Name: Kwasi Davor
Age: 82 years
Birth Place: Dagbamate
Profession: Teacher of history, geography, culture, traditional dance and music at Education College
Family: 10 children, 1 wife
Kwasi Davor explained to me that there is a wide generation gap with regards to musical tastes. The older, non-educated people are more interested in traditional music, whereas the youth are influenced by western culture and tend to forget traditional culture and music. For example at Atrikpui, the elders can dance, play and act on it, whereas most of the youth are not as attached to this music.
This is because TV, radio and other media affects youth, who only see westerners and their world experiences; therefore they prefer to be like them. Kwasi was afraid that they are losing their musical tradition because the youth have no knowledge of their tradition and not even interested in it due to distraction of western music.
He says that the elderly women are just as involved in music as the men; however the youth keep to themselves, and are not very interested. Sometimes the young people come and join but unless they sit down and think, they will lose it.
Kwasi Davor considers himself a drummer, dancer and singer, and can play most of Ewe music as well as sing and dance them too. About five years back, he taught a young woman and a young man who were learning from Kwashi. He learnt his dancing through his senior brother in the primary school. Later he organized a musical group in college, and he was the leader. With time, he began to learn more because there are new variations constantly. Kwasi said that some educated people look down upon tradition but because of education and exposure, their interest could be stirred again.
He says that as a result of tourism, people try to imitate the foreigners who bring their own culture. He says that the process of teaching can be hampered or facilitated depending on how the students receive it. The influence of Christianity is such that because of the shrine, the traditional religion has kept in tact and so people still play the drums. People are well-inclined in traditional musical and there are different types of traditional groups, such as Akpoka, Atsitamevu/unity, Kinka, Kpegisu, Adzogbon, Gakpa, Singa, Agutany, Agbosu, Adro. He said that not much has changed due to the presence of Christianity.
However, the youth are not ready to involve themselves in the music, and they have to educate and influence the youth to join the traditional groups in order to keep the tradition alive. He remarked that the old people are vessels of knowledge and when they die, it is as if an encyclopedia has been destroyed. He loves traditional music, and goes traveling in order to perform, for example to Accra. He also likes dancing and music in general and it helps him to stay young and fit.
He said that music is always changing, and the change can be both positive and negative. The positive change is that new variations are added to make improvements in how people play, but a negative effect could occur if a person who originally played the piece may not have taught the piece exactly. Therefore it’s lost.
Interviewed by Julia Santana-Parrilla, July 2008
Kwasi Dadon currently teaches drumming in the village. He was previously a teacher of geography and other topics in another village. Kwasi first learned to play Singa music in a dance group at age 8. His elder brother taught him. He would play lead drum in this group and would have to stand on a stool to reach the large drum. He is a member of 8 drumming groups.
Kwasi explained that many members of younger generations tend to follow the traditions of the West. Many kids no longer want to learn traditional drumming and will even change existing rhythms to make them simpler to play. They will then use this for self-entertainment and dance to it. Influences in Dagbamete that Kwasi ties to the West include ¾ time, highlife, reggae and hiplife. Much of this is learned from the radio. Sometimes Westerners join the younger people while they are listening to this music and teach them Western style dances. He explained that Westerners do not know how to do traditional Ewe dance very well. The youth will tend to imitate the poor Ewe dancing of the Westerners since many look up to white people and Western culture.
Kwasi explained that the tempo of many Ewe drum rhythms has greatly increased over the years. He associates this with the influence of modern Western music and tempo. He claims that these traditions generate energy with quicker tempo and that the youth look up to these Western traditions.
Also, young people cannot sing properly and many young people sing songs in new dialects, which differ from village to village. Borborbor is very popular in the village even though it came from another region. Western culture has reduced the originality of traditional music in addition to quicker tempo and new words. He fears that traditional music will dwindle and feels sorry for the younger generations who will not learn the music. Some musical traditions in Dagbamete will not be changed. The music of the shrine will not change because the songs are composed for spiritual effects. Composers were inspired by spirits who provided them with the lyrics. The music’s association with spiritual powers prevents it from changing over time. All who are musically inclined are allowed to play in the shrine including women. However, it is not common to see a woman playing drums. He said that there has been no change in gender roles in the shrine during his lifetime.
