio University, Azaguno, National Investment Bank, Family Life Hotel, Glory Oil, Trafix Restaurant, Print Innovation, Yetron, Cowbell and Sky Falls sponsored the production, which is dubbed “Ghana Meets the World”.