Name: Camara (this is a pseudonym)
Birthplace: Anlo-Afiadenyigba (Ewe)
Place of Residence: Accra since 1963
Education: Primary School, did not attend Senior Secondary School. Finished school in 1963.
Occupation: No longer works. Was in the Armed Forces as a civilian employee, not as uniform personnel. Completed driving school. Worked for a German construction company called CP Construction.
With Supplement from Agya Yaw
Name: Agya Yaw
Birthplace: Akim-Oda (Akan)
Not from Dagbamete. Came for healing at the Shrine.
COURTNEY: You came [to Dagbamete] for the Shrine then. Did you get here on Sunday?
CAMARA: Sunday we were there.
COURTNEY: I was there too.
CAMARA: I saw you…it was time almost into the night before you left.
Exchange regarding where Courtney was sitting during the Shrine, and the time spent at the Shrine Ritual.
CAMARA: I tried to stay for most of [the Shrine Ritual] because it’s very different from what
I’ve seen at home so I was trying to learn more about it. Did you take part in the Shrine?
CAMARA: Yeah, we were there.
AGYA: We took part of it.
COURTNEY: When everyone went up and they had their chickens and everything else and they were giving, I think it’s called their pledges. Is that correct, or do I have it wrong?
CAMARA: You mean, after they came to [word incipherable here], when they kill.
COURTNEY: Yes. Did you do that as well?
CAMARA: It isn’t everybody. It isn’t everybody. But if…
COURTNEY: The people who chose to, yes.
CAMARA: the Shrine requests or you are coming to [word indecipherable here] the Shrine, you can have the fowl and then perform, go through the process. Uh hueh. But none of us that day was affected, to provide the fowl for anything.
COURTNEY: Oh, okay.
CAMARA: But we were there throughout.
AGYA: And every year, you must sacrifice, make a sacrifice.
COURTNEY: Every year you make a sacrifice?
AGYA: Easter you must come and make sacrifice.
CAMARA: That is general work.
AGYA: Those who was not able to come during the Easter.
CAMARA: They are those who continue to come. They are those who now want to enter fresh.
AGYA: And those who make promise…
CAMARA: And those who have made some other…
AGYA: to make thanksgivings.
CAMARA: Mm hmm.
COURTNEY: Have to come in to…oh, okay.
CAMARA and AGYA: Yes.
CAMARA: So all those things.
COURTNEY: Why is it at Easter that everyone gives their…you said at Easter they come in and everyone makes a sacrifice, yes?
CAMARA and AGYA: Yea.
COURTNEY: Why at Easter?
AGYA: Easter, eh, yearly anniversary.
COURTNEY: Oh, okay.
AGYA: For those who wasn’t able to come during the anniversary. Any anniversary you come, you must make the sacrifice. So if you were not able to come, any time you come you will make the sacrifice.
COURTNEY: Oh, I see. So do you come to the Shine, because I understand that it happens every Sunday?
CAMARA: Mm hmm.
COURTNEY: Do you come every Sunday to it?
AGYA: If you are here, you are going to go every Sunday.
COURTNEY: You would come.
CAMARA: Mm hmm.
COURTNEY: Oh, okay.
CAMARA: But every day, we go there to take a small bath and then…
AGYA: Make for prayers.
CAMARA: Make prayers. Go to the fire. Small, small. Everyday, morning and evening.
COURTNEY: Every day?
CAMARA: Every day. When it’s over, we shall leave here and start preparing to go and then do the same. So, every morning around 7:30 if you get there, you will see that fire is set. And the people are there, you know, rubbing their skin with the water. Pour some small tap? on the pots, three pots as you go you pray to the gods. And then you smear the oil and then you come to the gods, the one not on top, but the down one, where the fire is set.
COURTNEY: Yes. So the Shrine’s very important to you then?
CAMARA and AGYA: Yes.
CAMARA: So, that is where you receive the healing small, small.
AGYA: So that you get your [indecipherable].
COURTNEY: So if there’s something that is ailing you, you can go to the Shrine…
CAMARA and AGYA: Yes.