Electricity improved dancing and drumming because the words are communicated clearly to people through amplification. Those who sing the lyrics with speakers feel more proud about what they are saying and doing as opposed to those who tried to project singing without amplification. Technology such as video recorders and cassette recorders allow people to propagate drumming groups. However, at the same time Kwasi feels that the composers and the musicians are cheated when their music is not played live.
Kwasi likes the work that his student, Kwasi (our teacher), us doing in the village. He explained that the people who come to study under Kwasi do not bring about more change in the village because they are studying the Ewe culture. People are coming to Kwasi to understand Ewe people and to propagate their music and traditions. Kenyo dancing involves women dressing in traditional Ewe clothing and exhibiting their elegance and wealth. In the dance they look at a bowl of water or a mirror. Kwasi related this with the coming of Europeans in the area who brought mirrors for trade.
War dances such as Atrikpui will not change much as this is the way in which modern people recall Ewe battles with the Ashante and the power of their ancestors. Christians are not allowed to teach in the school in Dagbamete. The school in Dagbamete teaches Ewe music while schools in other villages will sometimes teach music in English.
Interviewed by Patrick Smith, July 27th 2008
Kwasi Davor is a dancer and drummer and speaks Ewe. He has taught geography, history, cultural studies and traditional drumming and dance from 1988– 2001 (20 years). He learnt drumming from his senior brother, who learnt it from his great Uncle. Kwasi still teaches drumming and dancing to groups such as the Udzogo dance group and Atpoka dance group, AonAdzo dance group, Kinka dance group and Atrikpui dance group. There are over two hundred people in most groups but in the Adzogbo group, there is only about forty because the dance uses more special techniques. Women and men from age 12-30 years and 18-70 years participate in the group and Kwasi describes that they are blessed with the shrine.
Kwasi says that children come to shrine every sunday in Dagbamete, and those who are able to pick up the rhythms learn it. He describes the shrine as a community-based drumming practice. There have been changes in dances, according to Kwasi, and some have faded because the elders that played them have died. The songs in shrine are composed by the older people and he says these songs are not changing. He says that nowadays the young people are not able to pick up old rhythms on the drums and dancing, and this is because of the influence of modern instruments like guitars. xylophones. On the other hand, traditional instruments, such as drum, gong gong, rattle, cassanet are being used increasingly in Western music, for example the use of the Gong Gong in Western music
Regarding the gender roles in drumming and dances, he says that some girls have started to learn to play at the shrine, but they were not doing so in the last 40- 50 years. There is now an inclination for women play drums, and according to Kwasi if the women can play the drums then the performance will change because they are not as good as the men and this will change the rhythm. But the elders will correct this, he says. The influence of the western religion, especially orthodox religion has influenced traditional music and even the traditional beliefs.
According to Kwasi, the young people do not have as much inclination to play the drums because of the influence of Western music and they like Western music instead. When Kwasi was growing up there was more interest in playing the drums. He explains that he has a duty to play and to teach. He has not seen the use of guitars or western instrumentation such as the use of amplification and he remarks that it brings variation to break the repetitiveness of the music. “The young people like it but the older people don’t like it,” he says. There is more access to Western music through radio and television compared to traditional music, he says.
Some recordings have also been made of Dagbamete groups, for example Unity has done recording of songs and drum and they distribute in stores, and this trend has been continuing for 10-15 years. Sometimes they record live at festivals and then select groups to do special records.“It helps people learn the songs and rhythms of the drums,” he says.
Interviewed by Hannah Searson and Leanne Arnison, July 2008
Aug 7 2010 - Age- 75 years?
Kwasi: Dagbomete Dzigbodi Akpoka Drumming (Cultural) Group was formed specifically to cater to funerals- when somebody dies they have to drum. Our aim is to contribute some money from the drumming session. This money is paid to the deceased.
Kwasi started the group and is the leader. We selected some particular people who are very good at dancing or drumming, 30 to 40 men and women. Kwasi trained them in how to play and act on a particular instrument. This led to the creation of the cassette (DVD), which Kwasi proposed and the group produced.
