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Mmensoun group of Asafra, performing outdoors
Mmensoun group of Asafra

A traditional Akan ensemble associated with chieftaincy is the mmensoun (seven horns; mmen=horns [singular=aben], soun=seven). In some Akan areas, these side-blown horns are made of elephant tusks graduated in size, in other areas, such as the coastal Fante area where this recording was made, they are constructed from wood, string, and a native paint. Each horn in such a set, except for the smallest and highest pitched one, is capable of producing a single pitch–the longer the horn, the lower its pitch. The smallest horn has a thumbhole at its apex allowing the player to produce two pitches.

The group represented here is from the village of Asafra, one of the villages in the Anomabu Traditional Area. Asafra is located northwest of Anomabu, a few miles inland from the ocean. (map) It is the only village in the Anomabu Traditional Area with an active mmensoun group. Asafra’s group had been in existence for over twenty years at the time the documentation presented here was made in 1993. The official name of the group is the Asafra Catholic Christian

The Asafra Mmensoun Group in three arched rows
The Asafra Mmensoun Group

Youth Organization Mmensoun Group, and its membership numbers fifteen males under the direction of Mr. T. K. Aidoo and Mr. J. K. Amakya. I was unable to attain an explanation as to why a Catholic Church youth group should specialize in a musical form associated with traditional chieftancy.

The Asafra mmensoun group receives several invitations each year to participate in events such as festival durbars, enstoolments and funerals. I assume that, in most cases, they are invited by chiefs who themselves are participating in these events. They have even played for Ghana Broadcasting Services (the government radio and television stations) broadcasts and for state functions in Accra. They have a repertoire of about twenty-five songs to draw upon for their engagements. Most of the songs appear to be proverb based.

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