COURTNEY: and pray to the gods…
CAMARA and AGYA: Yes.
COURTNEY: to get the healing for it.
CAMARA: Mm hmm.
COURTNEY: I was really interested in watching it to see all of the dancing that went on, and the drumming, and everything else. It seems like music is incorporated in so many aspects of just life, and every day within this village. Is it the same for the villages or for the cities that you came from?
CAMARA: Those songs are solely composed for the Shrine.
COURTNEY: Oh, okay.
CAMARA: It is never sung anywhere else.
COURTNEY: So, how would you learn it? If the songs are composed only for the Shrine…
COURTNEY: how do people learn it?
CAMARA: Oh, as you…Sundays, as they drum they do everything, you are going there each time, each Sunday you also get to know, hear of the words, the way, and then you…
COURTNEY: So you would learn it through the experience.
CAMARA: [Indecipherable sentence - would teach you how to] But at your usual time, your leisure time, if you feel you have a friend who knows how to sing it, then you can be going through the motions…you become acquainted, you know, to it. But it’s not a song that you hear from town, this one will sing it and this one will sing it, oh no. It is always here.
COURTNEY: It’s always, and it’s only sung at the Shrine on Sundays…
CAMARA: On Sundays, Sundays, Sundays, Sundays.
COURTNEY: I noticed that there weren’t a lot of children at the Shrine. It was mostly adults. Is there a reason why there’s not as many children there? There were lots towards the end that I saw, but in the morning and the afternoon, I didn’t see very many children. Do you know why that is?
CAMARA: Yeah, it is only Sundays that you find children there. Those children there are only after small, small chop. After the whole thing, they used to serve, they used to cook up a very small, and then they steam the meat, and then they share among adults, children. And the children are always there to take part in the meat. That’s all they are there for. Apart from the small, small ones that their mothers will left to cut into the Shrine, whereby the elders who just, you know give them the oil [motion to finger on lips]. So small, small babies, apart from that yeah. Those that you see cueing in a line, they are there for small, small chop. That’s why. That day I don’t know whether you stayed to see them cue.
COURTNEY: Yes I did. They were all lined up. Smallest to tallest.
CAMARA: [Indecipherable few words] I watch you, they way you started now see, you were always there.
COURTNEY: I saw them. I tried to stay for the whole thing.
CAMARA: After they serve the meat, they will come with another meat with porridge [gave the Ewe name for this after] and they take and put it in the pot. And then serve them small, small, small, so they only come there for…
CAMARA: Though they belong to, they are in the town here. And they are a member, but they don’t have anything doing, every time, every day there, apart from those who come for healing. So Sunday is the only day you can find them there.
CAMARA: Those that you can find in the day there, are those…
COURTNEY: Who need healing.
CAMARA: who need, they will come there.
COURTNEY: You mentioned when you were just talking about the Shrine, the elders. What’s the role of an elder in a village? Because we don’t have, in Canada we have grandparents that we might turn to for advise, or different people that we would ask, but we don’t have necessarily have what we would call elders, especially in a big city. So it’s something very new to me. What’s the role of an elder?
CAMARA: Oh okay. If I say elders, I mean those who are close to the Shrine. And they are the only people who have the right to sit down and discuss, then modify whatever, if they have something to modify.
COURTNEY: In the village or in the Shrine?
CAMARA: In the Shrine. They do all that. They take charge of the whole, the Shrine. Nobody can go there and do anything that you please, no. They are the people I’m calling adults. But not every adult that will get there to do anything, like will call that the man there...they are their own boss. And then your man, second. And then a third, also is another person over here.
COURTNEY: Yes, I saw that…
CAMARA: Also there is one who will sit by [Ewe work here], that short bowl fire. Yeah. It’s next to…but I can see more or less, four.
COURTNEY: So, how does a village decide who that will be? How do you know who the elders of the Shrine will be?
CAMARA: Well, I don’t know how they do their selection. It’s a family thing somehow.
COURTNEY: Oh, okay.
