In January 2016, the nonprofit MusicXChange, founded by Berklee student Federico Masetti, organized a two-week service trip to Ghana to build strategic partnerships and raise awareness about the organization. The following post was written by Apiwe Bubu, one of the trip’s participants. Read a post by fellow participant Ellie Foster.
By Apiwe Bubu
Suffice to say, January 8 in Kumasi, Ghana, was an incredible day. We awoke to chase yet more productive meetings and encounters with Ghanaian kin and professionals, and our first stop was our meeting with Dr. Thomas Poku. He is the personal doctor of the Ashanti king, and someone well versed in the medical and health world. Given that the king himself entrusts Dr. Poku with his health shows that this is a man with good credibility and ability. It was good to hear him vocalize his support for the MusicXChange initiative and introducing music therapy in Ghana. What I did find interesting was his job at the hospital where he explained how he at times used music to calm his patients and sometimes break some devastating news to them, such as diagnoses of HIV or AIDS. The hospital looked busy, with one area catering to pregnant mothers and other family- and sexually oriented treatments and healthcare. After taking time to be with and run some ideas by Dr. Poku, we swiftly took to the next task of the day.
We visited Professor Koo Nimo, legendary musician and ethnomusicologist. Our time at professor Nimo’s residence would prove to be unforgettable, especially when his ensemble accompanied him as they performed palm wine music. The music is so soothing. Its sounds are very vibrant yet understated, where the distinct guitar parts, rhythm section, and harmonized call and response nature of the vocals permeate the incredible nature of the music. Upon arriving, it was clear that we would have to set up to record this amazing music and capture the magic that was being freely provided. We tried to capture the full spectrum of what was offered. The music was so natural, genuine, and authentic. This moment and performance was among my favorite of the day.
Next stop was the Kumasi Cultural Center, where the MusicXChange concert would take place. With an incredible lineup and venue the stage was set. The hired engineer, Michael, was already setup with the large PA system required for the concert, and what was left was to do the soundcheck. But before this could happen, I was struck by the multitudes that were gathered for a church gathering in the open air and field within the gates of the Cultural Center. It was interesting to see and hear the sounds of the unseen preacher and the crowd’s response to the propositions made and prayers offered.
As the day wore on, I went about the task of coordinating with the team and the four artists/groups of the concert in order to ensure the soundcheck was good and all preparations for the concert were underway and settled by 6:00 p.m. As the groups trickled in, some coming from as far as Okurase and Accra, it was a joy working with and hearing the delicious sounds each artist had in store for the evening. Having set up some of the recording intricacies required to audio catch the festivities, I was in awe as group after group—from the choir to Hezbola sounds—tore the house down and got the crowd on their feet.
Having ended the day and week off at Kumasi with this wonderful concert, I felt a sense of joy and completion, as this was a fitting and good way to let the music speak. It was amazing to have such talent grace the stage and take the vibes to the roots of it all as predominantly traditional music took the center stage of the evening’s activities. With each group, a new plateau of energy was reached and experienced. The drumming, singing, chanting, and dancing were second to none as Ghana’s rich culture of dance and music was highlighted. There was no denying that on that evening, the stars were aligned in the universe to make way for such a fulfilling, entertaining, and informative concert at such an important venue of cultural significance, Kumasi’s own cultural center.