Andrew Dunyo, Cuju Dunyo Moses, and Daniel Afotey
Name: Cuju Dunyo Moses
Age: 26 years old
Place of Residence: Native of Dagbamete, still resides there
Education: High school
Name: Andrew Dunyo
Age: 17 years old
Place of Residence: Native of Dagbamete, lives in Toronto
Education: High school
Name: Daniel Afotey
Age: 18 years old
Place of Residence: Native of Dagbamete, still resides there
Education: High school
Q: In the lives of the youths, what importance does music have in Dagbamete - Traditional music, dance, and singing?
A: The importance is that it kind of brings all of us together. We have fun and get to know people because some people don’t really stay here so when it’s time for celebrations and music you see someone and say “oh, you’re dancing!” and it becomes a conversation. That’s when you really get to know each other really well and it gives you more space to talk to someone. It makes socializing a lot easier.
Q: Moses, when you see the importance of music in this village versus other villages, is there a difference or is it the same for most Ewe villages?
M: It’s the same because actually it is meant to bring people together and to help people socialize. We get to know each other and some people will choose to stay even though they have to travel to different places for jobs but it’s during those times that we all come together. We are able to say “this is the children of this man, or this man, and this woman” so that way we can get to know each other more. So it’s all to bring us together.
Q: A lot of times in this village the family systems are very large, and so it seems like these gatherings help these large families maintain a sense of identity. Would you agree with that?
M: Yes. Even if later I have to move to a town far away and I have been gone for a long time and come back for these celebrations, the people here will accommodate me because we are one people and when I do not get to know them, I cannot talk to them because they don’t know me and I don’t know them.
Q: Andrew, since you live in Toronto, I’d like to know what it’s like or what your perspective is on living in North America versus Dagbamete which is your actual home.
A: In Toronto, getting to socialize is really difficult because everybody seems so busy. The only time you can really socialize is in school, and so if there’s no school then there are not many opportunities to socialize at all because you don’t know them and they don’t know you, and people don’t really interact that way; everybody is in their own space. So when you would say “hey what’s up?” that doesn’t work in Toronto whereas here everybody is more open. If there was a group of guys playing soccer here then there would be no problem to join them and from that you become friends. And you become friends with their friends. It expands, unlike in Toronto. If Moses is your friend and he knows me, I will be your friend because you are his friend, but in Canada it doesn’t work that way. People will say “why is he saying hi to me? He’s creepy”. That sort of thing. So here they don’t really think that way, they just think “oh, he is a friend of my friend, so I will be friends with him”.
Q: I have noticed that Ghanaians are very well developed socially and I can imagine being so open and friendly in Canada wouldn’t necessarily be as well received as it is here and that can be very difficult I imagine. You had said earlier that in Toronto there is drumming that you go to every so often. Can you tell me a bit about what that’s like and what that does for the people?
A: Yeah, we are a group of Ghanaian people who are trying to share our culture. We want to show the kids who are born in Canada our culture. Their parents socialize like they do so they can learn how to socialize and so everyone can come together because between all of the links it seems like everyone knows everyone in the Toronto area Ghanaian community. But if people don’t get out then they don’t do that and it becomes more like the Western style of not socializing.
Q: Do you see a difference between the Ghanaians who do go to these groups and the ones who don’t?
A: No, I don’t see a difference. They still know they’re Ghanaian. Unless they are born in North America, then they kind of change. They don’t have the normal Ghanaian behaviour.
Q: In the village, do people talk about music and dancing?
M: Actually they do talk about it. Music is something that comes from our great-great grandfathers and the words in the music has a lot of meanings like how to behave and all this kind of stuff. Like, what the great-grandfather did before is all in the music. So when you are singing all this stuff you get to learn what has happened and this all gets passed down and the rest you get to know the history again. We get to both learn from the music and let it bring us together.
Q: Obviously your village now has running water and electricity, so it’s evolving, and you say the music has been passed down for generations. In light of the changes in the village, how has the music changed or stayed the same?
M: Actually the music has not changed at all. It stays the same forever and ever. Men like Kwashi can compose their own music, and when he composes it the elders in the town will sit together then Kwashi will bring his music out and they will learn it first before the community drumming, and then that’s where they will teach it to us. From them, then we also start to learn new music.
Q: Education tells you stories and history, but in your lifetime do you feel there has been a change in the way education is being administered? Is there any change in the way African culture is taught? Or what changes have occurred in that area?