CAMARA: Over here, I learnt this more. If you look at the size of the town, it is no big town. Except these things [points to Kathy Armstrong Lodge] make it very, very, you know, attractive. It’s a village somehow.
CAMARA: And therefore, they don’t have any big family here. That is what we are saying, but it will not remain a family thing altogether. I mean, gradually, gradually, it will become something like a promotion. As you are also there, you will learn, they will see that your activity is okay. You can keep things, you can do this, then we can push you a bit. You are there, we this man is, they push you a bit. You can get to the position of.
[Phone call interruption]
COURTNEY: I have another questions for you. I’m full of questions, because I just want to be able to understand so much of it.
CAMARA: The small that I know about it is what I can tell you.
COURTNEY: You know far more than I do.
CAMARA: Because I am not here, I came with a problem and...
COURTNEY: So, do you not have a Shrine in the village that you’re from?
CAMARA: Oh, we have…
COURTNEY: You do have one?
CAMARA: We do have, but you know Shrines are different, different.
COURTNEY: I did not know that.
CAMARA: But we have this gods. They are different, different. Some are more powerful than others.
COURTNEY: Ohh...So is this Shrine a more powerful Shrine then?
CAMARA: Oh yes. Oh yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
COURTNEY: Oh, I did not know that at all. So would some of the people that are members to this Shrine, might also be members to another one as well?
ATTIPOE: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Some people belong to another Shrine before coming here. But, it is not anything prohibitive that while here you cannot be a member of the other Shrine. Maybe the other one is a family one. You cannot get away serving that one, that it would be fine. At times though maybe, if you come here, this one will tell you, go home and perform some ritual at home before coming to me. Because you also connect...in the spiritual world. You don’t know. So they talk, they discuss inside, and if there’s anything that you have to go home and perform, they will tell you. You go and do it before. It depends.
COURTNEY: So it depends on the problem.
CAMARA: Mm hmm, the problem.
COURTNEY: Sometimes they’ll say go home and go to your own Shrine and then come back after.
CAMARA: Your own Shrine before, mm hmm.
COURTNEY: Because we are a lot of studying music here as well, can I ask you some questions about your experiences with music?
CAMARA: Uhh, well, with music.
COURTNEY: Do you, are you a drummer, are you a dancer, or…
CAMARA: I don’t do, for dancing, I dance, but no, just our local one as the drum is being played. I can do the dancing. That’s all I know. I don’t compose music. I don’t go to the music field to do anything of the kind, whereby I can say this, this now to satisfy your requirements.
COURTNEY: Oh, this is giving me excellent information. It’s fantastic. So, where did…you dance to the drumming when it happens in your village, yes?
CAMARA: In the village too as well, yeah.
COURTNEY: So, who taught you the dances that you do?
CAMARA: Oh, let me tell you. While you are there [referring to our drumming spot] playing the drums, you leave the drums there, and after the session you leave them and go away. Don’t you see the children also come and practice on it? They do that small, small, and grow with it. And then you will see them, they are catching the rhythm, the music, the sound of the drum.
COURTNEY: By listening?
CAMARA: By listening.
COURTNEY: And practicing?
CAMARA: And then practicing small, small. That’s how they grow.
COURTNEY: And is that how you learned as well?
CAMARA: Yeah, yeah. You know there are certain things, you possess it. God will give you from your infancy, you wouldn’t know. That is the field that you can push to your giving you. So somebody will know how to sing, and will not know how to drum. But somebody will know how to drum, and will not know how to sing. So that is your talent. So all those things come together to form a group. And then, that’s all.
COURTNEY: That’s very interesting. I absolutely agree that you have talents, and some might be stronger in some areas than in other. So, in your village where you live, where you come from, is it a lot of traditional…
CAMARA: Oh yes.
COURTNEY: African music that is…
CAMARA: Yes, yes.
COURTNEY: I’ve noticed around here that a lot of the, especially with a lot of the younger boys who are maybe 18, 19, 20, a lot of them have cell phones and then they have music that they have on their cell phones. So it seems like technology has possibly changed the…
CAMARA: Are changing the music.
COURTNEY: Have you noticed that at all?
