Sunday, September 6, 2009

Xylaphone jam ring circle dance in the courtyard

After the Ghana Air Force Band had torn down and the rest of the funeral reception was being dismantled at the Catholic church in Nima, Accra, some young men broke out xylaphones and started to jam in the courtyard where people had recently been dancing to the highlife in memory of my father in law, Kpakpo Mensah.

One guy also was beating a hand drum that seemed to be made out of the same gourd used to construct the xylaphones.

I am a sucker for West African xylaphone music. When Karley and I were married in Lashibi, a suburb of Accra, I insisted that her sister hire a xylaphone player so we could have some more traditional music at the reception along with the club deejay.

Another guy also was clacking a couple of dried shells as sort of impromptu castanets.

The young man on the drum had worked the funeral reception as a caterer. We had struck up a long conversation, as the reception wound down, about his country and my country, and it was because I saw him among these jamming musicians that I felt comfortable joining them.

They were wailing, vocally, singing their hearts out in a local language with the call-and-response fervor that conquered the world after Africans came to the Americas.

This kid was hamming it up. Of course, children are much more shameless at enjoying the odd presence and attention of the outside, the Buronyi ("corn-colored person").

I felt like getting some exercise and expressing myself, so - well aware of what I spectacle I would make - I got into the act, and my wife hurried over to work the camera and capture the moment.

It felt good. I have been listening to this kind of music for half of my life. That doesn't mean I will ever succeed in dancing to it gracefully.

Buronyi dancing really rallied the children to the scene.

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