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Akom Audio and Video Selections

Audio Selection:

In the extended audio example for this page you might focus on two general levels of performance organization and interaction. First, you can attempt to sense how the gravelly-voiced priestess, voicing the wishes of the obosom possessing her, feeds a line of text to the singers and instrumentalists who in turn commence performing the requested piece. The flexibility required of the accompanying ensemble to respond to these spontaneously generated requests is impressive–none of this can be rehearsed ahead of time. This spontaneity and the relatively short outbursts of song and drumming that result contribute to the episodic quality of akom ceremonies. Secondly, you can challenge yourself to focus sequentially on the various textural components of Fante music–a time line played on the bells, multiple interlocking support drum patterns, a more varied and complex lead drum part, and the call-response organization of much of the singing. Furthermore, since this episode involves a number of distinct songs with different tunes and accompaniment, you might try to perceive how one element of the musical texture–the bell part might be the easiest to follow–varies or stays constant between episodes.

Texts/Translations for the Songs Heard on the Audio Example:

Abora yewo mu o ayee.
Abora (the name of a traditional Fante area), we are here.

Hen ara yese a obeya ho.
Yewo mu o eyee.

When we say it, it will surely happen.
We are here.

Nde m’ammba a okyena m’eba.
Sese Bireku Adoko.

If he doesn’t come today, I will come tomorrow.
Sese Bireku Adoko.

‘Wanwaano no mpra m’eba
‘Wanwaano nyimpa nnyi ho
‘Wanwaano, I will come
‘Wanwaano, there is nobody.

Nyimpa ato nsu m’wonyi no mma no.
W’oko Mankoadze ma onyimpa ato ‘su m’
A human being has drowned, bring his body back.
They went to Mankoadze and someone drowned.

Menye wo wo asem a bisa Obosu.
Keda na dwen
If I have trouble with you, ask Obosu.
Sleep and think about it.

Akyersoa, ose obowo wo tweer
Akyersoa mowo nsoe.

The thorn says it will harm you.
If you harm me, I will give you a knock.

Pramafo wonnka me ba
M’afa m’Egya ne yer.

The men (of the family) should intervene for me
I have taken my father’s wife.

M’akroma pegya kora yi.
My hawk should lift the calabash.

Video Selections:

The first video clip captures some of the action during a ceremony that took place at an intersection in the town of Anomabu. The location was selected because of its proximity to a rather unassuming shrine for a particular obosom. Being celebrated was the impending end to the apprenticeship of three initiates–two females and one male. The clip opens with a view of the accompanying instrumentalists followed by one of the initiates demarcating the circular dance space with white powder. Next we see a shot of a basin containing sculpted representations of local obosom wrapped in textiles and positioned in front of the senior priests, followed by a pan to the dance space where we see the first initiate dancing.
<fade out>
An akom priest, who was trained in Anomabu but currently practices elsewhere, dances. <fade out>
A male initiate dances.
<fade out>
A segment of dancing by the chief priestess of Anomabu concludes this clip.

In the second video clip, Valerie Vetter and Kwesi Sagoe interview an akom initiate prior to a commissioned event. In addition to verbal information, you can see how the initiate’s hair is prepared for the ceremony.

In the third video excerpt we see an abridged documentation of a priestess as she attains a state of possession. She starts and ends this process wrapped in white cloth, white being the color associated with the spirit realm. Her energetic movements sometime involve extended periods of spinning that likely contributes to the attainment of the trance state. In the middle of this clip the videographer focuses on the accompanying male chorus that is situated behind the drummers.

Performance Forces:

two adawur single iron bell, clapperless, struck with a wooden stick; time-keeping instrument
asafokyen single-headed tubular drum, elongated barrell-shaped body, struck with one stick beater and one open hand or occasionally two stick beaters; master drum
ansaba single-headed tubular drum, footed, struck with two straight sticks; support drum
ampaa single-headed tubular drum, goblet-shaped, struck with both hands, support drum
male singers dozen or more

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