Ghanaian Culture Performers Making Waves in the U.S.

by Kofi Ayim

Okyerema Asante was first introduced to Akan drumming by his uncle at age 3 in his native Koforidua, the administrative capital of Eastern Region, Ghana.

His uncle was an Okyerema at the courts of both Koforidua and Juaben in the Ashanti Region. Okyerema is an accolade bestowed on an Akan drummer who has mastered the art of playing all major drums.

Okyerema Asante came to the U.S. with the erstwhile Hedzoleh Sounds of Ghana, courtesy of the legendary late Hugh Masekela January 1, 1974. He became a member of Ogya, a group formed by Hugh Masekela in the U.S.

In Colonial Man, an album that received rave reviews, Okyerema Asante is heard doing incantations of libation on “Witch Doctor,” one of the tracks on the album.

As master percussionist, he has played with some of the world’s best groups, including the Crusaders, Third World, Fleetwood Mac, Pharoah Sanders, Paul Simon, and others. His first world tour was with Paul Simon and the Graceland album, of which he was part of the recording team.

Now a solo artist, the Virginia-based musician performs nationally and internationally with his theme “A Journey into the World of Percussion,” with an assortment of Afro-Latino accoutrements.

Between twenty and thirty percussion instruments are utilized at any one time in a show, where he appears on stage majestically with sounds and soothing noises that mimic a typical natural habitat. Drum language and poetry are the hallmarks of Okyerema Asante’s “Journey into the World of Percussion.”

As soloist, he has performed at the African Festival in Bermuda and the Reggae Sunsplash in Montego Bay, Jamaica, among other places.

The Syracuse, New York–based Adamfo Ensemble was formed in 2003 by a group of experienced Ghanaian drummers and dancers. The 16-member ensemble with four African Americans performs drumming and dancing from all major cultures of West Africa.

The leader, David Etse Nyadedzor, says he developed interest in cultural drumming and dancing in grammar school in the Volta Region of Ghana. Later in Accra, he joined the Folkloric Salamta, af liated with the Accra Culture Center in 1989.

Not only did he improve upon his drumming and dancing skills at the Accra Culture Center, he also learnt the craftsmanship of several traditional drums. He later joined the Dance Factory of the Ghana National Theatre, led by the renowned Adjetey Sowah, before establishing a group called Aziza (dwarfs).

The Adamfo Ensemble performs yearly at the New York State–sponsored African Fair in Syracuse. In 2012, it represented Ghana at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and at the Dallas Dance Africa Fair. It also performs at universities, colleges, and various events across the U.S.

Atta Ko ’s Ahenema Cultural Troupe has been in existence since 2003. The New York–based eighteen-member piece performs drumming and dancing of some West African cultures, including Kete, Fontomfrom, Daansuom, and Adowa of the Akan; Kpalongo and Fume-fume of the Ga; Borborbor of the Ewe; Damba of the Northern Ghana; Bawa of the Dagarti; Wale of the Senegal and Mali, among others.

Though popular at Ghanaian events in the New York Metro Area, the Ahenema Cultural Troupe has performed and organized workshops at colleges and universities that include Princeton University in New Jersey, Tufts University in Massachusetts, Michigan State University, and the University of Colorado, Denver.

One of its drummers and a master dancer, Akwasi Poku, volunteers his services as a cultural consultant to some schools in his home state of New Jersey.

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Posted by on Jul 14 2018. Filed under Artcultainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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