CAMARA: Oh, I know, I do agree with you that technology has imposed the younger ones now, fighting to reach a stage, whereby they will be called experts of a field which they will, they are trying to advertise themselves. But it’s not something, we the older ones, at this time, we just look on it as it is their time, so they do it. So we don’t much involve ourselves in it. If I like, I can do it, but we leave it for the young ones to do. We say this is their time.
COURTNEY: What’s your opinion on the traditional music then, if this new music is being brought in, what about the traditional music in ten years time, or twenty years time, when these younger people are listening to different sorts as well…
CAMARA: Oh of course.
COURTNEY: Because I see some of them drumming, and I see a lot of them dancing still, but what’s your opinion on where traditional music will be?
CAMARA: You know, World Cup just ended not quite long ago.
COURTNEY: I watched it.
CAMARA: And it is written there on the plaque placket No Racism. Do you understand what I mean?
COURTNEY: Mm hmm.
CAMARA: Fine. No Racism. Fine. It will happen one day that foreign and local, if blended, will be a very good music. You cannot say this is an African music and therefore because I am not an African, I am not going to. This is a European music, therefore I am not going to. You bring the two, until one day, one day, we will see the younger generations, ahhhh! Where they will perform where, so this is what we have started. We are coming together, black and white. We are same. So, one day, one day, you will see that the music industry full of, anyway, talented ones who can compose it.
COURTNEY: I hope so.
CAMARA: It will be a very nice thing.
COURTNEY: I hope so. Because I’m a music teacher back at home, and I hope that I can bring some of the things that I’ve learnt here back to Canada and teach it to my students so that they have a better understanding of music as a whole. Because music isn’t Western music, it’s not African music…
CAMARA: African music.
COURTNEY: It’s not French music, English music, German music, it’s just music…
CAMARA and AGYA: Music.
COURTNEY: And it’s everything all included. And I’m very excited to see how much dance seems to be incorporated with everything. You don’t just stand there playing the bell. You have to move as you are playing it. And, I think that adds a whole extra something special, and I hope that I’m able to do it justice when I bring it home.
CAMARA: Yeah. It’s like, if your body also don’t go with it, you don’t march your body with the rhythm, then it means, you know, the whole atmosphere there will look dull. So, with vivid, you know, show of, how do you call it, your body on the whole thing, you know, people will see actually something is happening. But if you just put it down, then, no! [showing actions to contrast these elements].
COURTNEY: It’s more exciting to watch too.
CAMARA: Of course.
COURTNEY: And when you start getting your body into it, it makes you more excited as a player and everything else.
CAMARA: That’s it, that’s it. Even in the football field as you are passing the ball, you don’t [showing actions] then you know, you move your body, you swerve. You do this. They will term you as somebody who is skillful in doing it. Mm hmm. So all these things need skill.
COURTNEY: Yes, and practice.
COURTNEY: And a little more skill, and a little more practice, and then maybe one day you’ll get it.
CAMARA: For sure. You are picking up there. You are doing wonderful things.
The shrine brings many people to Dagbamete for various reasons. As the man I interviewed wished to remain anonymous, I will refer to him from here on out as Camara. Camara is the West African name for teacher and I feel that it is fitting, as for one short hour this man was my teacher and I his student. Camara is sixty-eight years old, and though he was born in a small Ewe village, he has lived for almost fifty years in Accra. He finished primary school, but seemed humored by me when I asked if he had attended Senior Secondary School, replying that he had not. Camara was in the Armed Forces as a civilian employee and then later worked for a German construction company called CP construction, though he no longer works now.
Camara arrived in Dagbamete only shortly before I met him to seek healing from the shrine. He identified that "some people belong to another shrine before coming here. But, it is not anything prohibitive that while here you cannot be a member of the other shrine." I wondered why people would come to Dagbamete if they had a shrine in their own village. Camara clarified for me that "shrines are different…some are more powerful than others." The shrine in Dagbamete is a more powerful shrine, and it seems to me that because of this many people are drawn to it.
