Samuel and Yaogah Robert Agbodeke

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Samuel and Yaogah Robert Agbogeke (Summer 2009)

Name: Samuel Agbogeke
Age: 19
Place of Birth: Dagbamete
Education: Recently completed secondary school and has applied to university

Name: Yaogah Robert Agbogeke
Age: 21
Place of Birth: Dagbamete
Education Recently completed secondary school and has applied to university

Samuel and Robert were both very well educated and intelligent young men. They shared some very interesting opinions on the topic of musical change in their village and a great deal of insight into the impact of Westernization and Modernization in Dagbamete.

When asked where they had learned the music they know, Samuel and Robert both said that they had learned a great deal at school. Samuel said, however, that you can pick up many songs just by listening to someone else play, but only “if you are smart.” Growing up, Samuel said that his parents also taught him many songs. From what Samuel and Robert said about learning music, it seems that the learning is often done as a sort of group effort. Musicians pick up songs from each other at funerals, birthdays and other celebration. Songs are represented in every aspect of life in the village, and every ritual offers a new opportunity for learning. As Samuel explained, “No one is perfect, so everyone learns from each other.”

When asked about the changing language use in music, Samuel and Robert said that their parents sang mostly Ewe songs. This has changed in recent years- now many songs are taught and sung in English, Ga, Twi and other languages. Samuel said that the number of songs they know in different languages are increasing with time. When I asked about traditional songs in English, I was told that though there are no fully English traditional songs: some English has been incorporated into some of their traditional songs.

Samuel and Robert both talked about the concept of community in the village, and the fact that they do not exist in an individualistic society. Community is very important to them. When asked about the influence of technology, Samuel said that even with newer technology, music brings people together. He explained that because not everyone can afford things like a TV, one person might have a TV, and everyone else would gather at their home to watch as a group. Samuel also said that the TV, radio and other new technologies have introduced a lot more music to the village. When I asked about the changes in dance in the village, the boys said that change occurs mainly because of “individual polishing” of dances. They also said that some dances and songs that had been lost many years ago have been reintroduced. In regards to the change that occurred in this music, Samuel said that it is difficult to tell whether or not any change has occurred, because so much time has passed. Because there is no documentation, he explained, it is impossible to tell what is different. The only songs that are written, Samuel said, are those that are taught in schools. Talking again about words in songs, Samuel told me that although the words of songs sometimes change, the meaning of the song does not. When I asked about the influence of Christianity, Samuel and Robert shared some very interesting ideas. Samuel said that Christianity had instilled in people the “belief that some songs were barbaric.” As a result, people changed the words to songs. I asked Samuel how he felt about this change, and he said “not good, it is not correct.” Samuel and Robert explained that they are very open to the ideas of Christianity, but do not like the idea of it replacing their traditions. In Dagbamete, Robert said, “tradition is very respected.” Samuel said “Tradition is best: you must remember your roots.”

In general, talking about tradition, music and change in the village, I had the impression from Samuel and Robert that although they are accepting of new ideas and technology, it will always be secondary to the importance of tradition in Dagbamete. For Samuel and Robert, technology and new music are not associated with nearly such a strong identity and defining of self as traditional music.

Interviewed by Katie Reid Summer 2009

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