By John Owoo
(In Abidjan – La Côte d’Ivoire)
The Pan African Youth Orchestra (PAYO) yesterday treated over 5000 students in the Ivorian capital Abidjan to its brand of music, which is characterized by diverse traditional rhythms and their contemporary extensions.
Conducted by Kweku Kwakye, the Ghanaian group – which comprised over twenty musicians – treated the huge crowd to combination traditional rhythms that have been reworked and expanded into neo-classical pieces.
Indeed, rhythms from a vast array of traditional instruments including giant fontonfrom drums, xylophones, atentenben flutes, talking drums and a variety of shakers / bells sent fans on a musical journey that is definitely on the contemporary tip but with its heart and soul firmly embedded in Africa.
Undeniably, an extraordinary bunch of kids playing extraordinary music coupled with the superb direction by Kwakye turned the performance into an African celebration – a celebration that enjoined African kids appreciating their past in contemporary terms.
Interspersed with continuous cheers and catcalls from the students, PAYO created tradition within tradition while showcasing conventional music in an orchestral disposition that recalled the authenticity of indigenous African music and compositions by primordial musicians.
Through a new synthesis that is jubilant and vitally rhythmic, PAYO worked its way into the hearts of the students, some of who jumped onto the stage and performed Ivorian traditional dances as their peers cheered and supported them with rhythmic clapping.
With a voice a voice that is high, supple and charged with enthusiasm, a female atenteben player surprised the crowd as she sang a solo that reverberated through the rather huge auditorium that overlooks lagoon Ebrie with amazing speed.
The concept of MASA was developed in 1990 at the Liege conference of Ministers of Culture and Francophonie. In 1998, MASA was officially named an international organization for the promotion of African performing arts and in January 1999, an agreement was signed between La Côte d’Ivoire and MASA in respect of establishing its headquarters in the capital Abidjan.