Every Sunday a shrine ritual takes place at the shrine in Dagbamete; people from all over come to make pledges and promises to the gods. Every year, members of the shrine must come to make a sacrifice for the yearly anniversary. Usually this happens at Easter, but if you are unable to come at Easter, then "any time you come you will make the sacrifice." However, this does not mean that people cannot come and seek help from the shrine at other times in the year, like Camara was doing in August of 2010. During my stay in Dagbamete, Camara was visiting the shrine daily, where he would "make prayers, go to the fire…everyday. Morning and evening…Every morning around 7:30 if you get there, you will see that the fire is set. And the people are there…rubbing their skin with the water…As you go, you pray to the gods." I asked Camara if the shrine was important to him. To him, "that is where you receive the healing." I had attended one shrine ritual in Dagbamete and observed that music and dance was incorporated within it. When I asked Camara about this, he told me that "those songs are solely composed for the shrine…[They are] never sung anywhere else." People learn these songs through experience; they attend the shrine each Sunday until "you also get to know, hear of the words, the way."
I noticed during my attendance at the shrine ritual that there were very few children also in attendance. When I questioned Camara about why this was, he responded by telling me that "it is only Sundays that you find children there. Those children there are only after small, small chop. After the whole thing they…cook up…the meat, and then they share among the adults, children. And the children are always there to take part in the meat. That's all they are there for." Children may belong to the shrine, and be members of the shrine, but it is not a place that they would consistently attend unless they needed healing. In contrast to the children are the elders; by elders, Camara means "those who are close to the shrine…they are the only people who have the right to sit down and discuss, then modify whatever, if they have something to modify." It is the elders who are in charge of the shrine; one cannot enter the shrine and do whatever they please. Deciding who will be the elders of the shrine "is a family thing somehow." However, Camara does not believe that it will always stay this way. "They don't have a big family here…it will not remain a family thing altogether. I mean, gradually, gradually, it will become something more like a promotion. As you are also there, you will learn. They will see that your activity is okay. You can keep things, you can do this, then we can push you a bit…You can get to the position of."
In addition to sharing information about the shrine, Camara was also willing to share some of his knowledge and experiences of West African Music with me. Camara does not play the drums, or compose music, but he is a dancer. African dancing involves using your whole body to tell the story of the music, so that "people will see actually something is happening." After asking him how he learned the dances that he knows, Camara shared with me that after we (the University of Alberta students) had finished our drum lessons each day in Dagbamete, when we left our drums and went away the children would come to practice on them. "They do that small, small, and grow with it. And then you will see them; they are catching the rhythm, the music, the sound of the drum." It seems that music and dance learning comes from observing, listening and practicing, not necessarily from direct lessons. When I asked Camara if this was how he learned as well, he responded by telling me, "You know, there are certain things, you possess it. God will give you from your infancy…So somebody will know how to sing, and will not know how to drum. But somebody will know how to drum, and will not know how to sing." It is God who gives you your talents, but perhaps it is up to the person to push and develop these talents as they grow.
Dagbamete is considered to be a very traditional village, but even so, as I spent more time in the village I saw influences of technology: televisions, cell phones, etc. I asked Camara about the influence that technology has had on traditional music. He addressed the technology first, saying that "technology has imposed the younger ones now, fighting to reach a stage, whereby they will be called experts of a field…We the older ones, at this time, we just look on it as their time…So we don't involve ourselves in it. If I like, I can do it, but we leave it for the young ones to do. We say this is their time." I thought that as an older person in the community, Camara would have negative opinions about the impact that technology has had on traditional music; that it has taken away from some of the traditional elements. I could not have been more wrong. What Camara shared with me is something that will stay with me for a long time to come. "It will happen one day that foreign and local, if blended, will be a very good music. You cannot say this is an African music and therefore because I am not an African, I am not going to. This is a European music, therefore I am not going to. You bring the two, until one day, one day, we will see the younger generations…where they will perform…This is what we have started. We are coming together, black and white. We are the same. So, one day, one day, you will see that the music industry is full of talented ones who can compose [the music]." What powerful words these are!
Interview by Courtney Flett, Summer 2010
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