Our Culture – A Source Of Life Affirming Joy

Emmanuel Charlse Richardson, 20, Cape Coast, Ghana

There was a time my mother and father met in life to be a couple and care for each other. It came to the point where my father and mum gave birth to my senior siblings.

And it then came about that I was born to the earth of Africa without anything in my hands but came empty to the world of Africa. I started crawling on the ground at the age of six months and I started walking at the age of one year. At the age of five my father started teaching me drumming but different from traditional drumming. My father was a great musician on the Ghana Cape Coast then.

When I was nine years of age my dad and my elder brother took me to a group called the Twerampong Traditional Drumming and Dancing Group at the Cape Coast Castle. They knew where my source of motivation in life came from. I never knew I could dance but I always see the music in me as my passion. I humbly submitted to my leaders in the group and learnt drumming and dancing very well and everything else they were willing to teach me.

When I was in junior secondary school my dad died and it was like I have lost all my life. But I never give up on what I do. I continued but stopped my formal group and became my own master by teaching foreign and local people to earn some money for a living. In late 2007 when I was in senior high school I got the opportunity to teach my mates in school for the school’s speech and prize giving day. After this day, I took those people and I taught them drumming and dancing. This way I started forming my own group now called UNITYDRUM which was first known as the Peace Academy Youth Group. My aim was to pass on my knowledge to others. However, after only four months the group was on the verge of collapse due to financial problems because we spent too much on drums and other equipment.

Despite these initial setbacks I still kept the vision alive, continuing to walk on the path I felt was laid out for me. In August 2008, I met Joy Ayo Tang founder of the Onevillage Foundation (OVF). She opened up OVF’s doors to UNITYDRUM. In 2010 we did a Digital Archive for OVF which uses digital tools to record the lives of local people. OMPEH was a local fishermen’s group we got involved in.

This group is made up of elderly people of great personal dignity. OMPEH means I DON’T LIKE. Its meaning is derived from the speech of youth who, when they saw the group full of elderly people, said we don’t like ’old age things’. But this group is a very passionate one and also speaks a lot to you when you hear their drumming and their songs. Because it always speaks to your heart to know where your roots are and where you’re heading to.

Drumming and dancing has always been the soul of Africa. In UNITYDRUM and OMPEH all our dreams come together: to celebrate our spiritual heritage and to revisit the past with SANKOFA as our spiritual guide. All this is done in honor of our land of Africa.

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We_magazine Volume 04 Creative Commons

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