Kwasi: To make the cassette (DVD) we went to the wilderness, far from here and took a video camera along to act out some war dances. Our forefathers are warrior men- we remembered how they acted in the war and we acted in the place. We went to several more places to act them out. Our songs depict certain actions for the Ghanaian people.
For example, the first track- a woman complains to her husband about eating fish and demands he get meat. The husband (a chief) is forced to steal meat to satisfy his wife’s desire for meat to eat after her rejection of the fish that was provided. Unfortunately the man was caught by community members with a stolen animal. The wife starts crying, but the wife is chastised by people for complaining about eating fish.
The second story is about old age. Some young people do not respect the elderly. As people age their body gets weaker, the face wrinkles and young generation teases older men. So we compose a song to teach the young people that anything can happen to you- The DVD shows two older people walking with two younger one behind them and teasing them.
I composed the song. With age you can be like a tree- like this tree- when you are young you are shady. People can hide under it- if you become old, the leaves will fall off. In this song, we teach the young that with age, things can happen to you. When you are young in the youth stage, you are fresh, people will like you, but you should not forget that one day you become old and the leaves will fall off.
In this village we like culture, not only drumming, acting, and behaving in proper ways: the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we greet. We try told hold these things together to respect our forefathers. With the Akpoka drumming group we have been able to teach the young generation that we should not lose this. Because of Western civilization, this are changing anyway, but we are trying hard to teach the young ones traditions.
Q: Do you think that it is working?
A: Yes, it is working. For example the DVD teaches the young ones that stealing is bad. The DVD format appeals to the young. We are working on a new one, but we are trying to raise money to do it.
Q: When you compose a song does the song belong to you?
A: No, it does not belong to me – it is for the whole society, anyone can sing it. However, different drumming groups might borrow parts but they cannot make it their own.
Q: Where do your songs come from?
A: Composition of the songs is inborn. If you are artful, you put the good ideas in your mind and then write the words down before using the words to make the song. It takes a long time. Sometimes it takes a week to compose a song and a month to brush it up. Next you teach people and listen to them play it before recording it on cassette. Then you teach everyone.
Q: How do people come to join the drumming group?
A: The songs inspire people and they come to join. They must first pay a token fee of 4 cidis to join and get a membership card. Then people pay monthly dues of 20 pessoas plus 50 pessoas at a funeral. Also we have uniforms to be bought; black for funerals, white for old people funerals, and pink for monthly drumming. If people can do all of these things they can join. We even had one white man join. He could dance pretty good.
Q: Is there an age requirement?
A: If you are old, you must be still strong and not feeble. Young men must be 18 years old.
Q: Do you travel as a group?
A: Yes, we travel to member’s home villages in the area for funerals.
Kwasi: I have been leading the group for 10 years. The uniforms bear our group names and can only be used for group activities. The cards and uniforms have numbers and are not to be passed along when someone dies. We have almost 1000 cards issued.
Q: What effect do people coming back from the city have on the village music?
A: They cannot change the performance. They do not come regularly and the city people are not very perfect in their dancing, but if they come back for a time they can become perfect again.
Q: What makes a good song that will be accepted?
A: The words must appeal to the people. If the words are vulgar, people will not like them. The words should appeal to the conscience and educate the society. The voice must be polished and not coarse. In song you must have icomaum.
Q: Are there many people in the village making songs?
A: Yes, it is inborn. Some people can. Just like our fathers, some are composers, some not.
Q: Do you enjoy making songs?
A: Yes, it is natural. So, when it comes- you see someone doing something and an idea comes to you.
Q: Do people worry sometimes that you will make a song about them?
A: It is true, sometimes the song goes against them. Because of that you must be careful of how you word your songs.
Q: Do you use animals in your songs?
A: Yes, we use them to compare people.
Q: With people moving to the city, people do not see the animals anymore. Do they still understand the meanings of the songs?
A: Yes, it does because they know the animal before they go to the city. They have the picture of the animal in their mind, however children born in the city must be educated by fathers or the proverb will be meaningless to the child. It is more difficult for the children to get it.
Q: Do you think this will change the way music is made, as the children become less aware of the animals?
A: Actually, sometimes the tone and the meaning of the song will change because they are not seeing the sing physically. They are only learning the song from their father. So they may sing the song with a different meaning.
Interviewed by Ross Gordon, August 7, 2010