D: At school they can’t really do the whole drumming thing, they just learn about the way they have to behave like moral things that Westerners do right. They don’t really get to learn more, but as far as community drumming those groups used to make us learn a lot but in the school we only learn a little bit about culture and it’s not often, we only learned for about 30 minutes or an hour.
Q: Over your lifetimes there have been a lot of political changes and changes in government. How has life changed in the village because of these changes?
D: A note about the music question asked earlier – when people are in the house alone they don’t feel happiness, but because when they come together to drum or dance all of them can be happy at that place. But when they are home alone they can’t feel happy. It also brings happiness to the community.
Q: Are there many instances where people are often alone? Or is there usually someone around?
M: There’s always someone around. Let’s say we, Kwashi’s family, we are not staying here, but we have to get out and socialize because the whole village is like one family.
A: Yes absolutely, we are like one big family. When you go out and someone invites you into their home the first thing they do is offer you water because water is a symbol for life and you have to drink it. You have to because the person is showing their hospitality to you so you take the water and start the conversation. Typically you can’t leave without eating something either because Ghanaians will want to show you their hospitality, not because they expect it from you but because they think it’s the right thing to do.
D: Back to the politics thing you mentioned. We have been having a different government for years and it’s changed. The past government, the NPP, they came and developed some part of Ghana, and decided to during their time build some school and roads to rural areas but they couldn’t finish it. So now the new government is coming in and trying to finish the job that the NPP started. So any rural village in Ghana is getting electricity and water is the project that they started and even if a place has only three or four buildings, they will also get electricity and water. So any government that comes along has to continue what the past government did because if you don’t do it, they won’t vote for you because you couldn’t finish what someone started. You need to make sure you can finish what they started.
Q: Has life and culture changed here since you received electricity?
M: When we didn’t have electricity we didn’t have access to computers, radios, TV shows, information about what is happening in the city, and those things. Now we can buy all of these things and learn from them. It has changed things very much. At first we lives things very traditionally and culturally and stuff, and now we have water and we are free. We used to get water from the well, but now the pipe has been made for us and now we have access to internet and can communicate with friends who live very far away. It has changed our lives a lot.
Q: Was there anything that was lost in that transition?
A: It still has the old ways to it. The socializing and things hasn’t changed, it’s just the water and electricity and that we are learning more. We get to hear from people far away and people not near us.
Q: What’s the importance of elders within your village?
A: I saw a friend of mine on the subway in Toronto and we saw an old man so I stood up to give him my seat and he said “why would you do that man” so I said “he’s old, he’s going to fall down” and he replied with “who cares”. Some people have no heart.
Q: I’ve noticed here that even children respect older children. There’s lots of respect like that. What’s the roles of the elders in the education of the village, what roles do they play in the lives of the youth?
A: The elders guide us into doing what’s right. They guide us down the right path and if you go through it, another kid is going to follow your steps. If you see every kid, the respect goes uphill to the older one. When you say to be quiet, they are quiet because they want to learn.
Q: We have noticed this during drumming. When older kids say to be quiet the younger ones do.
M: Yes, if you have noticed when Kwashi is drumming the little kids also want to play because they want to follow the path of the elder. So when Kwashi is old and cannot play again, they will take his position and things with continue in that process and will not stop.
Q: What have the elder told you about before, when they were young about life in Dagbamete?
A: He talked a lot about the past and how kids used to come by and just watch the elders play drums all day. They would watch the arms of the drummers and not move or get up or even take water. And they had fun and it was like a normal day.
Q: Are the children encouraged to learn music or do they do it on their own?
A: They do it on their own. The music draws people. When you guys start practicing you can see that a lot of people come watch and gather around, but if you don’t start then they don’t come. If you start, they hear music and wonder “What’s going on?”
Q: You mentioned about TV, radio, and internet. What’s the relationship between these and the new music and the traditional music? How do the two interact?
A: That new music they think of just as fun music. The cultural music they take as a lesson. They really pay attention to it because there’s more to it.
M: There’s not much interest in the West just besides fun and dancing lightly. Traditional music is very sacred.
Q: As a final question, just curious about your perception of Andrew because he goes to school in the West. How is the perceived? Do you look at him any differently?
D: No. We all have fun and play soccer every day. We hear stories every now and then but kind of just pick up as we left.
Q: Thanks for your time guys.
Interview by Adam Hesse, Summer 2010